A highlight for those looking to turn their school from a ‘hidden gem’ into ‘talk of the town’, is a presentation from the animated Dr Arnaud Prevot, language and technology teacher and marketing dynamo from St Agatha and Visitation Catholic School in the United States.
Prevot impresses upon the audience, the fact that a cohesive message needs to come first in everything a school does.
He uses the example of a school visit from parents, where they might speak with various teachers and heads of department, who each deliver their own unique presentation.
“The message is diffused, it’s not cohesive,” Prevot says, “too many schools forget this first step”.
The Catholic school teacher goes on to explain that private schools in the US receive no government funding, unlike in Australia, meaning there is a huge gap between their tuition fees and free public schooling.
When public schools claim to be offering the same thing as their independent couterparts, “why would anyone choose a private school?” Prevot asks.
“It’s the story. You are marketing the difference between what your school can offer, and what the competitor school is offering.”
Like all good stories, Prevot says your school’s story needs to have characters, a setting, a plot, conflict and resolution. And most importantly, the story needs to be relatable.
“What do you want parents to see when they visit your school?” he asks.
“The school’s story and their role in it. If there’s no room for the parents in your school’s story, they won’t feel it and won’t want to send their kids there.
Following on from Prevot’s presentation, Barbara Pesel, managing director of Pesel & Carr, warns delegates of the dangers of letting negative stories within your school reach a wider audience.
She explains that we live in a new era, where students carry a lot of power, they have a voice and can spread messages very quickly via social media.
“It’s no longer possible to keep issues behind closed doors,” she says.
Using the recent case of Trinity Grammar and the student-led campaign to reinstate their sacked deputy principal as an example, Pesel says it’s important schools nip issues in the bud before reputational damage occurs.
“Issues lead to crises. The key is to identify and prioritise issues before they erupt. Then make plans,” she says.
Rounding off the morning’s presentations, Janine Garner, author and CEO of LBDGroup, speaks about networking.
“In this 21st century world, that adage of ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’, has significantly more weight than ever before,” she says.
But before rushing out to count their LinkedIn friends, Garner tells educators quality is more important than quantity when it comes to professional networking.
“We have to debunk the myth of quantity, we have to rewrite the rules of networking,” she says.
She suggests delegates begin by surrounding themselves with just four people.
A ‘promoter’, who can cheer you on and sing your praises.
“When we have cheerleaders around us we achieve 25 per cent faster than when we don’t,” she says.
A ‘pit crew member’, someone to keep you safe, secure and on track.
“People that will feed resilience, pick us up when its horrible. People who care about you,” she says.
Garner says each of us also needs a ‘teacher’ to push us in our thinking, challenging our learning.
And last but not least, a ‘butt-kicker’, someone to keep us focused and driven in our goals.
Garner urges delegates to get up and seek out their networks, because “you can’t get anywhere in life on your own”.