I need to credit Shalom Christian Academy in Chambersburg, PA with this excellent suggestion. But, like all excellent ideas, it was considered as something “we’ve always done,” and not considered to be anything remarkable.
If you’ve been a reader of SchoolAdvancement’s Marketing Matters, you know that the most remarkable things about your school may not be what you, as a school administrator, consider to be remarkable. Truthfully, what you think is remarkable about your school really doesn’t matter. However, what parents who are currently part of your school’s community think is remarkable about your school, and what parents who are investigating educational environments for their children think is remarkable about your school, is what really matters!
Conversely, what you may perceive to be “tradition,” or sometimes, “no big deal,” may be the very thing that makes the difference between a parent enrolling their child in your school or in the school that’s down the street from their home.
I was driving to Shalom Christian Academy this year during the winter which just wouldn’t quit. Temperatures were below freezing, and while snow covered the fields, the road was clear, and the sun was shining in a bright blue sky. I turned on the radio to hear the local weather forecast, and after a song finished playing, I heard the announcer say, “This forecast is brought to you by Shalom Christian Academy.” It was followed by the weather forecast, and then a commercial for the school!
While media advertising can be expensive, the expenditure can, at times, be justified, if the message reaches the intended target audience. I’ve always been a proponent of radio commercials over television commercials, which was one of the reasons I enjoyed my time in the radio business. With today’s technology, one needs a great microphone (not a computer one, but a “large diaphragm” one), a computer or iPad with an audio recording and mixing program, and some royalty-free production music , and you have the basics of a recording studio. You may need to work with a copywriter so that your message is a compelling one, and perhaps hire a vocal talent to record it for you (and then you don’t even need the microphone), but audio production is significantly less expensive than video, and today’s audio production costs are significantly lower than they were 20 years ago.
If you’re interested in purchasing local air time by sponsoring weather forecasts, the radio station’s staff might even include commercial production as part of the package, and provide you with copies of the “spot” to use on other radio stations in the market.
In the Northeast during the Winter, where parents still tune in to news programming or radio stations to hear the weather forecast to determine how to dress their children for the next day, or hear about impending weather events that could delay or cancel school, sponsorship of the weather forecast by your school can put your message in a strategic and appropriate placement. Multiply this “exposure” many times via many weather forecast sponsorships, and the messages could have a positive impact in creating inquiries to you school from parents of prospective students.
I asked the school’s development director about the commercials, commenting that I thought they provided excellent occasions of exposure to parents that may be tuning in for the weather, but also to the local community to increase awareness of the school’s presence. He said that it wasn’t something new; it was something done for them even before he started in his position.
It is a good strategy for all schools? No. Each school is unique. You need to create a marketing plan based on your resources and your marketing goals, which should include increasing inquiries to your school. However, radio commercials shouldn’t just be dismissed because they’re assumed to be expensive or ineffective.
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2014 (Original Publication Date: 20140616)