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Your school's open day: the 7 A's of attraction

25 January 2017

Making the best first impression is crucial to the success of any open day. Once you have managed to get prospective parents and pupils to look around your school, the best way to differentiate your school from competitors is to be unique and memorable. Make your mark. When it comes to convincing your prospective stakeholders why they should choose your school, you need to think carefully about what's going to be your 'hook, line, and sinker'.

1. Anticipation

Not only do you have to build up the excitement of your guests via email, welcome packs, and information of what they can expect from the day, you will also have to anticipate the key considerations of your visitors. In order to accurately plan an open day that's going to answer questions before they are even asked, you have to anticipate the wants and needs of your visitors. By separating your stakeholders into segments, you will be able to accurately identify what they'd ask themselves when deciding on a school. 

  • Is your school signage visible from the road?
  • Will there be free parking available or will you provide suggestions of where to park?
  • Do you have sufficient directional signs so your visitors know where to go when they arrive?
  • Have you provided them with a campus map before they arrive?
  • Will there be people at hand to offer help and direction around the school?
  • Where should your visitors go for answers?

2. Attunement / Attention

Think of what your visitors might want to see and focus your tour on the areas that will make the most difference. You don't have to show your entire school to every visitor, so use your staff and students to focus on specific subjects or areas to talk about. Parents who are interested in your sporting facilities can be taken there first, to heighten their attention.

  • Ask what each individual visitor is interested in seeing the most; science, sports, tech, etc.
  • Find out what extra-curricular activities the children are into; sport, language, etc. and provide them with a few examples from the plethora of after school clubs and societies available.
  • Understand the individual's interests and come up with a tour tailored specifically for them.
  • Let them 'experience' your school by letting them meet real students and parents or by creating a 'WOW' factor for the visit. 

3. Attractive

This is one of the most impactful points in this list; ensuring your entire campus is clean, tidy, bright, and in good condition. All of this contributes to your wider marketing message. If you show a lack of care in the aesthetics of your school - the same could also be expected with your teaching, curriculum, and facilities.

  • Make sure your first impressions count; school entrance gates are freshly painted, lawns have been cut, textbooks are straight on the shelves, and everywhere is clean.
  • Focus on a central hub for parents to reconvene after tours or meetings - make it look professional by using printed banners, posters and branded stands. All of this contributes to the overall look and feel of your brand and school.

4. Authentic

Encourage your staff and students speak privately to prospective parents or ask them to share their experiences of the school. By showing prospective parents and pupils - first hand - what opportunities the school can provide them with, they are more likely to believe they will thrive and succeed there.

  • Use the success stories of your individual students in your advertising campaigns. This will help you to back up what makes your school different, with genuine evidence.
  • Use your stakeholder network to announce the event. Put posters in local businesses and community meeting places.
  • Give your visitors short bursts of actual lessons and activities; give them something to take home or share on their social channels.

5. Aptitude

Brief everyone who is going to be involved in making the open day a success to ensure they know the key strengths of your school, what to focus on and who visitors can talk to if they have a specific problem or difficult question to answer.

  • Provide everyone with brief training so they know what to say when greeting your visitors or answering questions.
  • Write scripts and practice role-play with your students, staff, faculty, and volunteers to ensure they are prepared to react effectively and professionally in any situation.
  • Offer incentives to any student volunteers; e.g. a free school lunch, house points, etc.
  • Understand that parents may have particular issues they need reassurance on in order to feel confident your school is right for their child.

6. Acknowledgement

Treat your visitors like honoured guests; use gift packages, goodie bags, perks, one-on-one meetings with head staff to show them how much your school truly cares about their welfare.

  • Put together welcome packs and gift packages for your visitors to take away with them. Even if it's just a pen and a notepad for them to make notes on. This kind of branded material will continue to be used long after they have left your grounds; ensuring you stay in the forefront of their minds.
  • Gather the email addresses of all parents that visit your open day in order to send them a thank you email and recognise the role they are going to play in their child's decision. (Make sure you gain consent for this in line with GDPR)

7. Action

If opted in, send follow-up emails with further information about the school, links to your website, a digital prospectus, and any other useful information. Let them know the decision deadline date (without being pushy) and an easy step-by-step guide on how to apply.

  • Send out feedback surveys to find out what people thought of your open day, how you could improve, and what questions were left unanswered.
  • Sep up a selection of automated emails to go out following the open day and use personal calls to follow up any questions or concerns raised in surveys.
  • Stay in the forefront of their minds by taking action after your open day to keep an open flow of communication between the school and potential parents & students, whilst avoiding sending too many 'spam' emails.
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