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How to write a marketing strategy


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How do you define your school’s values and communicate your passion and purpose to achieve results? Marketing expert Justin Smith explains

Let's define 'marketing'

What do we mean by marketing in the education arena? There are many definitions but my favourite is by Davies and Ellison (1997): ‘The means by which the school actively communicates and promotes its purpose, values and products to the pupils, parents, staff and wider community.’ Ask yourself, do you really understand your school’s purpose and values?

There are many who doubt the value of marketing our schools. And if we indulge in ad-hoc and wasteful campaigns then we deserve to invite scepticism. On the other hand, if we’re clear on what we’re looking to achieve and are able to demonstrate a return on our investment, then we have nothing to shy away from and the results can be hugely positive.

It is important to have a strategic plan that can be properly costed and evaluated. It’s equally important to get away from thinking of marketing as an isolated activity (an advert, a poster) – marketing is something that all stakeholders should be aware of and appreciate.

Students, staff, parents and governors should be thought of as ‘brand ambassadors’ – engage with them and they can be very powerful advocates of your school. Avoid the natural knee-jerk reaction to issues and instead deploy an approach that sits alongside the over-arching school improvement plan. Placing adverts in your local newspaper is the cherry on the cake (so to speak!), whereas school leaders should look for the cake ingredients first – defining key messages, providing clarity on your brand identity and understanding your purpose. Your marketing plan should address some or even all of the following:

  • Define brand and values and promote key messages.
  • Manage your school’s reputation – reinforcing or modifying?
  • Attract and retain the best staff – talented staff drive up standards.
  • Communications, PR, media and crisis management.
  • How to sustain or recruit more students – why your school? Key messages and USP.
  • How to attract funding and support – sponsors, funders, commercial engagement. Aligning of values.
  • Engage with former students.

About our expert

Justin Smith is Managing Director of Chameleon Training and Consultancy (, providing specialist marketing and income generation support to the education sector. For over 14 years, Justin has worked in secondary schools, developing – and successfully implementing – fundraising, sponsorship and marketing strategies. In 2015, Justin was awarded the NASBM Marketing Award.

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