Digital school publishing
Reaching your audience
A revolution in school publications is under way according to Andy Homden: going fully digital is essential to stay ahead of the competition.
The communication dilemma
I don’t think I know a school’s Communications, Marketing or Development Office which is not at full-stretch: there are so many audiences, all with different needs.
Top of the list are parents, but not far behind are teachers, and of increasing importance, the students themselves. Then there are alumni, governors, benefactors, local businesses, inspectors, accreditors, universities, charities, politicians, the press, NGOs and government departments. The list goes on.
There’s a perennial Goldilocks problem with each of these audiences: people are just as likely to complain that they are being overwhelmed with too much information as they are being starved of it.
Not only that – communication with different audiences not only vary in content, but it must all strike the right, nuanced note to meet the expectations of different readers, listeners and, increasingly viewers, while remaining consistent and totally aligned with the school’s values and branding.
Schools as content generators
Schools must be amongst the biggest institutional content-generators in the world. They do a lot of publishing and school leaders rightly value the people who guide them through the day-to-day communication minefields.
Of all these audiences, arguably the most important are prospective parents and, increasingly, their children who are the future of the school. International schools have a particular problem with so many potential parents desperately trying to make choices about their children’s future, often from a distance and often not knowing where they are heading over the next two years. These people need a particular kind of empathetic backup and will be grateful to the admissions team who show they understand their needs.
However, it has to be asked – are we sending our marketing and comms team members into action with one hand tied behind their back? Despite advances in online platforms, apps and websites there is still a strong bias towards print when it comes to any kind of brochure or prospectus, despite the obvious drawbacks – expense, long lead-in time, no inter-active, audio or video content. A hard copy brochure is unlikely to be carried around by prospective parents or shared with friends, grandparents or anyone else for that matter. Do people really believe that they will be able to set up a Zoom call with the person they need to speak to most if they see a link in a printed brochure?
It’s worse for a new school. While the schools down the road have been in touch with potential families for the last year and are just about to start assessments, the new school on the block has only just got their admissions team together and the website is some way off going live. Nightmare.
Kevin and Ian
PDFs, slide-decks and even flip-books provide no plausible answers for a hard-pressed comms team. They need something that can be set up quickly, modify it as required and can actually be read on a phone.
When I met Kevin McMenamin and Ian Mahony of the Real Media Group last year, I honestly wondered what we might have in common professionally, nice guys though they were. Their major clients are high-end real estate companies – the likes of Savills – for whom they have developed a means of assembling customised digital brochures for specific customers with a particular budget, looking for particular kind of property in specific (and often) multiple locations. These customers need a digital brochure that will pull together the properties and the contact details of the relevant Savills offices almost immediately. It has to be beautifully presented, mobile-friendly and fully represent the agent’s brand.
From real estate to digital school publication
When they talked to us, Ian and Kevin were also getting inquiries from school comms teams about publishing digital school brochures. They looked at the market, concluded there was a significant need and got on with it.
They have now been working for a number of big name schools who liked the new approach. According to Liz Webb Head of Marketing at Millfield School,
“This year we reviewed how and ultimately ‘if’ our costly printed prospectuses were being used by prospective families in their decision-making process choosing a school. We found that none of our new students had looked at the printed prospectus because that is no longer how that age group consumes content. They had done their research on the school via our digital content on social media and YouTube. Their parents had used a combination of all three.”
What Milfield developed with Ian and Kevin was,
“A digital, content rich, interactive prospectus, that included video, photo galleries, podcasts, reels and TikTok clips to bring the school to life in a way that we haven’t seen anywhere else before and that far outweighs what we can communicate in a printed format”.
Bryanston School is going the same way. According to Rebecca Williams, Bryanston’s Customer Engagement Director,
“Harnessing the capabilities of cutting-edge technologies, such as those proved by Real Media, has been pivotal in our transition from traditional print to a more dynamic digital format. This shift is more than just a trend for us.”
An early international client to whom we introduced Ian and Kevin had a slightly different need. Cranleigh International were seeking to introduce their brand to an audience of potential international investors as they sought to expand the Cranleigh group. The mobile friendly digital value proposition we developed for Cranleigh with Real Media had an immediate impact. As James Dale-Adcock, Cranleigh’s International Development Director explains:
“Being able to introduce and articulate an education brand to prospective partners ahead of in-person meetings is not always easy. With the assistance of Consilium Education and Real Media, Cranleigh International have developed a value proposition microsite for this very purpose which attacks the key questions of who we are, what’s important to us, where we are going and what we seek in future partnerships.”
The digital advantage
Digital seems an obvious way forward for school publishing. As Ian and Kevin argue, it is direct, flexible, adaptive and less costly. It also buys that most precious of commodities for a school’s marketing and communication team. Time.
For more about Digital Educational Publishing with Real Media, contact Ian Mahony on email@example.com
Support images – With kind permission from Millfield School and Cranleigh International