4 Independent Schools with A+ Content Marketing

Today I get to do something really fun: I get to chat about storytelling with independent school communicators from across the country.

I mean, what could be better?

It’s exciting, because I know how important storytelling is for independent schools. These hardworking communicators are tasked with not only promoting their own institutions, but also promoting the overall value of an independent school education. It can be tough, and we will be talking about it all as part of Cheney & Company’s annual Aim High Conference.

But talking about concept only gets you so far. It’s also important to see those concepts in action.

Want to learn exactly how to win over dream families with breakthrough school storytelling? This on-demand kit includes instant access to:

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That’s why I’ve compiled some excellent examples of independent schools who are using storytelling to create meaningful connections with their audiences. These schools are taking unique strides with their content marketing, and they demonstrate how storytelling can take many forms — and those forms can produce varied results.

Here are four examples of independent schools who are acing content marketing:

Star Student: Mercy Academy

Mercy Academy is an all-girl high school in Louisville, Kentucky. And while there are thousands of all-girl high schools, which all have fairly similar communities and curriculums, Mercy has framed its story in a unique way.

How? It has taken something that resonates with young girls – fairy tales – and given the concept a new twist.

The school’s recent advertising campaign used the tagline “Prepare for real life.” This tagline was imagined in both traditional and online advertising against fairy tale ideals:

“You’re not a princess. Prepare for real life.”
“Don’t wait for a prince. Prepare for real life.”
“Life’s not a fairy tale. Prepare for real life.”

(See the campaign here.)

The school explains its positioning:

“In high school, most students have the same question… “When am I going to use this?” At Mercy, we answer that question. Our curriculum is designed around applying knowledge to real-life problems, so our students learn how to think critically while being innovative. These skills along with the basics in the core content areas, like math, English and science, will prepare you to excel in college and be successful in the real world to follow.”

This idea was explored further in a promotional video:

The campaign was widely acclaimed, and received national television coverage in both advertising and mainstream media.

Top Content: Gould Academy

For a more traditional content marketing case study, look no further than the Gould Glog from Gould Academy, a small, coed, independent boarding school in Bethel, Maine.
(See the Gould Glog here.)

Dubbed “your daily dose of daily life at Gould through the eyes of students and teachers,” the Gould Glog brings student and teacher voices together to paint a rich, personal and entertaining picture of life at the academy. The school also has a strong presence across its social networks, demonstrating that its students are willing and interested in connecting with its content.
The efforts have been worthwhile. In an interview with independent school communications expert Brendan Schneider (whose own work at Sewickley Academy is coming next!), Gould’s Director of Communications Tucker Kimball said:

It has become very clear since the inception of the Glog and subsequent blogs we’ve created thereafter at Gould, that people like the content. The Glog is one of the top visited pages on our website and one of the top entrance pages to the site as well. People like blog content. Since the Glog, we’ve successfully worked to create a content creation culture here. We have over a dozen blogs now representing different programs/areas. It’s really a brand ambassadorship program at the school which is exciting, and we’re now looking at ways of maximizing this for admissions.

Impressive Inbound: Sewickley Academy

Inbound abounds at Sewickley Academy, Pittsburgh’s oldest private school for students from pre-K through 12th grade.

Under the communications leadership of Brendan Schneider, Director of Admission & Financial Aid, the school began to focus on inbound marketing in 2008-2009 and has been adding more inbound tactics ever since. They use blogs, social media, gated content and other digital tools to promote the school, and they’ve gotten significant results.

(See Sewickley Academy’s blog and an example of gated content.)

According to a Hubspot case study, Sewickley Academy increased enrollment (30% from the previous year), applications (11% — a 4-year high) and web traffic (30%) after it began using Hubspot’s services and focusing more holistically on inbound marketing.
Schneider told content marketing publication The Content Strategist:

“It’s a pain in the butt; it’s a lot of work. But we’ve seen positive results so we’ve continued to do it. … Since we’ve started inbound marketing, four out of five years we’ve increased our inquiries, applications, and visits over the previous year.”

Multimedia Marvels: Proctor Academy

Proctor Academy‘s content marketing efforts are a reminder that not all content is written.
This private coeducational day and boarding school in Andover, New Hampshire has the traditional content marketing down with its buzzy blogs and online content, but it brings it up a notch with its multimedia offerings.

Proctor Academy posts assembly podcasts, livestreams of events and activities, and has a diverse video library that showcases the school’s unique brand and environment. It also uses infographics to present school facts and statistics.

(See examples of Proctor Academy content here.)

They shape their internal and external messaging around the attributes they want their graduates to possess, which is defined in their Profile of a Proctor Graduate:

“Proctor graduates are collaborative, ethical individuals, ready to contribute productively to their communities. Our diverse programs and experiential approach to education develop creative, resilient, and knowledgeable problem solvers who take responsibility for their own learning.”

This is the sweet spot of their content strategy, and it’s reflected throughout all the content on their owned and shared sites.

These schools show that content marketing can be applied in ways that are unique to the culture and brand attributes of the school — and that storytelling can make a powerful impact when it’s a priority.

Want more tips on how to use content marketing to tell your school’s story? Other schools can be inspiring, but so can big brands. We compiled some inspiring examples and created brainstorming exercises for each that will help your school guide and grow its content marketing plan. Get your workbook.

Think content marketing is for big business only? No way. There is a lot to learn from the great content marketing brands out there, and plenty of ways schools can implement the smart tactics they use.
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