A Comprehensive Marketing Guide for Charter Schools

Wondering how to recruit students for charter schools? Well, there used to be a time when there was no need to wonder; parents simply sent their children to the closest school and hoped for the best. Today, there are more school choices than ever, and that means more competition. Fortunately, the nature of a charter school means that you have some autonomy in how you get the word out about your institution, and developing a comprehensive charter school marketing plan can put your name on the map and ultimately result in more students.

To increase enrollment, fundraising, and community support, follow these marketing strategies for charter schools.

Define Your Brand

Great marketing is about more than just putting your product in front of people; it’s about finding and connecting with audiences whose values align with your own. It’s about communicating your school’s unique identity, reputation, and vision. And it starts with defining your brand.

To define your charter school’s unique brand identity, first, establish what makes your school different from the rest. Perhaps it puts greater emphasis on STEM. Maybe it employs project-based learning methods. Maybe it is your dual language program or a unique curriculum.  Whatever makes it different, lock it down and spell it out.

Then identify your target audience and determine a clear mission. Who will connect with your values and what will you do for them? Your target audience could be parents who live within a certain distance from the school, or parents with politically progressive attitudes. Your mission might be to serve your local community or bring in children from diverse areas. No matter what it is, it’s crucial that you define it.

Since you will be communicating your brand through marketing materials, it’s also important to develop guidelines for those materials and maintain a consistent tone and style throughout. Whether you are emailing a newsletter or hosting a fundraiser, everything from your graphic design to your messaging needs to sync up.

Communication Activities

Now that you have defined your brand, it’s time to plan communications activities that will expand your school’s presence, develop relationships with the community, and encourage referrals.

Events

Putting on or participating in events is a great way to connect with the community and forge lasting relationships. Here are a few event ideas:

  • School events, such as Red Ribbon Week, School Choice Week, book drives, fundraisers, teacher of the year awards, student concerts, and graduation ceremonies.
  • Community events, such as town fairs, farmers markets, marathons, conferences or symposiums, and pledge drives.

Remember at all of these events to capture the names of prospective parents so you can follow up later.

Organizational Alignment

To amplify your brand and maintain consistency in your messaging, it’s helpful to educate your staff and board on your school’s key messages. Ensure that everyone understands the school’s mission, vision, and values, and knows which ideas to emphasize and repeat when interacting with the public.

In-person Interactions

Speaking of interacting, communicating with people face-to-face goes a long way in building trust, rapport, and loyalty among parents, staff members, and the community as a whole. So encourage your team to interact with others when the opportunity presents itself. And these interactions don’t have to be delegated to events or functions, either. Greet a parent who is dropping their child off. Introduce yourself to a new vendor when they’re loading in cafeteria supplies. They are more likely to talk about your school if they know you, and more likely to refer others to it if they like you.

Digital Marketing – A Top Marketing Strategy for Charter Schools

Establishing an online presence and connecting with others digitally is just as important as holding events or interacting in the halls. A comprehensive digital charter school marketing plan includes:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

SEO is the process of optimizing your website and web presence in such a way that it achieves greater visibility in search engines. Having good SEO means someone Googling “charter schools” in your area is more likely to find yours. Having great SEO means they’re more likely to find yours first.

Tips to maximize your charter school’s SEO:

  • Make sure your website has convenient navigation. Add all the necessary pages for parents, students, and teachers, and organize them intuitively.
  • Fill web pages with highly relevant and unique content. Answer all the possible questions parents, students, and teachers might have about your school. Ensure all relevant information is easily accessible on the website. This can include class supply lists, pickup/drop off policies, office hours, meet-the-teacher night information, and more.
  • Make your website fast, responsive, and mobile friendly. You want it to load quickly and display properly on any device.
  • Continuously update your website with things like news, events, and teacher/student spotlights to stay in touch with your audience.
  • Add your website to the local business listings such as Google Maps, Yelp, Bing Places, Linkedin, and Facebook.

Read also about how you can enhance your website to create engagement and identify prospects in our comprehensive article Making Your School Website a True Marketing Asset.

Social Media Presence

Social media offers you a place to establish a positive digital presence in a visual environment. It helps keep parents, students, teachers, and the community informed of news and events. It’s also a great tool to celebrate student accomplishments and memorialize small moments from the school day.

Tips to build a strong social media presence for your charter school:

  • Define which platform or platforms your key audience uses. These might include Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or Youtube.
  • Whether it’s a simple photograph from the day or an upcoming event, post regularly to stay on people’s minds.
  • Use the same communication strategy on social media as you would anywhere else. Keep the tone, style, and messaging consistent. Communicate the same tenets and values.
  • Set up Facebook Ads to capture more likes, boost website traffic, or advertise an upcoming event.

Read more about how you can maximize the use of social media to market your school in our comprehensive article Improving Your School’s Social Media Activities.

Google AdWords

While organic traffic is hugely important, a healthy balance between organic and paid traffic can maximize your marketing potential. And because SEO and other organic traffic strategies tend to take time, the topmost benefit of Google AdWords is that it works fast. Both SEO and Google AdWords are search engine marketing strategies that generate more traffic and leads, but, a well optimized AdWords campaign can quickly put your school at the top of Google.

Email Marketing

Because it is so versatile, email marketing is an essential element of a successful digital strategy. You can use it to organize events, promote services, or simply say hi. Email newsletters, for example, help to keep prospective parents informed of your upcoming events as well as what is happening at your school. A polite but steady stream of relevant and useful information can also build trust, loyalty, and happiness within the community.

Tips to create a successful email marketing campaign for your charter school:

  • Emails should always include a call to action and lead the reader somewhere else, such as an online destination, school website, or expanded story.
  • Categorize or segment your email list. This allows you to keep messages relevant to the group you’re emailing. If you burden users will irrelevant messages, they will opt out or ignore future emails.
  • On a similar note, don’t overload people’s inboxes, even if all the information is relevant. You want to come across as helpful, not annoying.
  • Need inspiration? Check out these fantastic email newsletters for ideas.
School Marketing Plan Development and Enrollment Coaching 

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Key Takeaways

  • Define your brand by establishing your school’s values and target audience, as well as maintaining a consistent tone, style, and messaging.
  • Plan communication activities such as events and in-person interactions to build trust, rapport, and loyalty. Create organizational unity for stronger messaging.
  • Use digital promotion to reach more people by implementing good SEO tactics, establishing a strong social media presence, balancing organic marketing with paid advertisements, and leveraging email marketing.

When used in tandem, these strategies all work together to create a strong, recognizable brand identity that reaches, engages, and recruits the right people. To build a maximally effective charter school marketing plan, consider hiring a marketing agency like Bright Minds Marketing to help you create and maintain a consistent digital presence. Send us an email to nick@brightmindsmarketing.com or call us at 317-361-5255 now!

Nick LeRoy

Nick LeRoy

Nick LeRoy, MBA, is the president of Bright Minds Marketing and former Executive Director of the Indiana Charter School Board. Bright Minds Marketing provides enrollment and recruitment consulting to private, Catholic and charter schools. For information about how Bright Minds Marketing can help your school improve its’ student enrollment, send an email to nick@brightmindsmarketing.com or call us at 317-361-5255.

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