Time to refresh: digital marketing for education
Elizabeth Moore, Digital Account Manager at PLMR Ltd, is our first expert in a short series on how digital tools can refresh your institution's brand
In your opinion, how does online marketing play a role in a brand refresh?
Online marketing is essential if you’re looking to refresh your brand, especially as a school. With more and more people – and therefore parents – interacting with social media and digital content, it’s a critical platform, not just for engaging with potential new parents and students, but also your existing school community.
What digital tools are out there to make branding easier?
There are so many tools at your disposal for marketing online, including social media, video and digital advertising, all of which can be used to deploy your key messages, whether that’s your school ethos or your purpose-built facilities to a targeted audience. This means that the people who are most likely to be looking for the best school in the area for their child, or students who are looking for a great university experience, will be presented with your institution, and your brand.
Many universities are already using these platforms and will likely see success in recruiting students through social media advertising. Schools, on the other hand, may have multiple concerns around this type of advertising, the most prominent being budget. However, it’s worth knowing that using social media and bolstering it with advertising can see a high return on investment for relatively little cost.
Pay-per-click advertising can be targeted to a very specific audience, in terms of job function and geographical location.
What are the most important elements of a school/college/university brand in the digital age?
The most crucial thing when it comes to a school or university’s branding is a clear message that is used across all marketing channels. When you’re developing these messages, it’s important to consider what people will be searching for online, as this will essentially be a vehicle for keywords that will get you seen. For example, students may not be looking for ‘an award-winning higher education institution’, but they might be interested in a ‘specialist language college’. Consider your strengths and why your students love your school – put this at the forefront; consider your website search engine optimisation and meta tags used on the site. This isn’t to say that you can’t shout about your awards and accolades of course, just save your headline for your most search-worthy feature!
The next thing is your visual collateral. Do you have a high-resolution copy of your logo? Is there a version that translates well to Twitter, Facebook and other online platforms where you might want to use it as your profile picture? Are your fonts legible on your website? Consider things such as the fact that a dark font on a light background is easier to read and consume than white font on a dark background. Do you have high-quality digital photographs? These are some of the questions you should be considering as a crucial part of your marketing plan.
Most importantly through all of this – does everyone in the school know how to use your school’s branding? One of the best ways of ensuring brand coherence – especially in schools where you might have teachers doing their own marketing to existing parents – is to establish a set of brand guidelines. This is a document that lays out exactly which fonts and colours to use, where the logo should be placed and so on. This way, everything that goes out in the name of your school, comes under your clear, cohesive brand. You could even add a Twitter and Facebook guide, to help make sure that people are sending the right messages with appropriate hashtags, images and content.
“The most crucial thing when it comes to a school or university’s branding is a clear message that is used across all marketing channels.”
Rebranding can be a really daunting prospect for a school, but it’s also a really exciting opportunity to show parents – both existing and prospective – exactly what your school is about. It gives you a fresh and professional edge that will get noticed, even by those all-important Ofsted inspectors. Think of your school logo like the Nike ‘tick’, and your key messages like IKEA’s ‘Beautiful Everyday’ slogan – single out what makes you special, and make your mark in the online world.
Do you think the use of digital tools is more important in a school, college or university setting, or is it the same across the board?
Many universities are already using these platforms and will likely see success in recruiting students through social media advertising. Schools, on the other hand, may have multiple concerns around this type of advertising, the most prominent being budget. However, it’s worth knowing that using social media and bolstering it with advertising can see a high return on investment for relatively little cost. No matter what type of institution you are – primary, secondary, or higher and further – these digital tools are absolutely essential.
Have you seen any particular developments in the use of digital tools in institutions over the last 12 months?
Social media was a huge step forward in communications: Facebook and Twitter have always been the mainstays for schools and universities, but in recent years, we’ve seen more and more institutions using Instagram and even Snapchat to keep their students and parents engaged with core school messaging. There has also been a real uptake in the use of dedicated school apps, which allow schools to customise their platform, and then send messages directly to parents and the school community.
Do you have any examples of education providers that are using digital tools to refresh their brand particularly well?
Imperial College London have a really well-honed brand online, as well as offline. They’ve created a smart but modern-looking logo for their social media channels and their website, they have a really well-produced video that sums up the institution without using any words (so that it can be played on mute by commuters) and they’re even using 360Ëš photography to really show off what they can do.
For more on PLMR Ltd, visit plmr.co.uk