Communications: Why school principals need to be Chief Ambassadors

Last Friday, our MD Barbara Pesel shared her insights on The Chief Ambassador: A New Way of Thinking about Communications, at the Australian Council for Educational Leaders conference in Sydney.

Here are her key takeaways…

Principals are lead marketers for schools

It’s time for school leaders to shift their thinking about communications to secure the future of their schools – namely, enrolments. Like any business or organisation, schools needs to market when faced with a competitive environment and the lead marketer or ‘Chief Ambassador’  role falls squarely on the principal.

Every principal has a responsibility to build the school’s brand and proactively communicate the culture and vision of the school, both internally and externally.  Developing a strong brand is a proactive way to safeguard reputation and enrolments.

To be successful you need clearly articulate what sets you and your school apart, and develop a marketing and communications plan that  embraces the contemporary media and social media landscape.

Start with the end in mind

When we work with schools, the first thing we do is help them to articulate what we call their DNA.

A school’s DNA answers the important questions:

  • Why do you exist?
  • Where do you want to be as an organisation?
  • What do you stand for?
  • What makes you unique?

Once there is clarity the DNA is then reflected in the language, tone, visuals, messages and actions of principals, staff and school community – everyone needs to embrace it!

Messaging helps play an important role in developing and promoting brand

Think about how many people actually already know you and talk about you. Do they all say the same thing? Do they all know what you do? What you stand for?  Importantly, what do you want them to know about you? Getting consistent messaging across to all of your stakeholders is not a small feat – let alone getting them to buy into your story.  If you’re to have any hope, you need clarity, simple language and consistent messages across your communication channels.

As does planning

It all doesn’t magically happen – that would be nice! The amount of marketing and “Ambassadoring” you will be able to do will be determined by the resources available. However, it’s important to set out your activity in a plan with a timeline and map out some content for example, events, key dates, and the like.  The trick is to stick to it and make sure the content supports your DNA. If your internal team don’t have the time or skills required, external consultants such as Pesel & Carr can help.

So what are some simple activities you can undertake?

  • Local media stories – a gold mine for lifting the profile of your school – you have a treasure trove of stories at your fingertips – make it part of your staff catch ups to find out what’s on the horizon
  • Writing a piece or blog piece for an educational magazine or website
  • Developing an opinion “comment” piece or Letter to the Editor on a cause that matters to you and your school
  • LinkedIn profiles making sure that all your staff members have a consistent message – supply a template
  • Facebook posts that have a call to action
  • Newsletters – make sure they are mobile friendly!

As Chief Ambassadors, it is important that principals drive and take an interest in how the school is portrayed.

Every principal has a responsibility to be the Chief Ambassador, internally and externally.

For further information, contact Pesel & Carr on (03) 9036 6900 or email