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My first streaker

 

In my earlier blog entitled Action Inspires Action For the New Year, I shared the origins of the journey I’m currently on, working offshore in the UK. My hybrid-format business, Houseway Consulting, is focused on school marketing strategy consulting, training, and mentoring.

I also shared some of the silly mistakes I’d made along the way as I navigated the changes. How our imperfection let’s others in, and gives us the opportunity to share our truth. This was in the later blog entitled, Inspired By A Crime Writer.

 

Walking along Newcastle Quayside

 

Today, I’m settled into my new workspace in Newcastle Upon Tyne. And the way forward is much clearer. But the story continues.

 

 

A rude awakening

 

The reason I’m writing this in the early hours of a Sunday morning is that I was awakened at 2am by a commotion outside my window, with screaming and laughter. Suddenly, a naked young man ran down our brightly lit street shouting, “I’m naked! I’m naked!” Then he disappeared, and all was quiet.

 

Thirty minutes later, the same thing happened.

 

After that, well, sleep was impossible. But I had lots of questions, and no answers. I could only presume… university students. Newcastle is home to two world-renowned universities – Northumbria University and Newcastle University. That explains a lot.

 

So, I decided to use a university meme by Bored Panda in this blog, to get a sense of the university student, and appreciate this unique stage of life. It leads neatly into my explanation of what makes education marketing so different to other sectors. Many days, you couldn’t make up some of the things that happen. Schools and universities are people places, and people are unique.

 

University memes by Bored Panda

 

 

Children need even more understanding that each of them is uniquely made, and capable of so many things:

 

“Today you are You. That is truer than true. There is no-one alive that is Youer than You.”

– Dr Zeuss

 

 

What makes education marketing so different

 

Independent schools and universities get heaps of new customers at the same time every year, and they lose heaps of customers at the same time every year. The lifecycle of education is unique, and an important factor – Hence, the midnight streaker! Celebrating something special in that lifecycle, no doubt. Even if just for the sake of celebrating life.

 

These independent schools deal with a parent’s most precious concern, their children.

 

These schools provide an essential service to (an increasingly broken) society. They perform this with minimal state support. And their teaching staff/ faculty are known to be some of the lowest paid professionals in the world, with the least work flexibility, and with some of the highest levels of pressure, anxiety and attrition. Every year with a new cohort.

 

In the six years I’ve been consulting and training in school marketing as Houseway Consulting, the consistent message I’ve received from Heads of independent schools across the globe is along these lines:

 

“Your focus on marketing for schools makes you different. There are many marketing consultants out there. But you talk about schools, education, the environments where teaching and learning happen, and the strategic marketing of non-profit private schools. That’s why I want to talk with you.”

 

Houseway Consulting Feedback from Heads of Schools

 

I was told these words again this week. So, this is the next short update on my journey…

 

Scarcity, profits, purpose

 

If you’ve been reading my blogs or following my posts. you’ll be familiar that I teach commercial subjects part-time, in addition to my consulting and training online. It keeps me relevant, humble, and keeps the wolf from the door, so to speak.

 

In Economics, the key problem is one of scarcity.

 

To put it simply, there are infinite needs and finite resources, with different levels of access to resources. This is the case in our homes, our firms, our schools, our towns and our countries. That’s what it comes down to, in the study of Economics.

 

In Business, it’s a different approach.

 

The focus is the firm itself, and making profits is understood to be the main objective of every business.

 

 

Is a school a business, or not?

 

 

In schools, especially non-profit schools, the key objective is not usually profit.

 

That’s because most of the schools I work with have a higher purpose – They’re fulfilling a need that businesses and other organisations cannot fulfil, and this makes the marketing of private schools fundamentally different.

 

I hear you saying, “But schools must be businesses in order to survive. It’s time independent schools woke up to that fact before they all go out of business.”

 

Let’s accept that argument, but also the caveat to that statement. It’s not so black-and-white. This is where the Economics problem enters the fray, and strategic marketing.

 

Professor Michael Porter famously stated that, “Strategy is about deciding what not to do.”

 

Coming back to those scarce resources, and difficult choices of where to focus.

 

Michael Porter Quote on strategy by TUZZit.com

 

 

Marketing strategy for independent schools acknowledges that:

  • There are unique differences that parents want in the education of their children, especially in today’s environment.
  • It recognises that strong and sustainable school differentiators can be managed and directed strategically and purposefully – Building on our strengths, our specific DNA, our X-factor.

 

These things that make your school stand out from others are usually intangible, softer issues around values, community, ethics, heritage, and beliefs.

 

They can distinguish the school from others, not only short-term but also long-term – Thus creating a positioning that builds momentum towards an increasingly sustainable and relevant business model for its target market, even in crazy, uncertain times.

 

  • In Economic terms, the scarcity problem is theoretically solvable.

    But practically, it’s a moving target that will keep us busy for generations to come. As someone who has worked in Industrial Strategy for a government department for three years following a peaceful democratic transition, I’ll always respect policymakers who try their best to solve the world’s scarcity problems.

  • For a quick dip into an Economics perspective, if you are involved in education or schooling, you might enjoy this TED talk by Kate Raworth on the concept of Doughnut Economics. Increasingly, with global inequality and environmental challenges, the traditional economics model is losing relevance.
  • In Business terms, the purely profit objective is clearly inadequate as an overall purpose for non-profit independent schools, especially faith-based schools.
  • In School Marketing Strategy terms, the uniqueness of the non-profit school environment deserves a research-based approach, preferably using independent market research.Too quickly, schools are pressurised to invest resources in digital marketing and events without a clear strategy on which to make decisions.

 

How to do this?

 

As school leaders, take the time to think and discuss the marketing of your school, from a strategic perspective.

 

How does your marketing reflect your vision and mission?

 

I don’t think we do enough of this.

 

Try to find internal and external data on your school’s marketing efforts

  • On sales and retention of families, digital and traditional levels of engagement, what makes you different in the eyes of your specific target market.
  • Understand who your loyal parents are. Only then can you find more of them, show them an experience they will want to be a part of, and stay with you for the long term as a family, possibly even as ambassadors.

 

If you need help in this, contact me via my website for a free Zoom call. I work online and in-person, consulting and training for independent schools in marketing strategy.

 

An update on our local streaker

 

A few days after the mysterious after-hours activities on our street, nothing had been posted on our local social media groups, or in the local news. Did I imagine it? Twice?

 

Meme by Bored Panda

 

 

I decided to pop past a neighbour, Joyce, to find out more. Joyce had recently celebrated her 80th birthday, with her home decorated in gold balloons and flags. She was very interested in my story about the streakers on our road at 2am on Sunday morning.

 

“What? I sleep next to the window, and I’m up at 3 or 4am every day. I didn’t hear a thing!” She seemed to be sorry to have missed all the excitement.

 

But she agreed with my suspicions: “Students! They’ve stolen our milk from the front door a few times. We have to hide it away now and wake up early to take it in.” We had a good chuckle together, and Joyce referred me to the company that delivered her fresh milk, eggs and orange juice weekly.

 

All because of a random young streaker in the night.

 

There’s always something new to learn. They say, it keeps you young. And awake!

 

#Analyse #Visualise #Strategise

 

I'm Keryn House

I enjoy writing on my niche in marketing strategy for independent schools. I’m inspired by global trends driving change in this sector – from consumer trends to educational trends to market and macro trends.

I like to draw from my background in strategy across multiple sectors as well as my personal and professional journey to craft short conversational and topical pieces.

I hope you feel informed, inspired and supported as readers of this blog from wherever you are in the world. I encourage comments and suggestions on content. Please also connect with me on my social platforms.