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The top 10 school prospectus pitfalls - part 1

Posted by Laura Sheahan

The top 10 school prospectus pitfallsIt’s time to update your school’s prospectus. You know it’s out of date; the students on the cover are now long graduated, but still you can’t summon the enthusiasm to tackle it. Contributing to the inertia factor is that once a prospectus is printed, it tends to be in circulation for some time. So you’ve got to get it right. We’ve put together our top 10 list of pitfalls schools need to be aware of when producing a prospectus. But don’t worry, we won’t leave you hanging … we’ll also share our thoughts on the best practices to overcome the stress of producing this important communication piece.

  1. You’re struggling with the communications brief
    Have you thought long and hard about your main objective and purpose for the prospectus? Is it to increase overall enrolments, or to increase enrolments in a particular segment like kindergarten, prep school, high school or boarding? Or, will it be used to support your website content and given to parents at Open Days and Parent Information Sessions?

    Step one: understand how it will be used.

    With your objective clearly defined, the next step is to consider who the right target audience will be (local, national or international), prospective parents or will your existing parent community receive it at some stage? Identification of your target audience/s should be straightforward once you have reached consensus on the main objective.

    At this stage, you will also want to ensure that all key decision makers are on board, and in agreement, with everything that has been discussed and approved in the brief. If engaging an external marketing agency or designer to assist with the production, now is the time to approach them for strategic direction in making sure your prospectus drives significant results.  

  2. Inconsistent alignment between your prospectus and the rest of your school’s communications 
    Speaking with ‘one clear voice’ in all of your school’s communications gives parents a consistent message that is both clear and effective. The ‘voice’ needs to be uniform no matter what the platform. If a parent receives your school’s prospectus on a day tour to the school, all the information, pricing, tone of voice and even imagery must be consistent between what they are physically holding and what they can view on your school’s website. Appointing an internal ‘brand leader’, who is in charge of monitoring, assessing and implementing any changes needed, will ensure your school’s voice is cohesive across all mediums.

  3. You’ve got too much, or too little, content 
    First of all, you need to think like a prospective parent. What do you want to know and read about the school? Involve your team in a brainstorming session; pick the brains of your admissions team or community relations manager to understand the typical questions prospective parents ask. And don’t forget one of the most important roles in any school - reception. What are the most common questions your receptionist answers on a daily or weekly basis by prospective, and current parents?

    Survey your competition in surrounding areas, or if your school is part of an association - what don’t other schools offer that your school does; what differentiates your school from them?

    Act as a prospective parent for other schools to scope out how well you receive information from them.

    Once the hard research has been done, the chances are you will have more information than you will need, but you will have a better indication of the information that is relevant to your target audience. 

  4. Not assessing what your competitors are doing 
    Think of this stage as an ‘audit’ of what your competitors are producing in their prospectuses. ‘Mystery shop’ other schools by way of contacting their main reception/administration and asking them questions about enrolments. Request a physical copy of their prospectus and have each person in your team analyse it for strengths and weaknesses. By doing this, your school can better themselves by seeking out the ‘gaps’ in the competition. A prime example is copywriting, be careful with the words you use and always be mindful of your schools’ ‘voice’ (see point 2).

    The prospectus should give prospective parents a sense of your school’s brand and values. Assess the competition, and do better.

Next time, we’ll continue our look at the top 10 prospectus pitfalls and look at the importance of imagery, timing, and why a prospectus is an evolving document.

Here are some more blogs on communication which might be of interest to you.

At imageseven, we provide ongoing support to several of our clients through our Communication Support Program.

Click here to read a recent blog that explains how the Communication Support Program benefited and optimised marcoms at The Scots College.

The CSP goes beyond a regular agency relationship and provides access to a fully-fledged marketing department at a level of support tailored to specific client needs.

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If your school prospectus has fallen victim to one of these pitfalls, contact us, for a complimentary phone consultation to get it back on track.

This blog was written by Laura Sheahan

In her role as Strategic Communications Director at imageseven, Laura manages and develops the company’s European business, drives imageseven’s corporate marcoms, and continues to work with many of her clients in Australia from the Emerald Isle. Outside the office, Laura can be found with friends, on a green perfecting her golf swing or tennis serve, trying out Cork’s trending eateries, or checking out the high street.


Topics: Education, imageseven, Communication, Marcom, School marketing strategy