As school marketers (regardless of your specific job title), we are insanely busy. Most of us operate with a never-reducing to-do list the length of a 10-story building.
What’s worse is that the vast majority of our tasks seem urgent-important and few of us have the luxury to delegate (due to lack of staff) or outsource (due to lack of budget).
As much as we might try to use our time effectively, there never seems to be enough hours in the day. And you’ve probably tried the more common time management techniques like using personal productivity apps and a content calendar with some success, but feel it’s time to take things to a new level.
In this post, we’ll be exploring 5 strategic ways to be more effective as school marketers with the time limitations incumbent upon us.
By the way, the irony of encouraging you to invest your time in reading yet another blog post in order to better manage your time isn’t lost on me. But my plan is to make the content so helpful that you’ll save time in the long run.
1. Focus on school-wide objectives
Some school marketers focus their attention on marketing, admissions and enrollment goals that have no correlation to school-wide objectives. They chase after brand awareness, market positioning and thought leadership objectives that aren’t even understood by Heads of School let alone the focus of their attention.
Instead, focus your attention on the areas that will help your Head of School achieve his or her overarching school goals. (Note: I’ve adapted this concept to schools from the book The 12 Powers of a Marketing Leader). To do so, you must gain a deep understanding of your Head’s goals for the school. Don’t be satisfied with simply “grow enrolment numbers” but push in to discuss student attrition, ideal families, signature student experiences, Net Promoter Score and the enrolment funnel. You want your Head to know that you’re onboard with the school’s goals and will do everything possible to help in the achievement of them.
This approach helps you to intentionally invest your time on things that matter. If you set exciting goals to a regular time rhythm, then you will start using your time in a goal-achieving manner. For example, in 2019 I set two goals: launch new websites across the ACC network and manage the integration of our student management system (SMS) with a school-specific customer relationship management (CRM) system. In December 2019 we launched the last of 10 new ACC websites and the SMS/CRM integration went live 一 just before the end of year deadline. Throughout the year, I invested my time in mostly small increments toward the achievement of these two goals. I didn’t have to micromanage my own time because the allure of the goals aligned my time to ensure they were achieved within the timeframe set.
2. Right-timing your tasks
A school is a unique workplace. It’s not like a typical business workplace 一 where most staff arrive and depart around the same time and customers are served fairly consistently throughout the day. At schools, some staff arrive before the students, some after the students. In the afternoons, some staff depart immediately after the students and some later in the day. Schools are communities where various stakeholders visit for various lengths of time and every day is different.
As such, a key to school marketers using their time effectively is to work within the existing rhythms of the school day. For example, request meetings with members of your school’s leadership team when classes are in session and avoid drop-off and pick-up times. Right-timing your tasks within the school day will save you countless frustrations and help you avoid unnecessary time-wasting roadblocks.
3. Develop social capital with all stakeholders
As a school marketer, you’ll be called on to work with leaders, teachers, volunteers, parents, donors, alumni, contractors, politicians, local residents and any number of other stakeholders associated with a school.
From asking for help setting up for an event, to asking teachers to greet prospective families at an open day, there always seems to be some form of request we have to make as school marketers. To avoid feeling perpetually frustrated by knockbacks 一 and wasting your valuable time in the process 一 you need to develop social capital with as many stakeholders as practical.
To develop social capital, walk the halls and chat to staff, parents and students. Spend less time behind your desk. Ask lots of thoughtful open-ended questions. Smile. Listen intently. Compliment people. Show gratitude. Give gifts. Help people out. It’s easier to ask a favour to a friend than a stranger, so go and make lots of friends around your school community!
If you don’t have the time or opportunity to build a necessary relationship, then work through someone who does. For example, if you know of a parent who would make a great subject for a testimonial video, then work through a teacher who knows the parent well. Ask for an introduction and leverage that teacher’s relationship with the parent.
4. Beware of meetings
Whilst schools do share many differences to business workplaces, the flood of meetings isn’t one of them 一 unfortunately!
I have found the following guidelines helpful in managing my allocation of time for meetings.
- Only attend meetings that have a clear purpose. Why is this meeting being held? If there is no clear reason, decline the meeting invite.
- Where appropriate, volunteer to chair the meetings you attend. This gives you the responsibility to keep the meeting on track and also provides you the right to end the meeting if it’s meandering along aimlessly.
- Set an agenda if you’re chairing the meeting, or request one if you’re not. Meetings without agendas are like ships without rudders.
- Make stand-up meetings the norm and only sit down when a lengthy agenda has been agreed in advance.
Don’t let meetings overtake your working life!
5. ‘Just three things’
This is a simple yet powerful technique. For every workday, you set out to achieve ‘just three things’. The three things are the most important from your to-do list.
You might object with, “But I can do a lot more than 3 things in a workday!” And for many of us, that is true. However, you are welcome to do more than 3 things, but your aim here is to ensure you do at least the 3 most important tasks on your to-do list each workday. This doesn’t include things like meetings and campus tours, but rather school-building activities like marketing plans and website redesigns.
If you work 50 weeks a year, that means you’ll have completed 750 important tasks by year’s end. I would argue that you’d be rightly labeled a ‘high performer’ if you were consistently delivering that level of productivity.
Thanks for finding the time to read to the end. Hopefully, these 5 time management strategies will help you to be a more effective school marketer.