Featured from Marketing
Student Involvement in Social Media
Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets
Maj Gen Randal Fullhart firstname.lastname@example.org
We have been steadily increasing our social media presence with the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, being intentional with adding platforms to best align with a prescribed target audience. To also ensure the content of these feeds is appropriate and engaging, we have empowered students with direct contribution as authors and through take-over opportunities.
The two primary examples of social media accounts in which cadets have direct author and administrative responsibilities are with our Citizen-Leader Track Facebook page and with Growley II's Instagram feed. Both accounts have faculty/staff as administrators and advisors in use, but the majority of the content is published directly from students. The Citizen-Leader Track Facebook page provides a venue for not only advertising and event/photo sharing, but for students in a marketing or public relations field to have the valuable experience of managing a social media account. The Growley II Instagram feed allows for the cadet dog handlers to have a direct, informal line to building and maintaining public interest and awareness.
Virginia Tech has had an established Twitter Take-over account for several years in which a VT Twitter account is accessed every week by a different member of the VT community (student, faculty, staff, etc). Using the framework of this program, we started an Instagram account for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets and have implemented a partial take-over program for the account in which a cadet has access to the account for a weekend or during a specific event. The concept is to give a true first-hand, day in the life, perspective of cadet life. The program is new this semester. Our largest concern was the risk of inappropriate content being published, but it has quickly been found that the bigger issue is getting cadets to be confident enough in their own judgement to post more than one picture each day. As the program develops and there are more examples of what is quality content, we expect the program to flourish.
To better empower cadets to most effectively contribute to these feeds without having to worry about stepping outside of the lines of what is and is not appropriate, we have given them clear and simple guidelines to follow. The guidelines for both the Growley II Instagram account and the Corps of Cadets Instagram Take-over are on the following pages for reference.
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- Content Marketing - Andrew Erickson
- Design for Enrollment - Kate Persons
- Enrollment Reports and Annual Plan - J Michael Turnbull (Culver)
- Improving Student Communication with Texting - Andrea Palmer
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- Turnarounds and Chaos - Col Jim Benson, USMC, Ret. (Riverside)
Marketing - Brig Gen David Wesley
The best schools, military or otherwise, effectively market their unique characteristics in a clear and concise way that enables prospective students and their families to rapidly assess and react to those characteristics, so that they can visit the campus or ask for further information, if the school is a good fit for that individual student.
Is your marketing plan effective?
There are many ways to assess your marketing plan and, as we'll see later in this chapter, an outside perspective can be helpful in making that assessment. Internal methods include qualitative and quantitative comparisons of the current student body with: 1) historical norms for the school, 2) Board-stated goals for enrollment, and 3) physical plant/staffing limitations. It does little good to pursue an enrollment level your campus and staff cannot adequately educate and care for. What will you do if the students actually show up? What if the now larger student body is made up of students who are a poor fit for your mission?
Resolve in the first instance to obtain genuine agreement between the Board and the head of school on the appropriate goal for your marketing efforts and then move out to define that plan in terms all can understand and execute.
What makes a strong marketing plan?
A strong plan is a comprehensive set of techniques designed to use available channels (Internet (including, but not limited to: social media outlets, blogs, and other venues that specifically appeal to today's student audience), print media, word of mouth, radio, television, and other outlets) to make the public aware of what your school offers. The most effective plans develop detailed intelligence about the locations where prospective families might be found and what the demographics of those families are. This enables targeted advertising of the school's characteristics to those who, based on a number of demographic facts, are likely to be favorably disposed to utilize that information to learn more the school and, ultimately, to enroll students there.
Like so many other areas of military school administration, marketing should be the primary responsibility of a single senior staff member with the authority to plan and execute and effective marketing campaign that is consistent with the school's mission and its heritage. Reporting directly to the head of the school, this senior staff member must be resourced with sufficient staff and budget to reach, influence, process, and admit the right number and quality of students. Determining this level of staffing and funding is not an easy task and industry standards are of little help, given the myriad circumstances that combine to make each school unique.
When funds are available, the head of school should hire an outside consultant to evaluate the marketing effort and provide fact-based recommendations on the staffing and budgetary requirements to attain the school's stated enrollment goals. There are a host of firms and more than a few individuals who offer this service and their prices can vary widely, as can the ways in which they conduct their data gathering and analysis.
Who are we?
Central to this marketing effort must be a dedicated effort to clearly state the school's identity. Yes, you're a military school...but why? Yes, you're a college prep school...so what? These things are givens on some level, but what do they say about your institution and what it will deliver to families about to part with hard-earned dollars in an effort to prepare their children for a bright future?
Devote a block of time to an internal staff discussion to refine who you are as an educational institution and why you provide a unique value to your students. This isn't a "pie in the sky" aspirational discussion - who you are determines, for good or ill, what benefits you can reasonably expect to provide to your students. Those benefits are what parents truly seek when they opt to pay for a private school education.
Compare your internally-perceived image with your public documents (your Bylaws, your Strategic Plan, those glossy magazines mailed out to alumni/ae, your local town's impression of the school, and more). When you are confident you have the genuine character and values of your school in mind, discuss these things with your Board to ensure they see things in the same way and normalize any disconnects. With these things in hand, you can begin to craft (or re-craft) marketing efforts that let the public know, "If THIS is what you're looking for, WE are your school!"
Accrediting bodies, consultants, fellow heads of schools, and others can help you think through next steps as you align your now-current vision of the school with the vehicles you've established to convey that image to those who might soon select you to educate their children.
Where are the other resources?
Beyond the excellent background and research AMCSUS provides, you can glean a remarkable amount of marketing intel and guidance from the National Association of Independent School's (NAIS) online databases and the materials provided by The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS). Of particular utility are the demographics you can obtain through the use of the NAIS database found at http://dasl.nais.org/.
Membership (and access to these materials) is not inexpensive, but provides a wealth of insight into all aspects of administering and marketing an effective private school, as well as superb treatment of important topics like governance, safety, discipline, health guidelines, employment law, management of physical assets, among others.
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