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Alison Burns, Marketing & Events Manager from Litherland High School explains how to use your school celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries as part of your marketing tool. Birthdays and anniversaries are a powerful marketing tool nowadays with big brands such as Tesco, British Airways and the NHS all celebrating their landmark milestones. Such a celebration not only presents us with an opportunity to reflect, it also gives us the chance to do some brand empowerment. The longevity of a brand gives a sense of reassurance, familiarity, and longstanding tradition, ideal for schools to capitalise on.
Why celebrate a birthday milestone?
Here at Litherland High School, we are celebrating our 70th Birthday. Things have changed considerably over the years including our move to a brand new building. We are very much a school at the heart of our community and you will find that many of our students are the third or fourth generation to attend Litherland High. So why not make a big deal and celebrate such a fantastic statement?!
What is the prime objective?
For the majority of school marketers, boosting admissions is the main focus of marketing campaigns. Raising the profile of the school and its qualities are sure to have a positive effect on your potential families. But a milestone birthday can also be used to connect with alumni and gather important information about what students have gone on to achieve. This can then be used in marketing materials or as part of your careers programme.
Give the celebration an identity
It really is important to give your celebration its own identity, ideally with dedicated branding and a logo. If you have to keep your current logo, why not tweak it? Try adding the number of years of your celebration or change the colours to have a big impact, a splash of gold for 50 years or platinum for 70 perhaps?
You could also have a specific photograph to use for your campaign. Used across our website, social media channels and printed literature, we enhanced our campaign with the results of a special photoshoot that involved 6 generations of our students. Not only did we get the photos we needed, it also created the opportunity for our current students to engage with ex-students.
Use social media to promote the celebration
Social media really is your secret weapon to great marketing, it can give you the ability to reach a wide audience on a daily basis. Posting 2 or 3 times a day will get the best response. Timing when you post, depending on your target audience, is vital. If I am posting about the 70th Birthday celebrations, I leave it until late afternoon - people generally check social media when they get home. Post too early in the day and you risk your post being missed!
We officially launched our birthday celebrations at the beginning of the year. Using a social media campaign, we began by posting old photos of the school accompanied by the elusive ‘Big news coming soon’ tag line. Everybody loves old photos and posting them always generates lots of activity on social media, especially Facebook. We have over 1500 followers, many of them are ex-students or family members. Within a day of posting, we were contacted by countless followers sharing memories and photographs.
Download this social media toolkit to get essential worksheets that will help save time.
Create dedicated Hashtags
Another key part of our campaign was to launch a hashtag to involve our alumni. Following in the footsteps of historic private schools, we decided to create the title ‘Old Livothians’ for our ex-students. Using custom made graphics to define the term, along with the #OldLivothian hashtag, we reached a massive amount of former students and many got in touch.
Why is it important to engage with ex-students?
Connecting with students who have gone on to be successful is an extremely powerful tool. What better advert can a school possibly have? This not only helps with your marketing but can also make a difference in raising student aspirations. For schools in challenging areas, being successful and having the ideal career may seem like a pipedream, but publicising what people have gone on to achieve can really inspire young people. Why not ask ex-students to complete a short questionnaire? Asking about their favourite subject(s), what they went on to do once they left and what their advice would be to current students can be added to a photo of them to create profiles. (Don’t forget to get their permission to use the info!)
Profiles and any alumni quotes you get can be saved in a spreadsheet and used throughout the year when you’re having a quiet news week.
Staying in touch with alumni can also have a positive impact on school fundraising activities. Ex-students are more likely to support ‘their’ school through online campaigns such as lotteries and crowdfunding.
Make sure your website reflects the celebrations
It is always a good idea to use some of your social media posts to direct traffic back to your website. We created a dedicated 70th Birthday page which links to the school history and alumni pages. It includes additional information, photos, and profiles. It also includes a custom ‘Memories of LHS’ form - a great alternative to social media to boost alumni engagement, as well as to boost your library of quotes and profiles.
Organise special events to generate publicity
Hosting an event can generate fantastic publicity. There are a wide variety of events which can be staged to celebrate a birthday, from “small” Afternoon Teas and special assemblies to “large” reunions and open days. After undertaking some research about what people would like to see happen for our birthday, an open event turned out to be the favourite for us - beating the traditional school reunion. We will be incorporating this into our annual Open Evening for prospective students which takes place in September. This will give ex-students the chance to have a look around our new building and see how the school has changed over the years. This will include an exhibition dedicated to the history of the school. There will be plenty of opportunities for photographs and a chance to sign a special birthday guestbook.
Use the celebration branding on everything!
You should use your special event branding at every possible opportunity, such as programmes, school stationery and admission packs. Make sure everyone knows about it, get people talking about all of the positive things going on in your school!
If you do choose to mark a special birthday or anniversary, the most important thing you need to do is have fun! At the end of the day, it’s a celebration! Good luck!
Alison is the Marketing & Events' Manager at Litherland High School and has over 20 years experience working within the education sector. She has a strong background in graphic design and digital marketing and a love for creating new and exciting ways to market and promote schools. She is also the author of ‘Improving School Attendance’, part of the ‘Making the Most of Sims.Net’ series.
Alison loves a challenge and has had the chance to work with many schools locally and within The Heath Family (NW) Multi-Academy Trust to help strengthen and build upon their marketing plans and strategies
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