In this session, Ashley MacQuarrie, Betsy Roberts, and Michael Barber discuss the importance of “Ground Game”—all the marketing you do that isn’t online. They offered great tips for your school’s signage, banners, and yard signs.
Can you take a second to introduce yourself to everyone on YouTube?
Betsy R. (00:03):
Hi everybody. My name is Betsy Roberts. I’m an enrollment marketing project manager. This is my third season with CSC and I’m very excited to be here.
Michael B. (00:12):
We’re excited to have you. We asked for your presence here today because we want to talk about something that you are incredibly good at and that’s ground game. So we’re going to get into some questions today over the next 10 or so minutes that focus all on ground game for charter schools as they’re thinking about enrollment marketing. And feel free to pop in your questions into the chat. As a reminder, we’re here every week, Thursdays 10:00 AM Pacific, 1:00 PM Eastern, talking all things EM. Let’s hop right into the conversation this morning. Betsy, tell us what ground game means. It sounds like a fancy term, but I would love for you to define it and how you talk to it with charter school leaders.
Betsy R. (00:50):
Yeah, we in enrollment marketing department, we use the word ground game as all the stuff besides everything that we’re doing electronically through the website or through SEO and through digital ads, et cetera. So flyers, postcards, banners, billboards, tchotchkes for signing up, enrolling out of school and kind of everything in between. I mean, it depends what your grade levels are and what people are looking for, but it’s to help with your branding, your marketing and get your message out there.
Michael B. (01:30):
For sure. So there’s a lot of things that schools can be doing when it comes to ground game. Can you talk about the top five or six that you think have been impactful for schools as you’ve been working with school leaders for the past several years?
Betsy R. (01:45):
Yeah, one of the main things that we like every school to have is just a postcard size, little quick facts about their enrollment marketing process, who you are, where you are, [inaudible 00:02:00] that your free public charter school always needs to be highlighted, has your website, has contact information and usually it’s colored. We love pictures of students on there, double side with the top bullet points of your school. And to be able to have that when people walk in or if you’re out somewhere meeting with an elementary school if you’re a middle school, just to have something to hand a little takeaway. So I think that is the main thing that we like all our schools to have is to be able to hand something to somebody so that if they’re going home, they have something to reference.
Michael B. (02:44):
Such a good point. Ashley, do you have anything to add there?
Ashley M. (02:47):
Yeah, I think Betsy’s right on. And we actually really like the postcard. We think of postcards as coming in the mail, but I’ve heard schools really request a postcard, like a thicker card stock because they might give it to their kids to take home. And if it’s a flyer, like a piece of paper, it’s just going to get shoved in a backpack, postcard, something eye-catching, more likely to stick it up on the fridge versus an eight and a half by 11 flimsy piece of paper. So I think that’s great. I think the other piece of ground game too is how you’re appearing in the community. I mean, your signage, a lot of times charter schools that we work with, they might be in more non-traditional spaces that maybe you wouldn’t expect a school to be in. So we do a lot of banners and yard signs and just different things to attract the ye and let people know that you’re a school, that you’re enrolling.
Those quick facts Betsy talks about, often the grid level, maybe tuition fee, something like that just to grab those people when they are walking around on the ground around your school.
Michael B. (03:50):
And one of the things a few of us had the chance to talk about was the importance of signage. The other day we were all gathered having a little meal together and there was a lot of hot debate, a heated debate I should say, about signage. Can you talk about some of the struggles you’ve seen schools have with signage and some of the recommendations our team has made? Because it’s such an important part of having a presence when you’ve got a physical location.
Betsy R. (04:17):
Yeah, that’s so true. When we come in, we like to be really objective and look at the school in a way that no one’s ever seen it before. So the people who work at the school obviously think, “Well, no, that’s school because we see it every day.” But if you look at it as someone who’s never seen it before, it’s like, “Well, is it a school or is it a church or is it a youth center? It’s really hard to tell because it’s not really being explicit.” So we go in and we like to make sure that the signage is very clear. Where’s the entrance? Where’s the parking? Where’s the front desk? Where can I find somebody to talk to? All these things are very, very important as far as getting more kids into seats at your school. You need to be very present in your community so they know who you are, who you’re serving, that you’re a free public charter school, the grades of your students, and how to get in there.
So yeah, like Ashley said, we do banners, we do feather flags, we’ve done yard signs out front. We’ve done directional signs. We’ve had a school that had people walking right past their entrance and into the school next door because that one looked like a school and they were right next door to each other and their enrolled kids were going right into somebody else’s front door so [inaudible 00:05:44] to point out, “This is where you go to check in for this school.”
Michael B. (05:52):
That way finding is so important. You’ve got to make sure you’re leading that experience. That’s something Ashley and I have talked about in weeks past. The experience of enrollment is not just driving awareness, it’s how you go about getting those kids and parents to the school, how you make sure that their experience when they get on property is a positive one. And I’m sure if the signs aren’t great, you’re not leaving the best impression for potential parents and students alike. So important.
Betsy R. (06:22):
So true. If you have a tough parking situation where it’s kind of a mess and no one knows what direction to go, a parent might be like, “Well, I don’t want to have to deal with this at drop off and pick up every day.” So you need to make sure all of those things are working. So it’s part of what we help provide at CSCs enrollment marketing department.
Michael B. (06:43):
None of us are designers, so I’m going to say that out loud, because you have three strategists slash PMs here. People that help the work, make the work happen. But we’ve all worked with designers with different schools, and our team has designers that we work with on a regular basis. Can both of you give me some insights from our designers that we’ve worked with about certain specific things when it comes to signage and it comes to those ground game elements that we want to be cognizant of, like contrasting colors that we need to be able to create that contrast so people’s eyes can see those things, or certain colors that are like, “Absolutely not, we shouldn’t be doing that.” Any thoughts there?
Betsy R. (07:22):
Yeah, I mean, I feel the school colors as far as the branding is very, very important. That’s something that we do in Auditive when we take a school on, is to make sure that their colors are in brand and that they’re consistent. But yeah, definitely large enough to see. Most of our outdoor banners, if it’s in front of somewhere where it’s going to be cars, very, very few words. Basically the school, the grades, the website. So if it’s a banner for someone walking by versus driving by, we take all those things into consideration. I’m definitely not an expert when it comes to colors. That’s why we have such a broad team behind the project managers. We have SEO, we have advertising, we have digital marketing, and a great graphics team.
Michael B. (08:18):
We’ll have to bring some of those team members on board. Maybe that’s our topic for next week that we can talk about. Ashley, I saw you sort of lean in to start some thoughts there. I would love your two cents as well.
Ashley M. (08:28):
Yeah, I was going to say just what Betsy said towards the end there, fewer words. So we’re always looking for ways that we can keep it really simple, keep it really actionable. So we almost always put [inaudible 00:08:42] grades, but also look at the logo. Sometimes the school’s logo maybe has elementary school or maybe has immersion school, something like that that’s a differentiator, but might be really small, too hard to read. So we might look at that and we might use more a simplified version of the logo and put the elementary school piece or the immersion piece, whatever that is, except that it really stands out because you might not be able to see it in that little logo. Or if the logo’s big and really legible and it has high school right on there and you can see it, then we don’t necessarily need to put high school in the text of the banner.
So we’re looking for ways to make it really clear, to use fewer words. And we do use those kind of accent pop colors more sparingly for the things that really need to stand out. We often don’t put necessarily a phone number or anything like that on a big sign because we know that somebody … it does, to Betsy’s point, depend on whether they’re walking or driving by. But we know that somebody who’s driving by is not going to have time to grab a phone number. So with a lot of times those big signage things, we expect to see maybe an increase in organic search terms of traffic for people coming from just Googling the name of the school. So we want that name of the school to be really prominent because that might be how they get to the website rather than remembering a URL or remembering a phone number.
Michael B. (10:00):
Such good points I’ve learned from this conversation from the both of you; it is school name, grades, it is website. Those are the things we’ve got to repeat over and over again. Does it have that information? Maybe that’s our takeaway for this week when it relates to ground game is school name, grades and website. We’re right at our 10. Go ahead Nancy.
Betsy R. (10:19):
Michael B. (10:19):
No, go right ahead.
Betsy R. (10:19):
I was just going to jump in on the logo thing is that a lot of schools that we’ve worked with have logos that they can’t really use anymore because they’re so old and they’re not scalable digitally to be able to put on banners. So our graphics team has recreated so many logos that schools are excited to be able to use.
Michael B. (10:40):
Yeah. If a school doesn’t have an SVG, they need an SVG logo. It’s fancy term for saying something that you could make as big as possible and as small as possible, and it looks clear and crisp regardless if you’re on a website or on a signage or a T-shirt or something like that. You need to be able to scale that logo up and down. Before we wrap up, I’m going to just ask if anybody has any questions, now’s the time. Otherwise, I’m going to ask my last question for the day and that is this. Hot topic related to ground game is clothing and uniforms, whether it’s your school leaders and your teachers that are wearing them or kids and parents potentially. Any thoughts on what schools can do when it comes to uniforms and/or clothing that they’re giving out to help increase that ground game opportunity? I’ll start with you, Betsy. Any thoughts there?
Betsy R. (11:34):
Yeah, several schools, typically schools with lower income families, we give T-shirts out once they enroll and we see those shirts get worn a ton, which is wonderful. We had one school in Arizona that serviced people from the nations, the reservations, the indigenous population there, and the kids that went back to their nations after school wearing the shirts, everyone’s asking about the school. The kids are wearing them on their social media pages. So in that case, it turned out to be like wildfire where the pictures of the shirts were everywhere and we weren’t expecting the T-shirts to get us so much attention that all the high school students were posting pictures of them in their shirts. So you never know which direction it’s going to go. You just have to think about your audience and how it’s going to benefit you, but also benefit your students.
Michael B. (12:37):
Agreed. Any last thoughts there, Ashley?
Ashley M. (12:40):
Oh, I think Betsy covered it. Yeah. A lot of our schools don’t necessarily have branded uniforms. Sometimes they do, but we do see a lot of impact from those T-shirts that students can wear or that they can wear on their free dress day or wear out in the community. And we do just always encourage schools to retain those higher value articles of clothing, swag items for when students enroll. It’s a great thing to include in a welcome packet. We also, to Betsy’s point, with the students in the nations, we also see the opposite. We’ve seen schools in colder areas, rural Ohio, wanting hoodies and things like that because a lot of their kids don’t have winter jackets even. And so you can look at different ways to both make a difference in students’ lives and potentially address clothing insecurities. And also getting your brand out there and it can serve two purposes.
Michael B. (13:35):
Such a good point, such a good point. We’ll leave it there for today on the conversation of ground game because I feel like that’s just such a nice little period to put on that conversation about what branded and related elements and clothing can do, not only for enrollment, but also serving the students in particular areas of challenge. Okay, we’re going to call it a day. I wanted to let everyone know we’ll be back next Thursday and perhaps we’ll touch on a topic we touched on here, which was design. Maybe we can get one of our designers to come join us for our conversation next week and talk all things brand color, fonts and whatnot. So we’ll tentatively say that’s what we’re going to chat about next week. And then I want to let everybody know we’re going to take a little break from enrollment marketing on the 26th of January.
We’re having a webinar on all things teacher retention, what’s happening in the marketplace, strategies and tactics for school leaders to retain teachers. That’s happening on Tuesday, January 24th, 10:00 AM Pacific, 1:00 PM Eastern. You can find all of that information on charterschoolcapital.com in our resources area. Just look for that upcoming webinar. And we will be having Dr. Charlotte Pullens join us on our YouTube live that Thursday, January 26th. So we’re going to take a little break from our conversations on EM and talk teacher retention, which is another challenge that of course school leaders are facing. So we look forward to seeing you next week on the 19th. We’ll talk design tentatively and then on the 26th, we’re going to welcome Dr. Charlotte Pullens for our conversation on teacher retention. So tune in, subscribe to our channel, hit that subscribe button, and you’ll be notified when we’re going live every Thursday, 10:00 AM Pacific, 1:00 PM Eastern. Thanks for taking the time to join us.
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Since the company’s inception in 2006, Charter School Capital has been committed to the success of charter schools. We help schools access, leverage, and sustain the resources charter schools need to thrive, allowing them to focus on what matters most – educating students. Our depth of experience working with charter school leaders and our knowledge of how to address charter school financial and operational needs have allowed us to provide over $1.8 billion in support of 600 charter schools that have educated over 1,027,000 students across the country. For more information on how we can support your charter school, contact us. We’d love to work with you!