Monthly Archives: January 2017

5 Fun Ways to Use Snapchat and Instagram

It’s no secret that Generation Z (ages 13-19) use social media constantly. But where do they spend the majority of their time? Two newer channels are Instagram and Snapchat, and that’s where you’ll find the kids.

Neither has been around as long as Facebook and Twitter, but both are rapidly evolving and are drawing huge numbers of users. Snapchat and Instagram offer users the ability to use video to create stories, furthering user engagement, and beginning to change the course of social media generally.

Instagram: The photo-centric platform allows users to share photos with friends. It’s the number one social media channel for more than 32 percent of teenagers, according to Hubspot. Sharing photos and adding filters provides instant gratification for the Gen Z user whenever his or her followers like or comment.

Snapchat: The disappearing photo platform is growing in popularity, with 28 percent of its users falling into the 13-19 age range. With Gen Z’s average attention span being 8 seconds, Snapchat reinforces that nicely, as the platform carries a 10-second maximum video length. Once the followers view the “snap,” it disappears. Snapchat is changing how users interact on social media, with geolocation, filters and stickers that enable more creativity and reinforce a sense of urgency that’s missing from LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. According to research from Snapchat, the average user spends 25-30 minutes per day on the platform.

A rule of thumb is that you’ve always got to be where your customers are, so independent schools need to pay attention to both of these social channels. You need to talk to your current and prospective students–to meet them on the platforms they’re using. If your 2017 marketing strategy doesn’t include either Snapchat or Instagram, it’s time to reevaluate your plans and create strategies for both. Given the highly visual nature of Instagram and Snapchat, it’s a perfect opportunity to share school life and connect with students.

Here are five ways to use these tools effectively:

  1. Student life: Showcase student life on both channels using great imagery and appropriate hashtags. Provide value for the students that follow you on these channels by doing fun giveaways, scavenger hunts and sneak peaks to help engage them.
  2. Architecture: Whether your campus is modern or vintage, your spaces inside and out can make for compelling visuals. Do a “story” about the buildings and common spaces to help people know your campus better.
  3. Faculty: The people who teach these children all have interesting stories to tell. Go and find them and share them.
  4. The arts: All art can lend itself to interesting stories. What are yours?
  5. Tours: Think of a viewbook, but live. Use the social posts to show people around and tell them about the school.

The key for both Snapchat and Instagram is to plan your visuals. Before you start, develop a strategy of how the imagery will be used, where and when, and then make a “shot list” to be sure you get what you need. That way, when it’s time to post, you’ll have a clear idea of what goes where and when.

This “content calendar” need not be limited to Snaps and Instagram posts – you can use the same process to feed your website, other social tools, and even the agendas for campus meetings and events. An integrated content calendar should be a feature of your school’s communication strategy.

There have never been more opportunities and tools to help you share what’s great about your school. Make it happen!

Independent Schools Need A Strategy for Marketing

I know. Obvious statement, right? But not exactly obvious, if the initial findings of a survey of independent schools on marketing are correct.

Schools seem to be embracing a wide range of communication activities, including digital and social, but the investment in these media looks to be catch-all. There’s no clear trend in investment — as a percentage of overall marketing/communication spend, as many are spending less than 20 percent on digital as are spending more than 50 percent. Digital is starting to, well, dominate isn’t really the right word… But print is not the overwhelming choice any more.

Overall marketing spend? Nearly 60 percent are spending less than $80,000 annually — and compared with earlier research, that’s a fairly large increase. But when the average annual tuition at a boarding school is more than $50,000, and about half that for day, $80,000 is a tiny fraction of revenue, and most schools aren’t spending even that.

Think of it – if your school has 400 students paying say, $30,000 per year (a little over half-pay in boarding school), that’s $12 million in annual revenue. By most measures in other industries, a “maintenance” budget would be more like $1 million a year just to maintain the current enrollment (about 8 percent of revenue). If you’re in growth mode, that number should be closer to 10 percent or 11 percent.

Using the figures above, you’d need just 33 students to break even on that investment. Even if you merely doubled your budget from $80,000, you’d only need, what, six students to earn a small profit on the spend. This is what we mean when we talk about strategic marketing.

It’s all more complicated than that, of course, with net tuition targets changing throughout the budget cycle, and the desire to fill seats/beds in the school affecting financial aid spend, international recruiting, and much else.

Let’s just say, however, that the reason schools don’t spend anywhere near what other organizations do on marketing is that they aren’t articulating what should be done with it. They typically throw dollars at the wall and see what happens. No one will give you $1 million to just try stuff out.

What’s essential is a strategy — what initiatives are going to move the admission needle, by how much and over what time period, at what cost. A comprehensive, integrated plan moves the school forward and answers the questions the business office and board ask. Executing on that plan brings results.

Where’s your plan?


3 Alternatives To Working From Home

The last time I wrote a blog post about working from home I discussed my tips for staying productive in your home setting. More than a year and a half later, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss all of the available options when working remotely. When cabin fever sets in while working from home for an extended period of time, it’s challenging to be productive even when a lot of work is coming down the pipeline. Luckily, there are many alternatives to your home office or couch that you can take advantage of.

  1. Starbucks Coffee: I’m assuming everyone who’s anyone already knows Starbucks provides free Wi-Fi to paying patrons. Leave the house for a few days during the week and post-up at a local Starbucks. From personal experience, getting to know my local baristas has been very beneficial; they even know my order when I walk through the door. A drawback to this option is table availability. Most locations are steaming with patrons consistently throughout the day, so you may have to sacrifice a spot next to an outlet for a few hours.
  2. Food establishments: When Starbucks is packed, I’ll sometimes head over to a local Panera and hop on its Wi-Fi. Since Wi-Fi rules the working world, many local eateries around town offer free Internet connection as well. McDonalds, Dunkin Donuts, Applebee’s, Bob Evan’s and even Buffalo Wild Wings all offer Wi-Fi. Essentially, you could go to a different restaurant every day of the week to work and eat depending on your preference. Need to pick up some groceries while you’re out? Whole Foods also offers free Wi-Fi to make your day even more convenient. A good rule of thumb, if the establishment sells coffee, they more than likely have Wi-Fi.
  3. Co-Working Spaces: There are many spaces around Columbus that offer a co-working environment for people who work remotely. These spaces have the look and feel of an advertising agency and are made up of remote workers, free-lancers and entrepreneurs. You can choose different monthly plans depending on how many days a week you want to occupy a space. These spaces provide your own desk, conference rooms, ideation spaces and plenty of opportunities to network.

Working remotely does not have to mean working from home. There are plenty of options to get over your cabin fever and get you out into the work force. Find what suits your productivity needs most and switch it up from time-to-time to stay in a good mind-set.


5 Reasons HR & PR Don’t Get Along

Ask any corporate communicator who they want to report to and they’ll say, “the CEO!”  Now ask who they’d NEVER want to report to. They’ll say, “HR.”  why is that?

Our corporate cousins in Human Resources have many of the same issues that we do. They want to be seen as strategic resources, not mere tactical cogs in the wheel. They struggle to be taken seriously outside of their functional silos.  They fight for budget and resources with some difficulty, because they “don’t drive sales,” or “don’t understand the business.”  By these lights, we should be strong partners — the shared pain of the back-office services would seem to be a logical impetus for a good relationship.

My own experience demonstrates that possibility. Goodyear’s (now retired) Kathy Geier was a trusted member of then-CEO Bob Keegan’s cabinet.  She reached out to me often on all kinds of matters, and recruited me onto a task force on business process optimization. Many of her team sought me out (and I, them), and we forged a strong, positive relationship. KeyCorp’s Diane Coble and Jeff Darner (since moved on) and I enjoyed similar mutual respect and partnering. Even my brief tenure at National City Corporation included positive experiences working with HR.

But in other organizations, jealousy, turf wars, even outright stiff-necked opposition are the order of the day. Why?

Here are 5 reasons why HR and PR don’t get along.

1. HR thinks they’re smarter than PR. There’s a stronger academic body of knowledge in HR, a business school connection missing from most all PR programs, which reside in Journalism.  They think their college experience was more demanding and quantitative than ours.

2. HR is hungry for budget and control.  They want more than just the functional duties of compensation, personnel, etc.This is key to their strategic aspirations; the “support services” model often puts an HR person in charge of all the support functions, elevating them to higher pay and bonus as a result of larger budgets and spans of control.

3. HR often believes that only information critical to the employee should be communicated to them — and that means comp/benefits, business conduct and training opportunities should be top of the fold in the employee newsletter and front-and-center on the intranet. They believe that they know more about communication than we do (and sometimes they’re right, but that’s another post).

4.  HR provides training in many fields, so it believes it knows better how to train managers to be communicators than we do.

5. HR likes checklists. Communicating something is an output to be checked off, not a process with a closed loop. They prefer push to pull, wanting to declare that a communication has been sent and therefore is complete. This is especially fraught when discussing how to measure the effectiveness of communication activity.

Just a reminder — these aren’t hard and fast rules, they’re examples. Your results may vary.  In fact, share your thinking here!  Do these resonate with you?