Most of us would trust our family and friends over what we hear in an advertisement.
So it’s no secret that “word of mouth” can have a huge influence on school enrolments.
The challenge for schools is that unlike a publication, they cannot directly control word of mouth. It’s a dilemma that has made many school marketers put word of mouth strategy in the too hard basket.
However, as word of mouth can have such power to endorse or damage the reputation of schools (or other businesses) it is worth pursuing.
School enrolments can turn on the power of a recommendation from a trusted source. A casual recommendation may prompt a parent to make an initial enquiry about a school or cement a choice.
The comments will vary. It might be an observation from grandma that “students in that uniform are always polite” or from a current school parent saying the “teachers are so caring.” It could even be a supplier to the school who notices that the school grounds are always well maintained.
Although it is clearly impossible for schools to control all word of mouth, they can adopt strategies that increase the possibility of good word of mouth.
Celebrate your stories
Ensure that you communicate the “good stories” to your community. Use forums such as school magazines, newsletters, media releases, social media and assemblies to communicate and celebrate your school’s news and achievements.
Most of us like a good story. We also like telling that story to others. If it is something that reinforces that we have made a good “buy” (or choice of school in this case) we will enjoy it all the more. In other words, provide some positive material for the inevitable “car park gossip”.
Use social media
Social media tends to be a bit like a written form of gossip. Make sure the feel good stories are distributed on your social media websites.
If your school has an official Facebook or other social media page then ensure this page is monitored. You can also then take action if inappropriate or untrue comments are repeated in these forums.
Utilise opinion leaders
There will be key networkers within your community. Think of these people as the ones most likely to “sell” your school to others. They may be members of parent committees, particular school families or long time suppliers. They are the people who interact with your school community the most. They are likely to already be very positive about your school.
Ensure these people know about the “good things” happening within your community. This will encourage them to talk about the school’s achievements. Provide forums such as facebook pages and events (be creative – think coffee mornings, market stalls, charity fundraising events etc) for these people to interact with the school and staff. This in turn provides them with material in order to spread the good word.
It’s important to know what is being said about your school. For example, if suddenly people are saying there is a bullying problem in a certain year level, it is better that the school knows about it so it can take the appropriate action.
Ensure there is someone responsible to track online and social media conversations. Annual parent and student surveys and focus groups can also gain schools valuable feedback.
There should also be clear avenues for people to raise problems, concerns or praise with the school.
People often only comment if they experience bad service. Make sure that you have systems in place to deal appropriately with problems and negative feedback.
Want to know more? Need a copywriter? Contact me.