Schools have no shortage of events during the year, whether it be open events to drive enrolments or parent events such as a school musical. Every event is a reflection on your school and both current parents and prospective parents will draw certain conclusions about your school based on your event’s success. The first part of a strong event is great promotion. In this article we will cover how to advertise school events so that each one packs a punch and is well attended.
Let’s get to it – how to advertise school events
We’ve found that the sweet spot for open event promotions is 4-6 weeks prior to the date. If you provide too much time in advance, people may register but forget to attend or lose interest. If not enough notice is provided, they may not have enough time to plan their attendance.
I am also a huge fan of encouraging event registrations so that you can plan for the numbers well in advance and gauge how your school’s promotional efforts are doing as you go, making adjustments in the weeks leading up to the event. The registration form should be as short as possible and can include fields, such as the attendee’s full name, phone number and email address so that you can send reminder emails and SMSes before the event.
Your registration page should be dedicated to one event at a time. If you have several open events a year, I would promote one at a time. Having too many date options leads to people postponing their decision.
We’ve drawn an example landing page for an open event that includes just enough for people to make a decision about your event and register their place. The page title should match the exact title in your advertising, and we like to use the same image for the header as what is used in your promotions so that people make the connection that they have landed at the right place.
Other details to include in the registration page are:
• what attendees can expect to experience at the event
• a short registration form
• a little about your College, if this is a promotional event such as an open morning
• testimonials about your College or previous event attendees.
You will also want to create a unique thank you page so that you can track the success of your various digital promotions.
Event registrations should go straight into an enrolments database (check out SchoolCampaign) and registrants should get a confirmation email immediately after registration, as well as a reminder email and SMS before the event.
Now that we have a registration page setup for your event, let’s look at how you can promote your event online and offline.
Digital advertising is usually broken up into three main audiences:
- ‘cold’ audiences are people who have never heard about your College
- ‘warm’ audiences are people who may have visited your website or interacted with your content
- ‘hot’ audiences are on your email list and actively seeking a school.
Digital marketing can be used to promote your events to each of these audiences in the following ways:
- Email event invitations – Your email list is your most valuable asset and works great to advertise upcoming events. We usually send about two emails per event depending on your email list and event schedule for the year.
- SMS invitations – SMS should be used sparingly, but I like to send event invitations as text messages and also send booking reminders before the event.
- Display ads to both warm audiences and interest-based audiences in your local area using Google Ads or programmatic display advertising.
- Facebook Ads to both warm audiences and interest-based audiences.
The great thing about using digital advertising to promote your event is that you can measure conversions (event registrations) and tell exactly which ads and audiences are working best to attract registrations for your school.
Traditional marketing still plays an important role in our overall event marketing efforts. No strategy is complete without thinking about the people that may not be online. Having said that, not all traditional mediums are suited to call-to-action event marketing and below I go through my top recommendations when it comes to choosing traditional mediums:
- Leaflet deliveries work well when done 4-6 weeks before an event. They can also be integrated with digital, with an SMS to register call-to-action and email follow-up.
- Stay away from mediums such as billboards and outdoor signage as they are best suited to brand awareness and not short-term call-to-action campaigns.
- Outdoor signage such as signboards and light pole banners can work well but need to be up about 8 weeks before the event.
- Magazine ads typically suit longer-term campaigns because even though they may be distributed monthly or termly, they get read long after their publishing date.
One of the trickiest parts of mastering how to advertise school events is getting traditional mediums right for school events is getting all the details of how people can register in a tight space. The best way to do this is to have a similar look/design banner on your website home page that directs people to your registration page so that you can use your school home page as the go to location for registrants.
However you decide to implement traditional campaigns into your event marketing. Make sure that your digital and traditional campaigns complement each other and work together.
Increasing Attendance at School Open Events
Open Events – Increasing Attendance
We spend so much time and money in our marketing efforts trying to get people to register. That’s why it is so important that we do everything we can to increase attendance on the day. We have a little formula we follow for open events and the communication leading up to the event:
- We always expect a registration for the event. This helps with planning and checking in with how marketing is working leading up to the event.
- Once people register for the school open event, I send them a confirmation email and SMS to make sure they know that they are registered.
- One week before the event I send out another email reminding them about the event details with a picture of the Principal and details about what to expect on the day.
- Two days before the event I send out another reminder. Try to work out your SMS reminder to be the day before the weekend leading up to the event. Say your event is on the Tuesday, send it out on the Friday before. This gives people the time and space to plan their attendance with their family.
Even with all the reminders, people may still not turn up on the day and this could be good marketing dollars gone to waste if not dealt with properly. What I do in these cases is mark people in SchoolCampaign with a ‘didn’t attend’ tag that will then send them an immediate SMS inviting them to book a personal school tour. Often people reply saying they are so sorry they missed the event and that they are still interested in the college. I find that offering them an option for a school tour at a time that suits them, works well to still get them into the school.
I hope this article on how to advertise school events will help you with your planning and promotions, and also help you increase your open event attendance on the day.