Can Marketing Material Actually Persuade?

The main goal behind school branding is to communicate what you do best. That is, after all, why parents choose to enroll their kids at your school. And for parents who understand your value, your strengths are obvious. But as you look to increase inquiry and application rates, it is important to communicate these strengths with those outside your community.

Much of what makes you great is experiential, meaning one must live it to truly understand it. That is why communicating this excellence through marketing materials is tough. For example, do your teachers build strong relationships with each student? Or do they pay close attention to social emotional learning? While these may be facts about your approach to education, simply stating them in your collateral often falls flat. That is because claims alone are empty. The real power comes in proving your statements. 

So how does a school prove their experiential excellence? Below are a few tactics to not only get your message across, but to have it truly convince.

1. Statistics

If you have statistics, use them. For example, sharing that you have the highest SAT scores in the state helps prove academic rigor. And stating that the average tenure of your teachers is 15 or more years proves stability and relationship building. Be sure to treat statistics visually so they don’t get buried on a page. Eyes tend to glaze over when met with too many numbers. Infographics help numbers tell a story and are more memorable than simply writing out statistics. However, not all schools have impressive statistics to share. That is okay. Numbers alone are not the only, or event the best way, to prove your strengths.

2. Testimonials

Quotes from students and parents add credibility, especially if accompanied by names, since they closely mirror word of mouth messaging. McKinsey found that word of mouth is the primary factor behind 20% to 50% of all purchasing decisions. Plus, parents understand the difficult factors prospective families grapple with when selecting a school and are able to speak directly to those pain points. Make sure to put your testimonials in context rather than listing them all on one web page or in one panel of a brochure. They are much more effective when used throughout a piece to help reinforce your messaging.

3. Photographs

Ever heard “a picture is worth 1,000 words?” That is certainly the case for marketing materials. Look closely at the photos across your website and print collateral. Do the images convey your brand messaging? For example, do you see students actively engaged with teachers? Do you see group learning in action? What about students interacting with technology? Many schools are tempted to select images of smiling students looking right at the camera. But candid images are much more powerful in eliciting an emotional response.

4. Videos

Videos offer the power of testimonials and photographs tied into one. They are about as close as a parent can get to experiencing your school, short of attending a tour or an open house. Sprinkle your videos with interviews, classes in action, extracurricular activities, and B-roll of your facilities. Make sure interviews avoid the “talking head” look. Just like with photographs, we want the videos to be as natural as possible to build trust with viewers. We also don’t want to create one page of videos, but instead to place them across your website where they are most relevant. 

5. Social Feeds

Consider adding a page or section to your website that pulls together tweets, Facebook posts, reviews and other school mentions from third parties. These messages are persuasive since they are seen as unbiased. You can also encourage members of your community to share their thoughts about the school across social media and to write reviews on popular sites. We once passed “Get Social” cards out to parents at a school event reminding them to get online.

5. Accolades and Certifications

Does your school hold any special certifications? Have you received any awards from publications or associations in your area? Listing these in your materials can help support your brand messaging, especially if the certifications and accolades are specific to the goals you are trying to accomplish. For example, simply being rated “Best School” is not as powerful as an accolade that speaks directly to your mission. If that mission is to provide support for learning differences, then an award specific to that strength is most meaningful. Once again, lumping all your accolades and certifications together is not as helpful as seeing them in context. 

Once these tactics are implemented, parents that encounter your marketing materials will not only hear your claims, but will have strong reasons to believe them. But remember, the conversation does not start and stop with collateral. There are many other aspects of a prospective parent’s journey, including word of mouth messaging within the community, open houses and tours, their experience on the phone with your admissions staff, etc., that need to work in tandem to reinforce your brand. You can learn more about the full branding process by downloading our guide, It's Not Just Your Story, It's How You Tell it.


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