What if You Had a Party…and No One Came?

partyA few years ago, I was invited to speak to middle school students about careers in marketing and public relations.  I was trying to figure out a way to explain marketing in terms that they would understand, and bingo…a party came to mind.  I took the students through the process of how they would tell other people about the party, and essentially taught them the marketing mix (product, price, place and promotion), as well as some basics of public relations (“What if the neighbors had a problem with the party?”  “What if someone got hurt at the party?”  “What if you needed more people to support having the party?”).

I was reminded of this analogy when I had the recent opportunity to conduct a Communication Audit for a school client as part of their Three Year Marketing & Communication Plan.  This client is challenged with negative public perception problems, along with impending direct competition from a charter school that will be opening its doors this fall right in their neighborhood.  Added to this challenge was the fact that the school has a very attractive program of choice commencing in the fall, and little had been done to promote it.  However, after talking with their administrators and stakeholders, a few things became very, very clear to me:

1)      The positive things happening at their school GREATLY outweigh their challenges.

2)      The school has a much higher number of collaborators and supporters than they do competitors.

3)      The school had greatly neglected is communication and marketing to its external stakeholders—as well as their internal ones (central office, school board, feeder school parents, teachers and administrators).

4)      The school was doing nothing to celebrate their students’ or schools’ achievements in visible ways on campus.

In other words—this school has an AMAZING party going on, and only a few people know about it!  And, guess what?  No one’s complaining about their loud music, either.

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of relationships—relationships with both internal and external audience members.  There’s little that this school can do between now and the fall to pull back parents who have already decided to send their children to the new charter school (or other charter or private schools).  Undoing relationship neglect does take time and effort.  However, this school can begin changing its marketing and communication approaches in simple, inexpensive and quick ways to both begin nurturing their relationships and to reduce the flight of their students to other schools.  All it takes is the willingness, some time and effort.

I realize that schedules get busy—no, make that overwhelming—and marketing, PR and communications gets put on the back burner for “the time we really need it.”  But, what if the time you “really need it” is close to “too late”?  Relationship maintenance is a strategic, proactive and ongoing process.

I have created some other blog entries on relationship management, as well as some tips on marketing schools—if you’re in a different industry, these tips can also be used for your relationship management and marketing.

No one will come to your party…unless they’re invited!  And, unless people know about your party—they won’t tell other people about it.

If you need resources or assistance with starting or maintaining any step in the communication process, Sounding Board can provide you the resources you need.  Contact us if you need assistance!

About Heather McGowan

Heather McGowan increases public confidence in public education and improves opportunities for non-profit organizations to succeed through proactive communication and marketing. She provides strategic marketing and communication services that exceed her clients’ unique goals and delivers results that motivate audiences to act, change, and/or otherwise change behaviors for a greater good.

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