There’s nothing better than a good story — especially a good story that has yet to be told.
That’s why I was clapping-my-hands-excited when I first connected with The Quaker School at Horsham (Pennsylvania) and its new Head of School Alex Brosowsky.
The Quaker School at Horsham is a school for children with complex learning challenges — a place for kids who have not previously experienced school success to become confident learners, and to blossom socially, academically and behaviorally as they discover the simple joys of childhood.
Can you say storytelling potential or what?
This was the school’s story … but it was not the story the school was telling. So Alex and his amazing team decided to rediscover their story and use their new website, quakerschool.org, as their school storytelling hub.
The result: a 50% increase in inquiries mere months after their new website launched, and a four-year high in requests for tours.
(Full disclosure: I had the pleasure of working with The Quaker School to not only develop their story, but also tell it through their website content.)
Here’s what Alex has to say about becoming a storytelling school, and what role content and story have in their current and future marketing plans:
#1: You’re the Head of School – but you have also taken on the role of “Head of Storytelling”. Why is it so important for you to help tell The Quaker School story?
As a first-time Head, I never could have realized how much storytelling was my job. From enrollment, to donor relations, to retention, to board management, from talking with students to communicating with our families, so much of what I do is plain old-fashioned storytelling.
A compelling narrative that weaves together all of the disparate parts of The Quaker School (TQS) story is essential. This school has so many compelling stories and they deserve to be told.
I am also learning that the audience is there — what matters is how the story is delivered. The story has to grab the reader by the heart and hold them there. In this world of digital overload, we all tune out so quickly, making it all the more important to hook our readers quickly, and keep them reading and listening with their hearts.
#2: How has The Quaker School story evolved – and how are you now telling it differently?
The Quaker School was founded in the basement of a Meetinghouse with three students who had no other place to go and learn. This fundamental story that TQS is a place for students whose gifts are not appreciated elsewhere has not changed in 32 years.
With a new mission, vision and philosophy, website and administration, it is critical to let people know that the actors may have changed but the first principles are resolute. This can be tricky to communicate, and the key is connecting our students’ stories now with the successes of the past.
#3: What role does your new website play in sharing the school story?
Admissions is moving families — really mothers — from casual interest, to serious interest, to a tour, and then to a contract. What casual interest will get a school is a click on their website; at that point a school has less than 8 seconds to keep people reading.
Storytelling, and great content, turned our website from a collection of facts about our school to one compelling narrative that runs from page to page. The site now draws readers in from the landing pages and encourages them through calls to action to explore more deeply and inquire about the school.
The Quaker School at Horsham’s inquiries are up 50% since the new site launched and requests for tours are at a four-year high. American modernist Paul Rand once said that “design is everything.” I disagree and believe that storytelling is everything. Design merely illustrates the story.
#4: What feedback have you received from your current – and prospective – families?
Feedback has been terrific: current parents love reading about their children, perspective families fill out the online inquiry, online donations are up. The website is fun to read and compelling.
This process of recreating a school’s website is a huge job, and I think one of the most important a school can do. It forced me to look at every aspect of the school, and clearly showed me which programs were aligned with the school’s mission and story and which needed to change.
Putting that story into beautiful compelling language was where we needed support. Writing for a website and writing letters or articles are very different. All of a school’s messages need to be aligned, but web writing is a specialized skill and, when done correctly, the response is overwhelming.
#5: What new marketing or storytelling tactics are you exploring to help expand your story?
Something I started thinking about recently is podcasts. These are noticeably absent in independent and special education, and I love hearing myself talk, so there may be something there for me and TQS.
Check out quakerschool.org to learn more about TQS and its “Head of Storytelling”, Alex Brosowsky. And sign up to get more insights from school marketers and leaders who are creating and sharing stories their audiences love.
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