The relationship between the enrollment management and communications offices at independent schools is like family. It can be great or dysfunctional.
To thrive in the challenges of today’s independent school market and to have prospective and current families engaging with your school, you need to have the relationship between these two essential functions running effectively and efficiently. Both serve key functions in attracting, retaining and enrolling students to your school — and neither can do its job well without the other
Here are some suggestions for creating a great collaborative partnership between enrollment management and communications.
Talk to each other, often.
Get a weekly meeting on the books for your entire team to discuss strategies, events and opportunities. If you are just establishing the partnership, start by sharing the language of your worlds. Don’t assume that the marketing and communications experts understand the nuances of yield or the steps in your admissions funnel. Conversely, an admissions receptionist might not understand why or how you create a content calendar.
Talk about your tools and audiences. How do you make decisions in your office about an event or communication? Walk your colleagues through a typical day in your world. The more information you share, the better your new partners can work with you.
Be sure that you are collaborating with other people on your team like your graphic designer or photographer. Read more on making the most of your creative collaborations.
Spend some time in the rearview mirror.
Most independent school enrollment management and communications people spend time in the summer reviewing the past year and reflecting on what worked well and what didn’t. After the pandemic, this type of internal program audit has never been more important. You and your colleagues pivoted, created and kept going like never before. There are lots of lessons here for the future.
Together, review your successes, surprises, challenges and failures since March 2020.
Drill down into the data:
- How many inquiries, applicants, enrollments?
- Who registered, attended and converted at events?
- What is the deep-dive into Google Analytics for your website traffic/patterns?
- What data can you pull from your social media platforms (including when people stopped watching your YouTube videos, which gives invaluable feedback on optimal video length)?
For communications, include on the map the following for each campaign/outreach:
- What is the message?
- Who is the intended audience?
- Who is sending it and when?
- What was the call to action?
- For digital, what was the platform, open rate, click-thru rate, etc?
What is the anecdotal feedback from your events and communications? Ask your student and parent ambassadors. Consider surveying enrolled families about the elements of your virtual/hybrid admissions program that really spoke to them and wasn’t as engaging.
Gather all data and feedback into a shared document and begin to chart some baseline data. Use whatever tools make the most sense to you (Google Docs, Excel, etc.), but record what you’ve gathered. Looking for another data point? Many schools are using Net Promoter. Check out our expert take on this tool.
During the coming year, include a debrief of each admissions event or communications push during your weekly meeting (still charting the data). Measurement is tough to do on a regular basis, but get into the habit. It makes all the difference in having both offices truly understand how your school attracts, enrolls and retains students.
Map it out.
You need to be aligned on your goals and key performance indicators (KPIs). Without a shared strategy, both offices are operating in a vacuum. Think like a corporation: There is no successful business where the sales team does not talk to the PR/marketing team.
It may take a few meetings, but create a common processing map that includes:
- All admissions events for the year (every event, touch, etc.)
- The print and digital media advertising schedule
- Key events in your school and holidays
- Dates for key school communications (weekly division newsletters, re-enrollment contracts, etc.)
The gap between where you are and where you want to be is a huge but important learning curve. Seeing the overlap and gaps gives greater context to your works and allows your team to work more creatively together. Marketing and communications teams are notoriously understaffed and often operate in a reactionary mode. This exercise provides opportunities to be proactive. Tweak the map and content/marketing calendar for 2021-22 that this process engenders and review it at your weekly meetings.
Do some forecasting, too. Chances are, your school created a lot of great video content in 2020 and 2021, and now, you have lots of evergreen content. How do you hope to grow the number of YouTube subscribers? Do you want to increase your viewing time?
Share your value.
Each of you is an expert with lots of valuable information to share. Enrollment management leaders can benefit from communications on digital tools to make admission touches more personalized for prospects. Enrollment management teams know exactly the “pain points” prospective families are asking. What concerns do they have? What do they worry about? What is the “word on the street” that makes your school so special? Once they know, they can tailor messaging to this.
Bring your worth to the table and the team so you can create the kind of assets you need around the issues that are important to your prospective and current families.
Contact Kalix to help make the most of your collaborations to engage your audiences and drive enrollment. Connect with us here.