Marketing Isn’t a Dirty Word for Public Schools: 5 Myths

5 min read
Jan 12, 2023 8:00:00 AM

Debunking five myths about marketing in traditional public schools.

As a busy enrollment coordinator or even principal, you likely don’t have much time to think about marketing your school. In fact, if you’re like many school and district leaders, you perhaps don’t even like the idea of K-12 marketing and promoting schools. It seems sleazy, huh? Bear with me!

The truth is marketing your public school is critical to increasing enrollment — and, by extension, district funding.

The decline in student enrollment in districts across the United States isn’t a temporary, pandemic-only trend.

But if your strategy is to “just wait” for families to return, you may want to pull up a chair. Consider this: how can you attract families and enroll students if few parents know your school exists in their city?

Further, will families who do know about your school want to enroll if local charter or private schools are telling a better story? Will families who are currently enrolled stay enrolled with you? Or will they leave mid-year to pursue homeschooling or another option?

This is where actively engaging in student recruitment strategies can help boost enrollment.

Before you decide promoting your public school just isn’t right for K-12 education — that instead marketing should be left to the corporate world — let’s dispel some myths about public school marketing.

Table of Contents

Myth #1: “Marketing is for businesses.”
Myth #2: “I don’t need to promote my school.”
Myth #3: “Marketing is for private/charter schools.”
Myth #4: “Marketing is expensive.”
Myth #5: “Marketing takes up too much time.”

Myth #1: “Marketing is for businesses. We are a schoolnot a business.”

This is one of the most common points of resistance SchoolMint’s enrollment consultants encounter when speaking to schools. And we absolutely understand why you feel this way!

After all, public schools in K-12 have a mission that’s rooted in helping children succeed at the most cognitively critical time in their lives — for free, for all in your community.

But consider the way K-12 has fundamentally changed over the past 20 years (heck, even in just the past three years).

Today, parents have more choice than ever before regarding where their children receive an education, which means district schools face competition from other education options:

  • Private and parochial schools
  • Charter schools
  • Homeschooling and “learning pods”
  • Virtual school options

Additionally, with birth rates at a record low, there are fewer children existing in the first place.

Since the funding you receive is directly tied to the number of enrolled students you have, you need to make your school known to these students’ parents. Doing so will help you keep your school’s doors open, your faculty employed, and your students well-equipped for success.

Yes, you’re not a business. But that doesn’t mean you can’t apply some principles of marketing to your school.

By getting the word out about your school, you’ll help new families find enrollment — in turn, helping you prevent a devastating school closure and instead keep your doors open for the next generation.

mother sitting on floor looking for a new school online

Myth #2: “I don’t need to promote my school. Families will just come here.”

Perhaps 30 years ago you could rely on your local neighborhoods to send their kids to your school without question.

That’s no longer the case.

Parents and guardians have so much more choice nowadays. School zones matter less and less. Families are also willing to drive their child a little farther if they believe that means their kid will receive a better education.

Whether that’s the truth — that School B across town is “better” than your school — doesn’t matter. All that matters is a parent’s perception that it’s true.

Marketing your school can help you change this perception by telling a better story than your competition.

Myth #3: “Marketing is for private/charter schools. We are a district school.”

The charters and private schools in your area are already marketing themselves. They’ve always had to do it.

By starting to market your public school, you’ll simply be joining the game they’ve always played.

Guaranteed, your school has something that gives it an advantage over the competition.

But if those competing schools are targeting and promoting themselves to prospective families, parents may never learn about the incredible academics, programs, and so on your school offers!

happy student working at a computer

Marketing is all about communicating the value of your school to your target audience. You just need to make sure prospective students and their families know what that value is.

That’s where having a public school marketing strategy can help you. And it’s something every district can benefit from.

Myth #4: “Marketing is expensive.”

Another myth about public school marketing is that it’s expensive.

While it’s true that some marketing initiatives can be costly, there are plenty of low-cost or even no-cost ways to market your school effectively.

For example:

  • Your school’s social media accounts are a great way to get the word out about your school without spending money.
  • You can claim your profile on the various school review sites and ask current families and staff to leave reviews.
  • You can further harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing by encouraging current families to spread the word to their friends and neighbors.

In other words, you don’t need a big budget to do great marketing — you just need some creativity and time!

SchoolMint’s enrollment consultant, Charli, offers a list of nine tools that can help you make your processes more efficient…and they’re free.

Myth #5: “Marketing takes up too much time.”

Okay, maybe by this point you’re convinced marketing your public school could be a worthy endeavor for boosting enrollment. Yay! Thanks for sticking with me.

Now, maybe your concern here is how much of your time school marketing efforts would siphon away from your top priority: your students.

a man looking at his watch

While creating and implementing a school marketing plan does require some time and effort, it doesn’t have to be a full-time job. By being strategic about what you do, you can make the most of the time you have available. 

For example, rather than trying to be active on every social media platform out there, focus on one or two that will reach your target audience most effectively.

And rather than trying to do everything yourself, delegate tasks to other members of your team — or enlist the help of outside experts when necessary.

You can get more tips on being efficient in your public school marketing efforts in this blog from Chief Enrollment Officer Nick LeRoy: How to Be More Efficient in Your School Marketing.

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Now that we’ve debunked these marketing myths, let me know in the comments below if I’ve changed your mind about the topic or at least given you something to think about. I’d love to have a discussion about it!

Alternatively, if you’re ready to dive in, you can learn more about SchoolMint’s student recruitment and marketing services here.

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