Updated: Jan 17
by Trevor Waddington, Principal, Truth Tree
One of the chilling (pun intended) memories of winter breaks past is the long layoff. Sure I enjoyed the time away, but my mind was usually on strategies that were not being executed because school was out. I always pictured the other admission and marketing directors having meetings and special events for prospective parents. Was I the only one this paranoid?
Then, I decided I wouldn’t let the winter break slump curb the momentum we worked so hard to build since September.
Here are 3 strategies (plus a non-secular bonus) you can use this year to bust the winter break slump:
1. Video - Your school mar-comm team should have already sent out a high-quality holiday video to your community. I hope you sent it to prospective parents unless it had an end-of-year giving message within. Either way, take your iPhone. Gather your department. Make a 30 second “happy holidays” video from the admission office to your parents. Get creative in post-production. Add some snow or other festive graphics to spice things up! Send it out. You should be used to this type of thing by now but don't write it off just because some or more of your courting efforts have been virtual.
2. Social Media - Pre-set social media posts to run over the break. Your social media platforms should still be working for you for each day you are away. While other school mar-comm peeps are sipping eggnog and watching the ball drop, you’re hard at work…oh, who are we kidding, you’re doing the same thing they are, but with a grin, because you set everything up before you left for break. Here’s a good push pattern, so it’s not all sales:
Day 1: Your highest engaged, timeless post from the past year (you should be tracking your social engagement all the time to see what’s resonating most with your followers).
Day 2: A professional article from a reputable source that demonstrates the benefits of your school’s philosophy/program/etc., or a well-written blog by someone associated with your school.
Day 3: Photo and a one-line description.
Day 4: Crowd source: What is your favorite New Year’s tradition?
Day 5: Call to action message – join us on January 11 for [admission event]
3. Winter Break Camp – I know what you’re going to say. It's not my job. Now is your chance to use your favorite line: Admissions is everyone’s job. Getting something like this off the ground is hard work if you don’t have an established camp, but believe me, it’s worth it. Parents are still looking for opportunities to get their kids out there since so many months had them isolated behind a screen. Getting young people to associate your “experience” with fun is a hat-trick (I’d say home run, but it’s wintertime). Here’s the catch: a third party cannot run it. It needs to be legit with your staff doing quality “stuff.” So whether it’s a performing arts camp, robotics camp, or math camp, it needs to be done well and with your staff members. Why? Because having your excellent staff interact with parents and students is the key to upping the real and perceived value of your school’s overall experience.
Bonus for 2021, I hope. Christmas Festival – During my time working in independent schools, I spent seven years at Christian schools. So the bonus is from my personal history. I’d love to hear from those at other religious-based schools about ways you’ve celebrated the holidays with prospective families.
Here’s the key to a good Christmas Festival: 1. Santa doesn’t smell like booze or cigarettes (it’s happened to me twice), and 2. The kids get to take something home. I suggest having them make ornaments or advent calendars, put them on the tree or fridge to keep your school on top of mind through the holidays.
Then a few days later, they’ll get another surprise in the mail: a postcard with your logo and a note on one side, and their child smiling on Santa’s lap on the other.
Yes, most parents love to use the winter break to escape from the pressure of finding the right school. But being “out there” and going above and beyond will give you the edge as you move closer to the admission season stretch run in the new year.