‘Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions and predictions. While I have made a few New Year’s resolutions, I’ll keep those private for now, I’ve also made a few predictions in the past about the direction of school marketing. It’s hard for me to believe that my last predictions were five years ago in 2013 and it’s even more hard to believe how many are still true today.
For 2018, I’d like to share my three school marketing predictions for the upcoming year.
1. Ranking/Review sites will continue to grow in popularity while independent schools will continue to miss this opportunity
I realize this might be an unpopular prediction, but I’d like to share a fact as well as what I see as a great opportunity. The fact is that while independent schools, as well as our national organizations, are opposed to ranking and review sites for reasons that I support and understand, the reality is that prospective parents are using these sites to research schools much more frequently.
We’ve all seen what rankings have done at the college level, and I hope we can agree that it hasn’t necessarily helped the college search process for families. It has also lead colleges down a path to manipulate the rankings process to improve an individual schools position. In the end, prospective families are not served by the rankings yet pay a lot of attention to them.
Independent schools have an opportunity though!
I would argue that the ranking and reviews sites are at the ground floor of this process for PK-12 schools and rather than shun the organizations doing this why don’t we engage these organizations in an attempt to make the rankings and reviews better for both prospective families AND schools.
In all honesty, I don’t have the answer(s) but recognize the opportunity not to make the same mistake that colleges have made.
Alas, I’m not confident that our industry won’t follow the same path as our university colleagues.
2. Professional development for school marketers will begin to change
If you’ve attended any of my VirCons (Virtual Conferences), you will understand my belief that school marketing professional development is changing. Actually, I believe that the Economic Crash of 2008 started this new direction in professional development for school marketers. The reason is that the Economic Crash had an adverse effect on school budgets. As a result, schools are getting smarter about how they spend money on things like professional development.
Overall, the need for professional development has never been higher, but the dollars available have been shrinking, creating tension to find professional development opportunities that deliver incredible value.
It’s this tension that I was hoping to ease with the launch of my VirCons. To learn more about my VirCons check them out here.
While the virtual conference model is not perfect it does solve a number of problems for school marketers looking for professional development. The biggest problem is cost and the second is that attendees can watch the presentations again and again at a time and place of their choosing.
To be clear, I don’t think that in-person conferences will go away because they fill an important need but rather, that virtual professional development will continue to become more and more popular.
Besides virtual conferences, I anticipate that online classes will become more popular because of cost and the ability to learn a specific skill or technique that will solve a direct problem at your school. Many organizations are launching online courses in the independent school space, and school marketers will begin to have more and more options to take online courses in the very near future.
3. School marketers will continue to be treated as an afterthought
My final prediction is one that makes me sad; school marketers will continue to be treated as an afterthought and not specifically as senior administrators. The importance of marketing at a school will only become more critical as time passes and the time has come to give school marketers a seat at the table and elevate them to the same level as Directors of Admission and Directors of Development. By elevating the school marketer it will set a tone as to the importance of this work, and I think, will signify that this work must be done by all at a school and not just the office charged with the task.
While I have seen progress in this regard, I’m afraid the going has been too slow.
I’m very excited about 2018 and hope that I’m wrong with my predictions and that more schools will embrace inbound marketing this year.
What do you think? Let me know your reactions to my opinions and what you think 2013 holds for schools marketers by posting in the comments section below.