I’ll bet you are. And that’s a good thing. Where you’re placing them is another. What you’re placing them for is the big question. Is it for growing enrollment, or is it for publicizing an event that you want the whole community to know about?

Since we’re at that time of the year when you’re busy enrolling children for Kindergarten for next year, let’s choose growing enrollment.

Are you placing them in your local hometown newspaper? Or in the newspaper of the big city that’s near you? If a Catholic school, in your Diocesan newspaper? Or (gasp) in the Yellow Pages?

Given those choices, which would you rank as first, second, third and fourth priority? The answer is – it depends.  It depends on your marketing strategy.

A decade ago ago, an article I published similar to this one said the Yellow Pages was a great choice if you want a stand-out presence where people can easily access you, but with the explosion of the Internet and the up and coming use of “Smartphone” technology, Yellow Page advertising might still be effective for the next few years. At that time, however, if you would have asked my then 18- and 20-year-old children to look up a telephone number though, the first place they went to was the Internet. Now, they’re 28 and 30.  That’s the age of parents who are looking at your school as an educational possibility for their children.  They might ask Siri or Alexa to contact your school rather than Googling your school and hoping you have a Web site that doesn’t look like it’s 5 years old.

The Yellow Pages came to our house a few weeks ago.  It went right into the recycling bin. The place that every young adult goes to for information is the Internet, but that’s changing too!  They won’t necessarily go to your school’s site first…they’ll go to their social media community and ask their friends where they send their kids, and how to they like it.  They won’t go to your school’s Facebook page…they’ll go to their Facebook page, and ask if anyone can tell them about your school.  And whether the feedback they get is true or not, it will help to form their mindset about your school.  This has powerful consequences if you’re looking to rebrand your school.  And, interestingly, today’s branding process mirrors how Jesus branded himself.

Historically, schools have determined their “brand” as a logo that becomes identified with their school.  A number of years ago, that concept shifted to the things that were done by the company/organization/entity which were unique were the things that “branded” them, such as the warm chocolate chip cookies a guest received when they checked in at a Doubletree Hotel (complete with walnuts…so beware).  Many big box retail outlets now employ greeters to welcome them and make them feel good about choosing to shop there (since they really can’t offer personalized attention to every customer in the store).  To explain the reference to Jesus, it’s what Jesus did that built his brand.  People who came to him wanted to see something…a miraculous healing or the driving out of a demon.

Today, the “branding” process has changed again.  And it’s not what you say about your school that matters…it’s what parents, alumni, and community members say about your school that matters.  Your customers determine your brand.  It’s their experience of your school that will be shared in the marketplace.  Remember that Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do they say I am?” and “But who do you say I am?”   What kind of things do your constituents say about your school?  It’s not “complaining” anymore…it’s part of your school’s branding.  And that may be a wake-up call for your school.

Your Diocesan newspaper is a way to reach Catholics – but are parents of young children reading the Diocesan newspaper? Quite possibly, but you have to do some research to find out. Of course, those that do read it can pass the paper along to their neighbors or their children to further your marketing options. Your local newspaper also might be a good place – just make sure the paper has research which confirms that parents of young children (25 to 39 year-olds) read it. As for the big city newspaper, ask yourself if the return on investment (ROI) is worth it. If your full-page newspaper ad costs $6,000, you’ll have to get two or three new enrollments to create a positive ROI. What’s the chances of doing that on one ad that might be buried in the third section of the paper? If you can do a series of ads, that’s better (spaced/patterned repetition is the mother of education), but if you do smaller ads, not only could they be buried, but they might not be in the same place from day to day or week to week. Consequently, the effect of spaced/patterned repetition is lost.

Ten years ago, I would have suggested creating a big banner ad on that hometown newspaper, and doing it for several weeks. But today, if you’ve got $6,000 to spend on advertising, invest it in creating awesome Web site for your school. You can spend from $2,000 to $20,000 on a Web site today (and there are some free services that will do it, but your design options are limited).  Many schools I know say, “Oh, but that’s a lot of money.”  So, let’s go back to last week’s “Marketing Matter,” titled, “An Abundance Mentality.” If your school’s tuition is $4,500 per student, and you invest that in a Web site, or in any kind of tool to increase your enrollment, then just one or two new students provides you with a positive return on investment.

And if your goal is to grow your enrollment, that’s an expenditure that will pay off.  The key to Web site success is what you put on that Web site (and that’s a topic for another day).  Otherwise, if you’re not planning on growing your enrollment and making plans to do so, then what are you preparing your school for?

As for that print ad, if you’ve got a development event coming up, that’s what print ads are for.  Cardboard signs in the local community either in storefronts or front yards.  If you want to create door hangers and follow-up postcards to assist in your enrollment efforts, that’s great.  But newspapers?  Who reads them?  For enrollment growth, are they young parents age 25 to 39-year-olds?  Survey your current parent community with a two question survey on SurveyMonkey.  Send an email to schooladvancement@gmail.com with the words Newspaper Survey in the subject line, and I’ll give you the questions to ask.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2008-2018 (Original Publication Date: 20080211)