Shining the Spotlight on Your Signature Programs

What makes your school unique? Every private and independent school has  a few signature programs they are proud of–from academics to athletics to arts to STEM/STEAM and beyond. These are essential messages to put in front of potential parents and students as they travel through the customer journey toward application and enrollment. Here are seven tips to help you distinguish your school’s centers of excellence and send the right messages to your target audience.

1. Identify key programs to highlight in your marketing

Your private school’s prize program may be obvious–but which other programs are also attracting applicants? Think about the achievements of your students and faculty, your competitors, your location, and the global economy to discover:

  • Programs that are unique to your school and aren’t offered anywhere else in your area.

  • Programs that are offered at a few schools but are different or better at your school.

  • Programs that are not unique but are in demand in your region, in business/industry, in education, and in post secondary institutions.

Another consideration is which programs have high inquiry rates from potential applicants. Has there been a recent upswing in interest about a specific program or activity? Back up your rationale with analytics from your website traffic and in-person contacts.

2. Consult with internal stakeholders and champions

Who are the faces of your esteemed programs? Identify students, faculty and even alumni who excel in their fields of study or performance and get them on board with your messaging. 

How about the admissions and administration teams? Which programs do they think are most important? Do these align with your target audience’s interests? (Find out how these compare to the Top Marketing Priorities for Private Schools.)

The process of research and asking questions is important because your internal audiences may have their own priorities, assumptions and ideas about which programs deserve the spotlight. If you need to back up your plan with evidence, show them the data from step one, because understanding your audience is key.

3. Develop key messages

Consider the program-specific questions your admissions team hears a lot, the sections of your website that get a lot of traffic, and the social posts that get a lot of engagement. What are the common threads? Think about what programs your target audience of potential parents and potential students are most interested in, what they want to know about each program, and why they care.

While you’re at it, circle back to your program champions or ambassadors. Ask them why they chose your school, what they liked best about the program, and what they would tell potential applicants. This feedback is gold for crafting your key messages!

4. Make sure your program highlights have depth

Tell a story that shows how and why your programs are noteworthy. Gather quotes and testimonials from students, parents, faculty, and alumni. These are powerful sales messages that are authentic and trustworthy. For more tips on how to engage with your readers, read our blog about Marketing Your Value to a Public School Audience.

And while you’re at it, get some great photos! Stock photos just don’t compare to being able to feature real faces from your prestigious institution! Plus, you’ll have full creative control to get exactly the photos you want–whether it’s a shot of your star athlete in action, a celebrated artist surrounded by a gallery, or your most respected alumnus receiving a distinguished award.

5. Map it out

Where marketing platforms allow, map the program and message to each target audience (e.g. Google ads, paid social media). Where your audience is more general, make sure to highlight all of the programs you’ve identified as important in turn, and still target your message specifically to your identified audience (e.g. school website, organic social content).

Consider where and how to include program highlights in your customer journey. Typically, at the awareness stage, your target audiences will know about your school and be curious enough to click and learn more. Once they do, your landing page should include strategic highlights and links to more information.  If your audience doesn’t take action, remarketing ads are a great place to add program highlights that are tailored to each audience.

Plan to feature programs in unpaid marketing too, like regular highlights on your website homepage or news/blog sections, in your email newsletters or automated workflows, and on your social channels.

6. Plan for success (and then repeat it)

Oh, the power of a content calendar for strategic organization. Plan out your website, newsletter, and social media content to make sure you’re spreading the message for each featured program in an even rotation.

For example:

1 - Arts highlights (music accomplishments, performances, dance shows, student highlights)

2 - Academics (STEM/STEAM, scholarship recipients, distinguished alumni)

3 - Athletics (accomplishments, leadership stories, information about niche programs)

4 - Student life (boarding student stories, day student stories, new clubs, diversity, equity, and inclusion on campus)

5 - Admissions (application dates and deadlines, interviews, parent testimonials)

6 - About the school (core values, traditions, events, history, etc.)

7. Launch, test, refine

Digital platforms offer amazing opportunities for A/B test messaging, so you can find out if certain parents are more interested in X program or Y program, if you get more engagement when you feature faculty testimonials, student testimonials or parent testimonials, and which photos generate more clicks.

Anecdotally, also ask your team if phone and email inquiries are coming through with more students interested in the programs you’re advertising. Even if they’re not tracking hard data, they will have a feel for trends in general interest.

When in doubt, ask the experts!

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


Get marketing insights straight to your inbox.