The Power of Planning: Why Schools Need a 12-Month Recruitment Marketing Calendar

by | Jun 28, 2024

An iMission K-12 Recruitment Article

Magnet and charter schools provide unique educational options for families seeking alternatives to traditional public schools. 

However, in a competitive environment, these schools cannot rely solely on word-of-mouth or reputation to maintain a strong enrollment pipeline. A comprehensive recruitment marketing calendar is essential for reaching your ideal students, maximizing resources, and staying ahead of the curve.

What is a Recruitment Marketing Calendar and Why is it Crucial?

A recruitment marketing calendar is your detailed, year-long roadmap outlining all promotional activities and aligning them with your enrollment goals. It’s a strategic tool offering advantages that include:

Focused Planning

Defining your target audience compels you to tailor your messaging directly to the families most likely to find your school a perfect fit.

Resource Optimization

A calendar helps you budget effectively, allocating funds and personnel across different channels throughout the recruitment cycle.

Proactive Approach

Building a calendar allows ample time to refine strategies, develop high-quality content, strengthen community partnerships, and ensure that everything is ready for peak enrollment periods.

Data-Driven Decision Making

A calendar creates a framework for tracking campaign success. By analyzing key metrics (KPIs), you can continually optimize your approach and identify areas for improvement.

The Case for Year-Round Marketing

While many schools concentrate marketing efforts around application deadlines, consistent visibility throughout the year offers distinct advantages for magnet and charter schools:

  • Competitive Edge: Staying top-of-mind differentiates your school from those with sporadic outreach.
  • Relationship Building: Year-round engagement fosters trust and a sense of community even before applications are submitted.
  • Audience Insights: Regular marketing activity generates data about your target families’ interests and what influences their decisions.
  • Agility and Adaptability: Consistent marketing allows you to respond nimbly to shifting trends, policy changes, or unexpected events.
Marketing Recruitment Calendar Blog Header

Building Your Recruitment Marketing Calendar: Two Essential Campaigns

In building your recruitment marketing calendar, you’ll want to build out two reinforcing campaigns.  

The first aligns with the recruitment cycle. This starts in the fall when parents are starting to consider school options, continues in the winter, when the application period is in full swing, and, as spring rolls around, the focus shifts to waiting for and then accepting the offer. Then, in summer, efforts shift to minimizing summer melt, keeping families engaged, and preparing for the business of the fall. You’ll want to develop the recruitment outreach and communications that are right for each stage of the cycle. 

But to really drive recruitment success, your calendar should include a second campaign as well: consistent brand- and reputation-building marketing and communications that take place all year long. The truth is, school decisions are never confined just to the fall – and savvy parents are evaluating numerous options long before their students are old enough to apply.   

Of these two calendars, the recruitment cycle marketing will get the lion’s share of the advertising dollars. The consistent brand and reputation-building marketing and communication will be driven by social media, email, and text marketing as well as a community-based public relationship effort. While it won’t receive the same level of funding, it’s critical for long-term success. 

Getting Organized with the Recruitment Materials and Dates

You can never start planning too early for a 12-month marketing campaign. You’ll want to have your marketing materials and dates well in advance.  

The good news is that schools often have created great marketing materials in prior years. These materials certainly can be refreshed and re-edited. New materials may or may not be better than what was used in the past, but creating new materials every year is expensive. By reusing and repurposing these materials, schools have more time and money to ensure that their message is reaching the target audience. 

Key elements that are needed to support the recruitment calendar include:

  1. School Events: Plan a mix of in-person and virtual open houses, focused information sessions, campus tours, and showcases of student work (science fairs, performances, etc.).
  2. Application Information: Clearly communicate the application window, when it opens, when it closes, and any deadlines.
  3. Content Development: Spend time capturing and creating content that falls into the following buckets.
    • Parent, teacher, student, and alumni experiences that tell the stories of the school and its impact on their lives.
    • Website: Keep it updated with the latest program information, news, events, and compelling testimonials.
    • Blog and Newsletters: Provide valuable insights into your school’s philosophy, student successes, and address common questions.
    • Social Media Posts that tell a powerful story should be posted throughout the recruitment cycle. Use resources from last year to build excitement for this year’s upcoming events.
    • Short Videos: Used on all social channels and streaming sites.
    • Audio Clips: Used for radio advertising and podcasts. 
    • Print Materials: Design high-quality brochures, flyers, and other tangible resources to share at in-person events.
  4. Budget Allocation: Outline estimated costs for each activity, allowing for flexibility based on changing circumstances.
  5. Outreach Activities:
    • Strategic Partnerships: Collaborate with community organizations, local businesses, and complementary institutions serving your target audience.
    • School Fairs and Expos: Maintain a visible presence at relevant events.
    • Targeted Advertising: Use a mix of digital (Google Ads, Social Media Ads) and traditional channels (local publications, radio, transit).

Monthly Breakdown: Creating a Year of Engagement

What does a year-long recruitment calendar look like in practice? Here’s a suggested month-by-month guide for marketing activities, incorporating social media, YouTube, and media planning considerations:

September-November (Early Awareness)

  • Focus on building brand recognition and piquing interest.
  • Host back-to-school events and introductory open houses.
  • Update your website and share student spotlights on social media.
  • Create an engaging virtual campus tour for YouTube.
  • Research target audience media habits and explore targeted online ads.
  • Attend school fairs and other community events.

December-February (Open Application Period)

  • Focus on providing in-depth information to target families actively researching.
  • Host open houses and information sessions; develop content spotlighting achievements and testimonials.
  • Share event recaps, student/teacher spotlights, and answer common questions on YouTube.
  • Increase digital ad frequency, run retargeting campaigns, and consider radio or transit advertising.

March-May (Decision Time)

  • Guide families towards application and address concerns.
  • Offer application support workshops and partner with community organizations.
  • Pin reminders to social media, develop an FAQ series, and share success stories from current students.
  • Collect video testimonials for YouTube and adjust ad placements for maximum impact.

June-August (Follow-up & Summer Engagement)

  • Focus on welcoming new families and maintaining momentum.
  • Host events for accepted students, maintain contact with waitlisted families, and share summer program information.
  • Celebrate accepted students on social media, spotlight summer learning opportunities, and conduct surveys.

March-August (Late Application & Wait List)

Reach Tomorrow’s Students Today

To secure the future of your school, you need to build a full pipeline of good-fit families. While word-of-mouth will always be the most powerful form of marketing, it’s rarely enough. A strategic approach to marketing can supplement and amplify the good reputation your school has already established in your community. 

But it is a mistake to think that your marketing efforts should be confined to the traditional recruitment season. Instead, opt for a 12-month marketing plan that builds awareness, generates interest, and then turns interest into applications and applications into enrolled students. 

An investment in the right marketing plan is an investment in the future of your school.

Ready to Elevate Your School’s Recruitment Strategy?

At iMission, we specialize in helping K-12 schools create year-long recruiting marketing plans to attract and engage the right families. Our expert team is here to support you every step of the way, from building a robust recruitment pipeline to creating personalized outreach campaigns that resonate. Contact us today to get started!

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