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When early childhood leaders commit to school improvements, and the intentional hard work it takes for them and their staff to adopt innovative practices, they sometimes lose site that those changes won’t mean a thing if they aren’t simultaneously recruiting new families for their school. To help you find your marketing voice and identify ways to translate all the goodness that’s happening IN your school with prospective parents, we turn to Chanie Wilschanski, founder of DiscoverEd Consulting. Also, to see other previous posts related to “marketing your school” click here.
Do you ever wonder why some schools fill their slots months and sometimes even years in advance?! Why can some directors engage with parents and have them sign up on the spot, while some struggle to get even 3-4 parents to register?
While some of these results can be due to living in an overpopulated area of young families, there are also some key steps that you can take to fill your slots, max out your registration and build meaningful relationships with your parent body.
I believe that being different is about being memorable.
Do parents remember your school after the tour? Or was your school just another one of the very many schools they visited?
Do you want the parents to be talking about the tour well after it’s over?
- Like at the dinner table
- Or even the following week at a dinner party with family or with friends?
Or does the tour they went on become a faded memory, like what they wore to their friend’s wedding 6 months ago? (who remembers that?)
How can this even happen?
Do things that no other director would even think of doing and you will be memorable!
Here is the fact! People are busy!
The very act of needing to choose a school for their child can be a very daunting task.
They have so many options and they simple don’t know what will be the best place for their child.
As a leader – your job is to show the parents WHY your school is the best option for their child. You need to show them what your school offers that nobody else does. Why your school will be the best place for their child to thrive.
But here’s the secret – you need a team to do this.
Your staff need to help you create this in your school.
In this series, I will show you
- How your teachers can create their USP – unique selling proposition for their class.
- How to be a super connector and stand out.
PART 1: HOW TO CREATE YOUR USP
What is a USP?
Every business and company has a USP. It’s what sets this company apart from everyone else.
FedEx- Same day delivery
Costco – Bulk and save
Apple – Innovation
Zappos- Free shipping both ways
You get the idea. Each of these companies has something about them that is unique and special.
That’s why you know them and REMEMBER!
I’m going to venture a guess, that every single person reading this guide knows each of these companies! So crafting your USP is about thinking why I’m different? Remember, that high school phase- when all we wanted was to fit in and be like everyone else? We all needed the same hairstyle and shoes and clothes and oh my, if we didn’t have the same bag as everyone else!
Well now, you want to be different and stand out.
Your teachers need to know how to market their class in 2 minutes or less and position it to the parents in a way that has their jaw dropping!
You want parents to walk out of each class saying “Oh my gosh!” “Wow!”
I NEED my child in this school. This is an amazing place.
Here’s another piece.
If you are reading this guide, you are a committed director and leader for your school. You take the time to invest in yourself and you want to learn more. You probably have great teachers you do incredible things in your school. And here is where you wish things were different.
Many directors have shared with me.
“I feel like we are slice of heaven that nobody knows about.”
“Our program is amazing, why don’t we have full slots”
“My staff are so creative, and they do amazing things, but we are still not full”
Teachers are educators. They know how to connect with the children. They know how to create engaging provocations that invite the children to learn and explore.
They aren’t marketers or salespeople. And they don’t need to be.
What you want them to be able to do is position what they do in the classroom in a way that highlights to the parents the tremendous values of the school. So parents know this is the place to be!
Every educator should start by thinking through these three steps below.
What age do they teach?
What are some of the skills that the children are learning right now that are developmentally appropriate?
What is happening in the class? What unit, projects, or investigations are the children currently immersed in?
Let me share a sample so you can get the idea
|“At this time of year, our children are 21/2 years old. We are focusing a lot of social skill building and independence. Some of the way that we facilitate this learning is through our center play.
In the block center you can see that the children are still in the parallel play stage – which means they play alongside each other. Our goals is to offer experiences that allow the children to play interactively and build their social skills.
If you take a look in our art center, we have individualized trays. This helps the children understand personal space and also assists with cleaning up independently.
These are some of the experiences that we offer to the children so they can process concepts, information and make meaningful connections.”
Now let me break this down for you.
“At this time of year, our children are 21/2 years old. We are focusing a lot of social skill building and independence.”
This class is a 2 year old class and chose to share with the parents 2 skills they are working on now. Your staff can choose any skills. But it should be 2. This keeps it short and specific and easier to remember.
“Some of the way that we facilitate this learning is through our center play.”
You want to highlight to the parents that play is a valuable part of the learning process in your school.
In this next part – I chose 2 centers.
You can pick any 2 centers that you want to speak about. But again, pick 2. This will help you stay focused when a parent comes in and you want to share with them in under 2 minutes what’s happening in the class.
“In the block center you can see that the children are still in the parallel play stage – which means they play alongside each other. Our goal is to offer experiences that allow the children to play interactively and build their social skills.”
Notice how I subtly added what parallel play is- this SHOWS the parent that you are educated. Telling them you have a Master’s degree doesn’t really mean anything to the parent.
“If you take a look in our art center, we have individualized trays. This helps the children understand personal space and also assists with cleaning up independently.”
To sum up: here are the guidelines for you and your staff.
- Remember the age you teach and what skills you are working on at the time of the tour.
- Pick 2 centers that you will highlight to the parents during the tour.
- Close off with a short sentence about how these experiences are beneficial for the child.
In the next post, I will share some simple strategies for a school tour and how to follow up as a super connector!
Chanie Wilschanski M.S.Ed is an early childhood strategist and leadership coach – founder of DiscoverED Consulting a RESULTS driven company designed for early childhood progressive directors who want top talent teachers, maxed out registration, parents who value their work and more strategies and time with less overwhelm!
With a decade of experience and extensive training in the Reggio Approach she has had the privilege of training thousands of educators spanning 6 continents and 16 countries.
She is also the author of the DiscoverED curriculum series – The Ultimate Idea Generator which guides early childhood centers to bringing in more progressive materials and provocations into all the centers for many different units of study and the Jewish Holidays.
In addition, Chanie currently directs the early childhood program at the Beis Rivkah Seminary in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY where she lives with her husband and 3 children.
Note: To view other posts related to “marketing your school”, click here.
Susan Remick Topek
“We cannot pretend to work for the best interests of children
while ignoring the needs of their parents.” Joyce L. Frett
This In-Site-Ful Journey took us to Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation on Long Island. Jen Fusco, the director, has developed and redeveloped the enhancements and services of her program based on the needs of the families in her community. Being so intuitive and responsive demonstrates the ability she has as a leader to be adaptive and understand the importance of change! Jen had a vision of answering the needs of families and has thus made her boutique style school unique in this way; and delivering more personalized services. I’m delighted educators had the chance to see the spaces she’s helped to create and hear from Jen directly how and why she did the things she did.
On our visit we were exposed to the varied programs that Jen and her staff have integrated into the framework of the school. The first stems from her understanding of the centrality of play in learning. She redesigned underutilized rooms and made them into specialty rooms for block building and dramatic play. By renovating another room and renewing her license the school is now certified for new infant/child full day care, and provides parents with flex time use. Flex time use allows families to use the day care when they need it, changing drop off and pick up times when necessary. Due to a generous donation, a sensory room for children with sensory behavior challenges was created. Now specialists can meet with students in the school with appropriate equipment to help each individual child. Appointments are scheduled in this space for children by their therapists and are available to the community at large. All of these accommodations demonstrate a sense of caring and generosity ny the school.
But for me Jen’s grasp and approach towards marketing her school to the community is the BIG WIN for those who attended. Jen has been more than thoughtful about doing this. She understands the culture of the families that she is trying to reach and strives to continue learning about that culture. She knows that parents have certain expectations and when they ask for particular programs from the school, Jen’s attitude is, “Why not?”
Jen showed us different information pieces that she created, both in hard copy and on-line. She uses the latest in technology and social media sites for reaching out to and connecting to families. She understands the demographics of her community so that when she advertises she can focus TO THE STREET of where she needs to make contact. One participant remarked that Jen made it so easy – and that she used “user-friendly” marketing tools. The participant added that she had been making so much work for herself previously and had really learned so much from Jen’s strategies.
One especially important strategy that Jen employs is in creating relationships with others in the community with who she can partner to expand and develop more ideas. For example, she writes articles about early childhood in a local newspaper in exchange for advertising her school. When a dentist visited the school, she asked if she could put brochures in his office as he gave brochures about his dental practice to school families. In doing this and in other ways, Jen has become a more networked and more collaborative community partner.
I think Jen has the pulse of families today. She understands how to communicate with them, she understands and accepts the culture of millennials and has created programs at Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation that understands, accepts and supports their needs.