How will running spooky events for your pupils this month help you with recruitment in your next intake?

Debbie Lawrenson
  • Debbie Lawrenson
  • Head of Digital

Hallowe’en has become a huge national event in recent years. A generation or so ago it was seen as an American celebration that was rather quietly observed in the UK, while the main autumn focus was on Bonfire Night.

Nowadays, it’s one of the UK’s top three retail events, with people spending over £310 million on costumes, food and drink and associated spooky paraphernalia.

Good for the retail industry, you might think, but what on earth does Hallowe’en have to do with school recruitment? Quite a lot, actually. Let’s take a look at why putting on a Hallowe’en event could be an important part of your private school marketing strategy.

Think wider

Putting on a school Hallowe’en event may seem like a lot of hassle and a stretch on resources. There’s the cost of the event, the organisation, creating activities and getting people to help out. Is it really worth all that effort?

The short answer is yes. That’s because events like this reach out into the wider community and are a big part of what the parents of future pupils will be looking at. Strong community engagement can be found in all successful private schools. A school that is firmly placed at the heart of the community is one that will be at the forefront of parents’ minds when it comes to deciding on their children’s education.

Although we’re looking at Hallowe’en as an example, it’s just one of many private school marketing ideas that can increase pupil enrolment. Effective private school marketing is built on thinking more widely about marketing opportunities.

Be aware of special calendar dates, but also think about local events and interests that you can be a part of. Think about how you can get the community into your school to savour its ethos, facilities and pupil engagement. Remember, prospective parents, are part of that community.

For example, why not hold an event on the school premises that helps a local charity fundraise for a particular target? Or perhaps your sports facilities are the perfect venue for hosting a local health awareness event?

Going beyond your strategy

Most private school marketing strategies are the product of long hours and much thought, containing excellent ideas to increase school enrolment. Your school marketing strategy will include a clear brand identity, a brilliant school website, a social media strategy and planned advertising campaigns to increase pupil intake.

These are all absolutely vital to thriving in the private school marketplace, but you need to know when to go beyond the strategy and make the most of opportunities and ideas.

Remember, when it comes down to it, your marketing goal is this:

Parent engagement that leads to school applications.

When it comes to convincing the people who hold the purse strings that you need £150 to hire a bouncy castle, you need to explain how this is part of the marketing mix and how it helps you to meet the aims of your strategy. It’s all part of what gets you into the consciousness of prospective parents.

Show, not tell

Any English teacher is familiar with explaining to students the importance of ‘Show, not tell’. It’s important because it reaches into the subconscious, immerses the reader in the story and creates empathy and a connection between the reader and what’s happening on the page.

The same rules apply when it comes to marketing. Once prospective parents are immersed in your school’s story and feel an empathy and connection with the school, staff and students, your school becomes the natural first choice for their children’s schooling. It’s there, in their subconscious as well as their conscious minds.

Show not tell, when applied to the best private school marketing, means doing what gets attention. Show who you are and what you do. Show that you do it brilliantly. Don’t limit this activity to school open days. An open day can be a very effective showcase, but something that is not so overtly related to recruitment can be much more effective. It can be better placed to show the reality of student life and achievement.

The ‘tell’ part is your core messaging, and most private schools are pretty good at this, offering clear statements on ethos, expectation and achievement. It’s an important part of every school marketing strategy, but showing what that messaging looks like in practice can have massive impact.

Finding the time, ideas and resources to make the most of opportunities like Hallowe’en can bring tremendous rewards for those interested in how to improve private school enrolment. Yes, there’s some hard work and organisation involved, but did we mention that it’s also tremendous fun?  Create a day to remember and everyone will enjoy it. And what’s more, they’ll remember your school.