How are marketing teams structured in other schools?
Ever wonder how your marketing department is organized compared to other schools’ teams? Of course you have. Our recent research project with NAIS gave us a peek behind the curtain at private and independent schools across North America - including how teams are structured, and the various functions they provide. See how your school compares, and learn some tips for how to streamline and strengthen your approach.
MARKETING TEAM STRUCTURE
In schools across North America, you’ll typically find a dedicated, centralized marketing team - or a single person in charge of marketing.
How is marketing structured at your school?
64% There is a centralized marketing team
29% I am the only person responsible for marketing functions at my school
3% There are separate marketing teams or individuals reporting to other areas
Among schools surveyed, centralized marketing teams were more likely to be found at larger schools, single-sex schools, secondary schools, and boarding schools. In contrast, smaller schools, co-ed schools, elementary schools, and day schools were generally more likely to have one individual in charge of marketing.
More than half of the schools we surveyed reported having an overarching communications department that handles marketing, and two-thirds of chief marketers report directly to the head of school.
BEST PRACTICES FOR INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS
Why is it important to keep marketing separate from other functions like communications or admissions?
While school Marketing Directors often wear multiple hats, it’s best practice to separate the role of communications from marketing. Communications (think: writing and tactical execution) is a full time job, and writing is an important skill set to have in-house. Ideally, Marketing Directors should act as strategic planners and executors of large-scale projects, rather than tacticians.
Second, while marketing supports admissions and the two roles work hand-in-hand, it’s important that the funnels are recognized for the unique purposes they serve. Marketing/Sales roles (analogous to Marketing/Admissions roles at schools) don’t often exist in the private sector anymore for a reason. If you’re a smaller school that requires someone to share both of those titles, a proper budget for outsourced expertise is necessary.
Remember that while your admissions, advancement and marketing teams operate and are budgeted separately, all three parties should work together on projects that focus on growing the school, and should make budget decisions together.
MARKETING TEAM FUNCTIONS
What do school marketing teams take care of? A lot.
Virtually all marketing teams surveyed report that advertising, websites, public relations, and publications all fall under their purview - and the list continues from there.
What functions are included under the umbrella of marketing at your school?
96% Public Relations
44% Alumni Engagement
In order to handle this workload, the typical independent school employs three or fewer full-time staff with marketing responsibilities - although the number of staff increases with school size and department budget.
BEST PRACTICES FOR INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS
With such a wide spread of tactics and responsibilities, it’s important to ensure your efforts are cohesive and coordinated - staying aligned with the ‘big picture’ objectives of the school. For example, if you’re trying to grow admissions, marketing should present strategies for growth. If you’re trying to raise funds or reduce attrition, there should be unique strategies and projects undertaken to help achieve those objectives.
Measurement should be a key function of every school marketing department, especially given that many schools struggle to get the right data, and therefore don’t know what is working - or what is not.
Recruitment functions—that is, campaigns focused on driving the right families into your admissions funnels—should be structured efforts from the marketing department. Many schools make the mistake of cherry-picking marketing tactics and running them in silos (for instance your school might “do Facebook advertising” or “Google Adwords”). Unifying all recruitment channels under an overarching campaign will enable you to work more effectively and efficiently.
Hiring Tip: When you’re hiring for marketing positions, beware of candidates who profess to be an expert in communications, strategic marketing, digital marketing AND sales. In our world, this candidate is called a “unicorn” - and unfortunately, unicorns do not exist. Instead, determine the key skill sets that are most important to have in-house - and be open to outsourcing in other areas.
The state of marketing in the independent school landscape has changed immensely over the last decade, especially as the power and influence of digital marketing have grown. In July 2021, Metric Marketing partnered with the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) in a survey of independent school marketing teams. In the final report, we learn about the common challenges and opportunities school marketers face - and provide some best practices that you can use to improve your school marketing.