5 Tips for Using Testimonials in Your School's Marketing Mix

Private Schools Marketing

Stories are one of the most powerful ways that humans communicate with impact and emotion – in marketing, we can share stories through testimonials. When students, past students, or parents tell their stories, others see it as real, authentic, and trustworthy – and for that reason, this kind of marketing message can be more effective than just saying good things about your school yourself.

Testimonials are crucial for marketing private schools because they give a real look at what students and parents think about their time at your school. They can also help to highlight a school's culture, programs, and community, helping it stand out in a crowded industry. These real-life stories can help schools connect emotionally with families, demonstrating not only the features of their programs but also the tangible benefits and transformations that their students experience. A good marketer knows that when you can connect with your target audience on an emotional level, you create memorable connections that can lead to measurable conversions.

In this guide, we offer up five tips for using testimonials to promote your independent school. You'll learn how to gather and display testimonials effectively, which style of testimonial is right for you, and why they're key to convincing prospective families to choose your school. We'll also discuss the importance of placing them strategically to ensure they're seen by the right people at the right time.

Let's get started.

1. Develop a Strategic Testimonial Plan

Knowing the importance of testimonials is one thing, but having a clear plan for using them is another. Set up a strategy for collecting and organizing testimonials so you always have them ready to go. Think about the best places to feature these stories, whether it's on your website, in a brochure, or on a poster at an event. Keep a collection of testimonials that showcase different experiences at your school.

To ensure a steady stream of fresh testimonials, consider setting up a schedule:

  • Monthly: Automate reminders to collect new testimonials from review sites and include a section in your email newsletter for recent feedback (try asking a question or simply inviting families or other audiences to share their thoughts — then ask for permission to use them).

  • Quarterly: Plan to reach out to different groups within your school community, such as parents, students, or alumni, to gather written testimonials. Rotate through these groups systematically to cover a broad range of experiences.

  • Annually: Organize a day dedicated to filming video testimonials. You can also run an annual social media contest with a hashtag that prompts people to share what they love about the school.

With a well-thought-out plan, you'll be able to pick the perfect testimonial for the right situation, ensuring your marketing messages hit home every time.

Tip: Set a policy for including students’ names, family last names, and even grades in your testimonial content. Not every family is comfortable sharing this much detail with the general public!

2. Diversify Your Sources

Your testimonials should come from a variety of sources. If you've recently showcased a student in a video testimonial, try collecting a testimonial from a parent next. Having a diverse testimonial collection allows you to present a well-rounded view of your school, appealing to different members of your target audience. Plus, it means you're always equipped with the ideal testimonial for any occasion – whether you need a short quote for a social post or an in-depth endorsement for your website, you'll be ready.  

Who can you ask for a testimonial?

  • Current Students

  • Former Students / Alumni

  • Current Parents

  • Former Parents

  • Current Faculty 

  • Boarding Students & Families

  • International Students & Families

  • Students from Specific Signature Programs (think: equestrian, IB, STEM club, basketball, orchestra, musical theater)

Tip: Your parent leaders (think: PTA, PTO, PAC) can be a goldmine for testimonials – they're well-connected and know who's who in the school community. They can pinpoint satisfied parents and community members who are likely (and willing) to share positive experiences. To tap into this resource, consider asking these committees to add a 'testimonial collection' segment to their next meeting agenda. Making this a regular feature, even quarterly or annually, ensures a steady stream of fresh, authentic testimonials to add to your marketing efforts.

3. Vary Your Testimonial Style

Mixing up the style of testimonials you collect can keep your marketing fresh and engaging. When deciding between video and written testimonials, consider the context and use. 

Written testimonials are quicker and easier to gather – and can be used in most places. They may also be usable for longer because it’s not as set in time (especially as students grow up). Written testimonials can be added in short form in social media posts, in your email marketing, on web pages… and longer-form testimonials really shine in printed materials or as part of a blog post where readers can absorb information at their own pace. 

Video is more costly to produce – but it pays off in power. This format is often more engaging, and it allows for more color and storytelling. Video testimonials are great for capturing emotion and personality, making them perfect for sharing on social media or your school's website homepage where immediate impact is key. To maximize your ROI on video production, plan ahead to use it on as many platforms as possible and consider shooting a series of videos all in one day. 

4. Encourage Online Reviews

Encourage your school community to leave reviews on popular platforms where parents often search for school information, like Google, Facebook, or education-specific review sites. These reviews act as public, shareable testimonials that can significantly influence prospective families. Plus, positive reviews can improve your school's search engine rankings, making it more visible to those searching for the best educational options.

If you're looking for ways to ask for online reviews, consider:

  • Sending emails with links to your school's review pages on Google and Facebook.

  • Posting regular reminders on your school's social media pages, encouraging the community to share their experiences.

  • Creating a simple guide on your school's website explaining the review process.

  • Making announcements at school events about the importance of reviews and providing quick instructions on how to leave one.

  • Displaying signs around the school with QR codes that link directly to your review platforms, making it easy for people to scan and review.

Tip: If you’re planning to use a testimonial in your marketing materials, be sure to ask for permission! Reviews that are directly solicited should include information about how you may use the response (asking for blanket permission to use it in marketing materials will cover you in any circumstance – including placement ideas you haven’t had yet). Online reviews are generally considered to be fair game – because they were shared publicly – but it’s a good idea to include and credit your source. If parents submit private feedback (like in an email to the Head of School) and you’d like to use part of that email as a testimonial, be sure to reach out to them and ask.

5. Place Testimonials Where They'll Have Maximum Impact

For testimonials to be effective, it's important to put them where people will see them. 

Here are a few placements to consider in your marketing mix:

  • Create a dedicated page or section for testimonials on your school's website

  • Feature a scrollable section of testimonials on your homepage

  • Add a testimonial to the bottom of each email in your admissions workflow

  • Add testimonial pull quotes to your viewbook

  • Have testimonials scrolling on your presentation screen while parents are gathering at your open house events

  • Create quote-style posts for your social platforms with testimonial content

  • Feature short videos or reels with testimonials on your social platforms

  • Create an Instagram Story highlight collecting all testimonial content

Remember, each school has its own unique community, so it's important to experiment with different placements to discover what works best for yours.

Tip:  According to this NAIS report, digital word-of-mouth is most effective on social media because it's easy for people to share content they like. The report suggests using both "push" strategies (like posting engaging content) and "pull" strategies (like encouraging online reviews) to get the word out. It also mentions using your social media analytics to determine which types of testimonials – videos, written stories, etc. – your audience engages with and shares the most. These insights can guide you in tailoring your content to what your community prefers. 

The best time to start gathering those positive stories from your school community is now! It's a personal and effective approach to show potential families the unique strengths of your school – and can sometimes be incredibly cost-effective! By building up your collection of testimonials now, you'll be set when the time comes to share them, without the stress of a last-minute search.

At Metric Marketing, we develop measurable and practical strategies to help private and independent schools like yours make the most of your marketing efforts. We'd love to discuss your private school's marketing requirements with you. Contact us today to speak with our marketing professionals or use the form below to sign up and receive more marketing tips in your inbox.


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