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So, you think you communicate effectively?

| November 9, 2010
Part Three – By Angela Carr Lambson

School marketers should use three key criteria to assess their performance.

In the past, marketers shied away from benchmarking their own effectiveness. They compiled press clippings, recorded attendance figures, totted up the Advertising Value Equivalents (AVE) of media coverage received and conducted occasional surveys, but detailed analytics and trend-plotting that truly could drive their marketing efforts were not part of the picture.

However, at the second European Summit on Measurement held in Barcelona in June 2010, the International Association for the Measuring and Evaluating of Communication (AMEC) agreed on the need to find “workable and universal methods” to measure its activities. The Association is developing a ‘roadmap’ that includes the following criteria:


The activities and communications that support your marketing strategy should run like a golden thread throughout the school year. Every event represents a marketing opportunity, from red-letter events such as School Expos and Open Days, to cultural performances, sports festivals, socials and other less formal gatherings. Plot them on your calendar, categorise each according to the specific marketing objective it addresses and you’ll be able to assess whether you’ve adequately covered all strategic bases.

Remember though, measuring frequency is only valid and valuable if the activities and communications are consistent with your market positioning, and if the brand messages they convey are congruent with your business goals.


Ascertain whether your (frequent and consistent) initiatives have reached the right audiences and, as long as your school’s business objectives, marketing strategy and
marketing messages are aligned, logic should guide you to the relevant targets. (If, say, your school is strategically differentiated as an ‘outward bound’ college, then your external marketing will likely involve participating in and hosting adventure sports events and be directed towards niche ‘outdoor’ communities that can be reached via
related media and sports bodies.)

Also key to effective reach are the selection of relevant communication channels and the creative execution of your marketing messages to optimise retention and recall. (For a boarding school to post notices promoting a forthcoming Parent Association meeting on its notice boards is fruitless, but a cellphone text message reminder linked to a web flash gets 10 out of 10.)

To evaluate the effectiveness of your reach, first confirm that each initiative correlates to a specific aspect of your marketing strategy, then assess whether it was directed at the relevant audience/s and that the communication channels used were the most appropriate.


This is the heart of the matter. Once frequency and reach have been assessed (and affirmed to be adequate and appropriate), the litmus test is to measure the response you received. If your strategy is to position your school as a leading ‘technology’ institution, outline the activities in which you have engaged to entrench this description, and quantify the resulting media exposure. (Are you approached for ‘expert’ comment by key media? Has the heightened tech-profile impacted on enrolment applications?

Are you receiving more overseas enquiries or highercalibre candidates? How well supported was your Open Day? Who came? How did they hear about it? What feedback did they provide?) At expos, don’t just tally the number of visitors to your stand. Log how many asked for a prospectus or made an appointment to visit the campus. Ask for their perceptions and record them.

Answers to these questions all constitute valuable marketing intelligence and good news for our Governors if we can deliver supporting statistics. However, what’s important beyond the numbers are the trends: those that show each intervention’s success (as measured against the desired outcomes) plus more generic ones such as the communication channels favoured by specific stakeholder groups or the issues they repeatedly flag as concerns.

As marketers we need to know what is working, what’s not and where more (or less) emphasis ought to be placed – and the numbers, trends and outcomes all combine to tell us how effective we have been in promoting our schools as uniquely positioned brands, at creating and sustaining positive perceptions and ultimately, whether we are succeeding in putting the maximum number of bottoms on classroom seats.

For more on measurement, visit or Angela Carr Lambson is a consulting partner at Curveball Consulting and developer and presenter of the ABC – About Better Communication workshops for independent schools and tertiary institutions on ways to maximise marketing through more effective communication.

Tel: +27(11) 465-8195


Category: Summer 2010

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