Friday 16 September 2016

Schools - their marketing and reviews

Here is a collage of advertisements from last week's Spectator Schools supplement:

All of which, one assumes, in marketing-speak are 'setting out to enhance their brands'.

So why would this collage of reviews and scores apply to any of them? 

It does not - it applies to each and every one of them (except one that has no reviews at all).

Before you say 'But one scores 4.7!' we would respectfully point out that that score is based on reviews by tourists, not parents or students. Here's a breakdown (no names...):

From this small - but representative - sample we can only draw one conclusion: that educational establishments in the UK have yet to engage with reviews. 

The argument for engaging

The average age of a prospective school parent - the principal target of those advertisements - must fall between the ages of thirty and forty-five. They are what marketing people call classic Generation Y - here's the dictionary definition:

Note 'typically perceived as increasingly familiar with digital and electronic technology'. That means they do the following when the see an advertisement (or receive a personal recommendation, or scour the league tables):
  • google the business - in this case the school
At this point the business - the school - should be asking itself 'What impression do we want to create for our prospective parents - these highly new-media-literate individuals?' Among the answers we would expect to hear:
  • Great reviews - by parents and pupils
  • A great Google score
  • Independently verified reviews when they click through to the school's own website
Now we know all that is easier said than done; it is why HelpHound exists - to navigate your school through the minefield that is the world of reviews, to ensure that Jones minor of the Remove does not make a nonsense of your Google reviews and that the school is able, as far as possible, to present itself as it really is through the medium of reviews.

The solution

The school invites parents to submit reviews to its own website; the reviews are moderated by HelpHound: positives are published to the school's website, negatives are sent to the school for comment (a process called Resolution™). The parent is then asked to copy their review to Google.

Here we should address a common concern: fear of alienating parents by asking them to write a review. We would advise anyone hesitating to invite reviews for this reason to read this article for reassurance.

The result 

Great independently verified reviews for parents to read on the school's own website. Great reviews to Google - and any issues resolved pre-publication. A great first impression online - even if the only reason a prospective parent has googled the school was to find its telephone number.

And finally - those spurious reviews...

These fall broadly speaking, into one of the these two categories:
  • Malicious reviews containing allegations of illegality by the school, its students or its employees
  • Reviews of the school's history, location, grounds or architecture
Google take a hard line against malicious reviews, but their appeals process is a minefield for the unwary. HelpHound have the experience and the expertise to guide you through the appeals process.

Google are unlikely to take down the second category - after all, they are helpful for tourists. It is incumbent upon the school to make sure that the overwhelming majority of reviews relate to educational and pastoral excellence.

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