Would you marry your school after the first date?

Randy Vaughn: Would you marry your school after the first date? -

OK, that’s a strange headline. Let me explain.

In the world of marketing, too many admission folks tend to dream up this idea that if we just spend the right amount of money on the slickest ad in the fanciest magazine, then enrollment will increase.

Rarely does that happen. And even if we offer a few exceptions, it is certainly not the rule and most likely you know it.

In marketing circles (and I have also adopted this concept as a Certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultant), you will often hear marketing folks talk of this phrase:

KNOW . . . LIKE . . . TRUST

But in schools, admission folks tend to think like this:


Again, going back to the very unusual title to this article, would you marry your school after the first date?

When I talk with schools about this KNOW-LIKE-TRUST, I liken it to the typical “dating” relationship. When I dated my wife, we got to KNOW each other. We subsequently spent a considerable amount of time together the next 18 months really LIKING each other (but not yet talking long-term commitment). But as we learned to TRUST one another, it became obvious. We then sealed that trust in a covenant of marriage (we celebrate 22 years this December).

Another way I have described this relationship nurturing effort is to use the alliteration of the letter “A” (I did this in a previous article with the alliteration of the letter “P”).




Perhaps this helps give you talking points with your marketing team.

Ask yourself, “how are we helping potential prospective parents become AWARE of us?”

Then ask, “if they are AWARE we exist, how are we building AFFINITY?”

Then, “what evidence can we show them that will offer them assurance that we are truly the best solution for the education of their children?” This will lead to AGREEMENT.

Here’s another article on this topic, “Why I Love My School”.

This is what I talk about with clients from Maryland to Mississippi, Atlanta to Alabama, Tennesse to right here in Texas – I would love to help you, too!


FREE 30-MInute Phone Consultation with Randy Vaughn, Christian School Marketing Consultant

Eclipse 2017: Creative Ideas for Your School

Eclipse 2017: Creative Ideas for Your School

On Monday, August 21, much of the United States will have a view of the next solar eclipse, varying on where you live (here in Texas, we are going to see 75%-85% I think).

I do have past clients along the TOTALITY pathway. St. Joseph Christian School north of Kansas City is selling T-shirts that blend the eclipse and their school logo together (here’s a link to their Facebook page about the shirts). Another school is having an eclipse-related outdoor party for the kids celebrating this unique event of this school year.

In terms of marketing, I look at special events like this with an angle of doing something different than everyone else. Most schools will be in fall session and if they are, they will likely take a few minutes out of their day and go outside to view the eclipse through the special required safety goggles or through the pinhole projectors best used for young kids who may not yet be trusted to keep their goggles on when looking at the eclipse!

But if you are a private school in a competitive marketplace, you have to think out of the box! Your question should be, when approaching an event everyone around you is also celebrating or recognizing, is this: “how we do it differently?” In addition, on any special day, the local news media is looking for ways that different people in their community recognize the day. In some ways, this is one of your target audiences: the media. And the point, of course, is to use their mass reach to reach masses of people, some of whom are your ideal audience.

To get your creative juices going this week, here is a random list of ideas you can do to celebrate the 2017 Solar Eclipse:

  • View the “Planning Your Eclipse Party” on NASA’s website – get lots of practical hands-on learning activities to use with your students, watch animations and videos describing the celestial phenomenon, etc.
  • Get up there – whether or not you actually get on your school’s roof or not, the idea is to create the feeling of getting closer to the sky. Host a brief dance party so you can legitimately share with all your students your amazing ability to lip sync Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 classic, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (just don’t show them the creepy video 🙂
  • Make a video – speaking of Bonnie Tyler’s song, perhaps you can grab some creative students or staff and do a parody of that video with words about the 2017 eclipse. As crazy as it sounds, that’s the stuff that goes viral on social media! Here’s a humorous video parodying the Bonnie Tyler video itself (it’s been viewed over 3 million times!)
  • Monday “Night” Lights – for a short while, some of you will be experiencing varying degrees of darkness, so turn on the football field lights and have some fun! Most field days are reserved for the spring, but there’s no rule in an exceptional year that you can have some fun outdoors for a few minutes “under the lights”.
  • Monday “Night” Lights (Part 2) – while it may not fit your normal weekly schedule, have an early outdoor pep rally for your upcoming football or fall sports. Have a coaches 3-on-3 football game and let the kids pick the side they are cheering for.
  • Band formation – this is beyond my ability, but perhaps you have a band director or creative thinker who can organize a moving “human eclipse” with your students. Capturing this with a drone camera would certainly offer some viral video that your parents and news media would love to get their hands on!
  • Viewing party – put the word out on social media that you would like to invite the entire community to your sports stadium to watch the eclipse. In some towns, your stadium may be one of the largest outdoor venues, so use it strategically and treat guests like honor guests!
  • Eclipse Eats – you can go crazy with food ideas with an eclipse theme:  Moon pie, Eclipse brand gum and Sun chips are easy to pick up at your local store and pass out to students in goodie bags or to take around to various churches, fire and police stations and other community offices. Or you can have a bake off with a fun contest with creative eclipse pancakes, eclipse cookies (sugar cookies and Oreo cookies), etc. The sky’s the limit (pun intended!)

You can do any one of these things and have some fun and possibly create some intentional publicity and buzz about your school . . . or you can just do whatever one else is doing.

What will it be for you?

I like to help schools with ideas like this when I coach them one-on-one – if I can help your school, reach out and let’s talk. Click here to complete a brief contact form and then we can schedule our free 30-minute phone consultation.


Why I Love My School

Billboards, brochures and jumbo baboons on the top of buildings rarely do more catch a fleeting glance. They offer NO value, however, in convincing someone that your school is the right choice for them.

When I talk at conferences or with 1-on-1 clients, I first address a definition of “school marketing”. Since I am a Duct Tape Marketing Certified Consultant, I am borrowing a definition that goes like this:

“Getting ideal families to know, like and trust you to build loyal ambassadors for your school.”

The “know-like-trust” part of that definition is where the real challenge in marketing is. Families need evidence.

Too many schools still assume that with the perfect ad, radio spot or even Facebook campaign, that they will increase enrollment. While that may give you some results, the tried-and-true results come from a relationship building marketing effort that offers prospective parents the opportunity to get to KNOW, get to LIKE and get to TRUST you. When they reach the latter stage, they are committed to you and to you alone. That means they are ready for enrollment.

But to get to enrollment, the “KNOW” stage typically has to run through the “LIKE” stage first. Rarely does a magazine ad result in a phone call that says, “I saw your ad and we want to enroll our 5 children.” While exceptions exist, the norm is for those parents of those 5 kids to see your advertising efforts and then pursue a relationship with you. Here’s what that path might look like:

  • After the phone call, the family starts to receive regular communication via email. This is not just adding them to the “newsletter” list. This is a series of emails that are best if they are autogenerated in a series where you have a chance to build your case for your school.
  • The parents receive other forms of communication like a formal letter from the Head of School, hand-written cards from PTO, principals and parents. They may also receive a card in the mail with a Polaroid photo (yes they have made a comeback) of the student standing alongside his student tour guide during the recent tour or Open House.
  • The family gets connected via Instagram and Facebook where they see regular evidence such as “Why I Love My School” videos from students. As well, they will watch parent testimonials and regularly hear in their newsfeed from the key administrators as they speak about the core values of the school and share student and institutional successes.

These are just 3 easy ways to develop the path for a parent to move from KNOWING YOU (awareness) to LIKING YOU (affinity). This is a very commonly overlooked path. Schools assume the parent is ready to take the large leap across the pond from awareness to commitment. That rarely happens.

If you want to shore up your marketing system to ensure more parents KNOW, LIKE and ultimately TRUST you, we can help. Click the image below and read about our “9 Steps to Marketing Your School” where you will also learn how to start the conversation with us about assisting your school.

9 Steps to Marketing Your School


Creative Ideas to Showcase Your Head of School

Inauguration, New Administration & Ideas to Showcase Your Head of School

In marketing your school, the Head of School is typically the first face that a prospective parent associates with the school. Therefore it is imperative to showcase your school’s leadership.

The two most important reasons to do this is worth noting:

  1. REMIND – It is always helpful (and even necessary) to remind your current families of who the administration is at your school. Depending on the size of your school, this is more important. If you are 200 students, perhaps you have more interaction with the Headmaster in the hallways than if your school has 1500 students. For the larger schools, parents typically interact more with teachers, coaches and the principals. If you have administrators over development, enrollment management and curriculum, these are key executives that often go unseen by your current families. Especially important for the Head of School is to be visible on social media, via a blog, Twitter, Instagram or even using Facebook Live to communicate to families. 
  2. INFORM – While you may be very familiar with the face and voice of your school’s president, remember that your prospective families are not. Keep a list of important facts about the HOS’s experience, educational background, expertise, successes, and some of his/her personal traits and share them often. Have a social media calendar that puts a spot each month to feature some aspect of your school’s administration. They are the front-line voice and face for new families.

Now let’s explore some brainstorm ideas on how to showcase your administration (especially the key visible players such as Headmaster, Principals and Coaches).

  • VIDEO – Whether you are using Facebook Live, Periscope, YouTube or Instagram video, put your administration out there for people to see! If your administrator is “good on camera” (comfortable and a great communicator), do creative and funny things as well as informative sessions (although keep them brief). If they are not necessarily the best in front of a camera (and some of us are not), use video editing to play a lot of b-roll video so the audience is hearing the administrator but looking at other pictures of your school. Recording presentations or webinars is one way to achieve this if going LIVE terrifies you!
  • BLOG – I am still a proponent of a Head of School having a written blog. This is not a place to write 2000 word essays on her educational philosophy. It is a place to share brief stories of student success, institutional success, inspirational stories or personal illustrations that remind/inform families of his/her background. You can write philosophical posts, but keep them brief and break them up into a series of shorter posts with a lot of bullet points and pictures to improve the likelihood of someone reading them.
  • AUDIO – President FDR is famous for his “Fireside Chats”. These audio messages provided the President an opportunity to speak directly into the homes of families. Using audio recording and publishing tools like Soundcloud or Podbean (I use both for some random audio messages and for our monthly school marketing podcast), you can publish a 5-, 10-, 20-, or even 30-minute audio message that consistently puts your voice into the minds of your new and current families. Again, use these to do parent/student/alumni interviews or speak to student and institutional successes.

This communication strategy is critical when I help schools install a customized marketing system for their school. If you would like to learn more about my “9 Steps to Marketing Your School” program, signup for this FREE on-demand presentation.

9 Steps to Marketing Your School

Alliteration Post: Prospective parents prefer opportunities to play, perform and participate

Prospective parents prefer opportunities to play, perform and participate (School Marketing)

No one likes to sit on the bench.

Few like to always be the understudy.

Who likes to feel like just a number in a large crowd?

When I work 1-on-1 with Christian schools around the country, we always try to nail down the target market’s “need, problem, pain, frustration, or fear”. It is crucial to know your audience’s “pain point” so you can showcase how your school can meet that need, alleviate the problem or pain or be the answer to a parent’s frustration or fear about educating their children.

If you know your target market well, there are often some common needs, problems, pains, frustrations, and fears. As the title suggests (with all of its alliterational glory), these pain points normally center around the 3 Ps:

  • PLAY – a Dad might investigate a school’s athletic program, because his daughter did not make the A-team (or even the B-team) at the large public middle school, not because of a lack of talent, but because she was competing with so many other athletes (and some of them may have played organized sports for years and spend thousands of dollars on private lessons or leagues). This Dad simply wants to see his daughter play volleyball. Dad might also be thinking about the missed scholarship offers if she sits on the bench at the school she’s at now. However, more than anything, he just wants to watch his daughter enjoy the competitive nature of sports.
  • PERFORM – in some larger schools, the competition in the arts is so fierce that Travis’ love for band wanes until he drops out. Or consider the scenario where Shelly has dreamt her whole life of high school theater only to not make the cut because the theater director can only select a couple of lead roles out of hundreds who audition. In the end, students want to perform but some school situations do not allow it. Mom and Dad are disappointed as well.
  • PARTICIPATE – while the number of clubs and organizations at larger schools sometimes dwarfs the opportunities at smaller institutions, the same thing is happening in areas where students can participate in student leadership roles. The sheer number of candidates or potential officers (plus the increased likelihood of playground politics in a larger school) makes it near impossible for a parent’s child, gifted in leadership and administration, to participate. Or a student looks at his StuCo and decide it’s more of a popularity contest than actual government, so he doesn’t even bother. But what if the smaller Christian school nearby provides the perfect opportunity and size to allow Stephen to exercise and develop his leadership gifts? What if he actually learns how to lead and serve the student body and the community around? Wouldn’t that look better to potential colleges than sitting out StuCo at the larger public school?

While no school should promise a parent “if you come to school here, she will be a starter”, it is OK to note the opportunities to play. You may want to cite evidence of other families who were at the same school as this Dad and note the similarities and what has changed since arriving at your school. Do you have a student-athlete that did not get to play at the large school and after transferring to your school, not only played but received a college scholarship? That may not be the norm, but it is important to note. Parents do not want to feel that they are “settling” for a lower-quality athletic program, so ensure that you properly point out the team successes and individual player successes over the years on the court or field. And certainly, feature the coach(es) and how your smaller school offers a chance for more of a coach/mentor relationship with his/her student-athletes. Make a video about your coach’s “philosophy of sports” and this will likely present a start contrast to other larger schools.

Testimonies from parents and student are crucial to making the compelling case that, while the number of offerings might be less, the quality and opportunities are better. Consistently display a body of evidence that shows that students play, perform and participate in a variety of character-building, leadership-developing and skill-enhancing activities.

Parents are examining the choices available for their promising kids – what evidence are you providing that your school is the best choice?

Private School Marketing - Randy Vaughn