There’s been a lot written about resilience and innovation during this year as a result of unanticipated restrictions and protocols adopted during the pandemic.

As a strategic marketer, I’ve been amazed at how schools both locally and globally have risen to the challenge. They’ve found new ways of work, adopted new technologies, built new approaches to marketing and communications, while managing the anxieties and expectations of staff, parents and children.

I do believe that, like it or not, we are on a new trajectory in education.

So, can we emerge stronger and better than we were before?


‘The Black Swan’ effect


In the latest issue of Independent Education, you’ll find an article I wrote entitled, ‘How a ‘black swan’ experience can energise you in trying times’ (page 78-80). In it, I provide a range of international sources that provide inspiration, ideas and case studies on school marketing. I also suggest six points for school marketers during COVID-19.



Independent Education Winter 2020 article


The article was actually motivated by a 7-day YouTube series called Black Swan Series that I produced in the first week of our lockdown in South Africa. While much has changed since that week in March 2020, so much still applies as we move in and out of COVID restrictions all around the world.


The 7-part Black Swan Series on my YouTube channel


In the current 2-day webinar series that I am facilitating for ISASA called ‘Effective Marketing During COVID Times’ I have once again been reminded of the difficulties faced by our independent schools. And yet, I’m also seeing a collaboration and innovation that is inspiring.

I believe that we are in a long-term crisis. The official definition of a crisis implies a temporary state of instability and danger. When a crisis is prolonged, it leads to other issues related to mental health and frustration, in turn creating further vulnerabilities. What happens when the ‘crisis’ never actually ends, it simply morphs into something we must learn to live with?

In an interview at Business Insider’s Global Trends Festival on 19th October 2020, Nassim Taleb, the author of the book ‘The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable’ encouraged people in the context of COVID-19 to adapt, pivot, remove the sigma of failure from entrepreneurship.

It makes sense for us to get used to uncertainty and to build this into our processes, our organisational culture, our values and the way we do things. When in the midst of forced change, it is easier to explore options previously not considered because it wasn’t ‘the way we do things around here’. Our appetite for risk shifts.


What can we do? What should we not do?


The customer has changed (current and prospective families of independent schools), and so have we. What worked before will not necessarily apply going forward. For example, at the moment, actively demonstrating authenticity and caring in what we do is far more palatable to customers than creating ostentatious and flawless productions. This is important when planning marketing campaigns.

Remember the McDonald’s opportunistic advertising in Brazil in March 2020 separating its golden arches to highlight the importance of social distancing.

The reaction: “We’re not lovin’ it.”


McDonald’s social distancing logo. Source: Daily Mail


Ask yourself, how is what you are doing adding value to your customer in the specific context (anxieties and priorities) he/she is currently experiencing?

The key for marketers going forward will be agility.


Speed versus agility. Source: Gartner marketing blog.


What does agility mean in school marketing?

I encourage you to monitor trends, do constant market research, test, revise and apply. Learn, adapt and grow. Help, support, encourage, and get to really understand your customers, where they are, as they are, in this environment. Use market sensing, market segmentation, refine your personas and customer journeys, explore ways to interpret the data to recognise how people feel about your brand and your offering, what works and what doesn’t work for them.

Then revise and refresh your value proposition and the way you are communicating to your market.

Contact me for more on strategic marketing for independent schools.



I'm Keryn House

I enjoy creating marketing anecdotes and visuals related to my horse as there is a lot to be learned from animals, and this provides a unique context to my writing. My horse Slick (aka Sports Express) has been with me for many years and is a source of inspiration and relaxation for my strategic mind. He lives on a friend’s farm in KZN and I see him twice a week.

Follow me on social media by clicking on the buttons below.