It's an inconvenient truth: Our current and future families don't care about how great we think we are!
They might be attracted to our vision and believe in our mission. But our brand communications are most effective when they reflect the reason we do what we do. The why. The so what?
So how do you get to "the why?"
When you think about the considerable investment a family makes in an independent school, what in the world could possibly justify it?
It helps to remember that we all thrive on finding real meaning, value, and inspiration in our relationships. Those are the answers to "why" we do what we do, and what compels us to action:
1. The need for a sense of worth and respect
2. The desire to feel connected to others
3. The desire to feel connected with something meaningful (the pride of association)
Once we have an institution-wide sense of "Why," it is imperative to systematically reinforce and validate the touchstones of our value proposition that distinguish our school's particular brand of education.
1. Return on investment and outcomes. We have to prove this. Literally.Talking about our mission is irrelevant unless we can demonstrate we can deliver it. Honestly, they don't care about how we do it.
Our alumni are our walking value proposition. Get quantitative and qualitative evidence we are worth the cost. Demonstrate how our alumni make a difference in the world, and how we influenced their desire to make that difference.
2. A transformative program and delivery. Our product is great teaching and learning. So we need to prove we are intentional in what we are producing. Demonstrate we have an informed plan to reach the end-game. What values, attitudes and skills are we seeking to create? WHY does that matter? (Rinse and repeat the "why" and #1 above).
Demonstrate that our teachers and staff are at the leading edge of education and applied learning research and can articulate WHY they do what they do at OUR school. Show we have a curricular and social-emotional scope and sequence, and the institutional professional development support to deliver great teaching and learning.
3. Sensitivity to the "pain points" of our constituents. We claim to be student-centric. So do most schools. Truth is, we enroll the entire family. Ensure we can provide the connections, support, and the parent education they need to maximize what we do for their child.
Make sure they'll get more support from us than from anywhere else.
4. Demonstrate how the budget and the stewardship of their tuition and philanthropy advances the WHY of what we do. The budget is the quantification of our mission. It tells the story of our school by showing what we value and prioritize. Our constituents want to know that we are demonstrating prudent financial practice, but, even more important, reflecting the expectation of a return on the promise that made them sign up with us in the first place.
Demonstrate that WE care about what THEY care about. There is a fine line between being mission-driven and market-sensitive, but it's a fine line worth walking.
And if we happen to think that our audience doesn't care about the right things, then the burden is on us to educate them about WHY our way is better.
If we can't convince families that they're going to get all the above at our school, then of course they will opt for the less expensive option! Wouldn't you?
Take a stand on the "why." Be bold! That's what attracts and retains the families we serve, and those we seek to serve.