Independent school professionals are feeling the pressure of shifts in student demographics, declines in financial support, and increases in competition. These factors all have an effect on the school’s ability to fill the admissions funnel, attract new donors, and engage parents and alumni. The team of professionals in the school’s advancement, communications, marketing, and alumni relations areas, in particular, is discovering that their “tried and true” methods are not bringing in the results they once did; people aren’t responding to their messages the way they did before. They are searching for new ways to reach each of their target audiences, including parents and prospective parents, donors and funders, alumni, the local media. But reaching them gets them halfway there. To be effective, they need to reach their audiences, and, they need to get them to do something. That’s where data can help.
It’s at this intersection, where reach meets action, where data can help independent schools motivate people to do something they want them to do.
There are a number of resources available in books, on websites, in podcasts…in a number of places… that provide valuable data that can be used by communication professionals to improve a school’s admissions, fundraising, and marketing results. I call it communicate to motivate. It’s using data to make decisions along the way to produce communication materials and tools that motivate a target audience to do something you want them to do.
There are a number of articles and books that use examples of specific language that is more motivating than others. In his book DRIVE, Daniel Pink suggests that words such as “purpose,” “greater good,” and “sustainable” are highly motivating; they can convey what an organization stands for and how it contributes to the world. Professor Teresa Amabile, author and director of research at Harvard Business School, suggests that emphasizing forward progress is highly motivating. I have seen numerous articles, studies, and white papers about the power of language to influence, direct, and motivate people to take action. Shifting to more “motivating” language in admissions, fundraising, and parents and alumni communications can help independent schools move more quickly into getting a higher rate of return on their efforts. Making this language shift won’t happen overnight, but it can happen fairly quickly with the help of a content strategy and map that guides the way to improving all of a school’s communication tools.
Employing a strategy that uses research about motivation can strengthen independent school communications to not only reach their audiences, but to move them to action.
In Part 2, we’ll show you how to use design secrets to move people to action.