Now, more than ever, parents have choices for their children’s education. During the pandemic, some families switched schools or even educational models in pursuit of what would work best for their children and for their personal situations. Many families may not return to the traditional classroom, with plans to stick with virtual or homeschooling. Others might recognize that their children need something different; something more hands-on.
And that’s where career and technical education come in.
With news surrounding the labor shortages in manufacturing and the statistics highlighting the talent gap in skilled trades, to a potential amendment of the National Apprenticeship Act and soaring higher ed costs, there is no environment as primed and ready for marketing than career and technical education.
But, where does a CTE program or school start with marketing? How can schools get industry and government partners on board with sharing their stories? And, most importantly, how can CTE centers reach the ideal students (and parents) for their programs?
Marketing Does Not Have to be Daunting
The increased competition with the pandemic has given all schools the opportunity to revisit their core mission, vision and values. Embrace the chance at re-discovering what makes your programs or school so great and then work strategically to share your stories with others.
How to Re-Discover Your Brand
To figure out who you really are as a school community, you must start with research:
- Talk to your teachers, staff, students, families, community partners and alumni. What do they have to say about your school? Take note of both good and bad things because they make up your brand story. Click here for a sample questionnaire.
- List your brand differentiators. What does your school do well? What is it known for? How do people describe your school (circle back to the first bullet point)? How are you different from your competitors? What types of students succeed in your CTE programs and what have they gone on to accomplish in their careers? Answering these questions will help you develop a strong brand story.
- Conduct an audit of all your outward-facing materials and digital accounts. Do they all align and look like they represent one school? Are your key messages conveyed consistently? Do the images on social media and the website reflect your student body?
- Develop your brand vision. Determine what you want to be known for and why. How does this tie in with your research and differentiate you from your competitors?
Showcasing Your Brand
Now that your brand is defined, you can begin planning communications and marketing strategies. Some tried-and-true favorite tactics include:
- Student, teacher, parent and alumni testimonials. You would be surprised at how a one- to two-sentence quote from an actual person your school impacted can positively impact brand perception. Single-line quotes with a strong image in print and digital advertising campaigns are immensely powerful. See examples of testimonials here.
- Professional photography. Although the everyday snapshots posted on Instagram show authentic school life (which is important), professional photos can really showcase your programs and people in ways you never could have imagined. Professional photographers, especially those with a photojournalistic style, are trained to look for the special things that we might overlook. And, when those photos come back and you share them with your community, not only does the brand vision begin to make sense, but you’ll notice an air of excitement and pride around the school: “This is our school? Wow! I never looked at it that way before.” Click here to see examples of strong photography.
- Develop a brand ambassador program. Brand ambassadors are community members who are engaged and vocal about your programs and want to share their enthusiasm with others. They can be parents, teachers, staff, students, industry partners or alumni who will support your branding efforts in many ways from speaking to potential families to providing testimonials to hiring your students. Ensure these people are trained on your marketing key messages, get them some school-branded swag and check in with them frequently to better understand what they are hearing about your school from outsiders.
- Share your good news with the media and community. Did your CTE students place well in an industry competition? Share the news via your e-newsletter, website and social media accounts and send the information to your local media outlets. Also do this with student scholarships, new program partnerships and equipment donations. Think of stories that both current and potential families would be interested in hearing about and make sure you communicate frequently with them.
Listen to this episode of the NCLA Podcast to learn more about how CTE leaders can brand, promote and market their programs, people and outcomes in ways to build awareness, increase enrollment, attract new industry partnerships and even raise additional funds.
For more information on CTE marketing, visit our parent company, Holdsworth Communications.
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