Imagine the scene – you have an important interview or meeting coming up and you want to make sure you are giving all the right messages across to those around you. You go and have your hair done, choose your best outfit and polish your shoes. You are on show for that period of time. You are the greatest showman!
This is nothing different to holding your School Open Event. The whole experience is an opportunity to sell your team and to showcase just how amazing your school is.
You need to first consider what you unique selling points are for your school. What is the message you want to get across to the prospective students and their parents.
Once you have these you need to work on you marketing outputs. To coin a phrase from the retail world, you want to “Maximise your Footfall”. You want as many people to attend as possible.
Holding the event during the school day excludes many working families so they need to be late afternoon into the evening or, maybe, consider a weekend. Consider how you are going to get the message to the wider public to let them know what is happening.
Are you going to place adverts in local papers. If this is one of your chosen methods consider the following points: Colour will stand out from the black and white text; the size of the advert is also key – you don’t need a full page (they are expensive).
Also carefully consider the placement of your advert – always place them on the right hand page as this is the first page you see and always go for the front or rear of the publication as people don’t tend to read the middle parts.
Have you consider placing school prospectuses in the showrooms of all the building developments in your area. Having a good school by new housing will be a big drive to those developers selling their homes.
Can you use your in-house communication system to promote the event? We have used this mainly to target current families who have then shared this with their friends. Usually this is in the form of an email or pop up notification which directs people to the school website which you will have already put your information onto.
Are you going to use social media to put the message across?
If you are using social media consider a video advert as they are proven to attract more views. Your school photographer may be able to support this with an amazing walk through of your school and even include drone footage.
Most towns have a “spotted” page which are free to use and you can post there. They have a huge audience range but be ready for any potential negativity, so monitor it carefully and hide those negative comments. You may also want to consider asking the local pre-schools, the Parish or Town Council to publish your advert on their pages for you.
Another scope of marketing to think about is targeting new geographic areas. Parents are demanding more choice so the “pupil recruitment” area is becoming increasingly more competitive.
Make sure you target those key catchment areas you know you will get success from and also target those areas you want to tap into. Don’t be afraid to step into newer areas.
Are you going to book families onto the event or is it going to be an open forum? If you book them in think about how you could potentially use email addresses to target marketing in the future, subject to current legislation of course.
Inside the school you want to make sure that you are demonstrating the best that you have to offer. Each area knows what has the wow factor so make sure it is in use. Make sure that the school has been cleaned thoroughly in advance of the open event.
Remember the toilets, there are numerous bits of research that suggests parents look at the condition of the toilets as a representation of how well you look after the whole school.
You have thought about all the subjects and how they are showcasing their work, but what about the other areas?
Are the kitchens going to provide food samples for parents? Could the wrap around club be open so younger siblings can stay in the setting while parents go on the tour? Is your uniform supplier going to attend? Could the school photographer attend to do a photo booth to add variety? Is the school nurse or mental health team available to speak to parents?
Lots of parents will be looking for more than just the subjects, they will want to be looking for all round support.
During the event
Keep this simple, all the hard work has been done – it is time to network. Talk to as many people as you can, have a presence and be the show person. If they like you and you staff that is over half the challenge complete.
To make this even easier have a number of other key leaders and pupils who can support you. Your prospective parents and children will want to see everything and will ask lots of questions so make sure you have children helping that represent the diversity of your school.
I feel it is important that you have a mixture of children both boys and girls, high achievers and those who find learning a challenge. The key is that all of these children need to be confident and talking positively about the school.
Another great activity to undertake is a snap feedback survey or poll. You may want to find out something specific about the setting and how it comes across to new pupils or maybe you want to find out how they find your website.
A simple survey handed out when they arrive and asked for when they leave can provide a wealth of information especially from new pupils and parents.
The main thing is to thank all of the team for the hard work they have put into promoting the school. Remember to include those who may no be there on the night but may have done lots of work in advance.
Then it is time to review that feedback survey – what can you learn from it and what steps are you going to take to improve based on the results.
Finally, remember that now is the time to send out a survey asking what they thought of the school and, more importantly, will they be the first choice.
Holding an open event is all in the pre-planning. If this is done well the rest will just happen. Never forget, however, that an open day is a marketing event. You should always want to show the school off to its very best and be proud of everything that has been achieved.
The open event checklist
- USP Agreed
- Advert Created
- Marketing Agreed
- Booking System in Place
- Showcasing Agreed
- Extra-Curricular in place
- Staff in place
- Children in place
- Survey in place
- Site Security in place
- Thank everyone
- Analyse survey
- Follow up emails sent
Event survey questions
1. What are your first impressions of the school?
2. What do you like and dislike about our website?
3. Did you get everything you needed from our open event?
4. Are you likely to use our extended services facility?
5. Will you be likely to choose our school as your first choice option?
6. Is there anything you would like us to follow up on?
7. How did you hear about our event?
Site security checklist / consideration
- Is there a single entry/exit point for visitors?
- Have they signed in (for open events during the school day)?
- Has perimeter fencing been locked (if applicable)?
- Have appropriate parking arrangements been made?
- Are suitable plans in place in the event of an evacuation?
- Are premises staff circulating the school targeting specific areas?
- Has your lighting been switched on outside for the evening (off timers)?
- Are rooms with specific information in locked (GDPR)?
Phil Burton is business manager at Hallbrook Primary School.