Recruitment and admissions

The power of community in school marketing and recruitment efforts

Recently, we had the pleasure of chatting with Anne Dickinson, Head of Admissions and Marketing at Jerudong International School.

We talked about how they use the power of community to help boost their marketing and school efforts. Something we think any school or university could benefit from.

In her own words, Anne 'believes passionately in the community advocating for the school and working with parents, teachers and best of all students to facilitate this'.

And we couldn't agree more.

Read on to discover three key insights gained from our conversation with Anne so you too can embrace the power of community when marketing your school or university.

1. Be genuine, authentic, and tell a story

When you're marketing your school, you need to be genuine and authentic. You need to show what's important to you and why people love your school.

But more importantly, you need to tell a story.

'I'm married to a teacher, and one of the first things he said to me was to never talk to teachers or parents about marketing'.

'Teachers care about the students and helping them learn. And parents, they want to make sure their child is not only studying but also getting the most out of their education. And I mean that in the biggest sense of the word.'

In Asia, there is a culture of story-telling, like 'Wayang Kulit' in Indonesia. This oral tradition is what inspired Anne to tell the story of how passionate the teachers and students are at Jerudong.

'I thought, how can I market the school in a way that will resonate with this oral tradition? So, I started to ask people about their stories and share them with the wider community.'

Their first post in 2012 was a first for Brunei, drone footage of the campus. This example of user-generated content majorly increased Jerudong's organic reach, with the community at large expressing their pride for the school.

'That was the moment I thought, right, we need to do more of that'.

2. Encourage participation from students, teachers, alumni, and parents

'You know, recently, someone tagged me on LinkedIn asking about parent engagement. And I said, it may sound cheesy but our parents really love our school and love talking about it. I tagged one of our parents and she immediately replied 'Yes! I am that cheesy parent!''

Whether it's parents, teachers, alumni, or current students, Anne endeavors to get everyone involved in promoting the school and its values.

'A lot of alumni follow us to keep up to date with what's happening at Jerudong. So much so, that we're setting up a portal that alumni can sign into using LinkedIn to keep up with departments and chat with their former classmates.'

Other examples of how Jerudong encourages participation from students and parents are:

  • They connect new parents with existing parent advocates with whom they have something in common. For example, if English isn't a new parent's first language they'll connect them with a willing parent who speaks their main language. This makes the new parent feel welcome, as they now have contact and friend they can lean on.
  • They give the students the freedom to promote the school on social media in a safe and monitored (but not controlled) way. There are posting guidelines and appointed teachers act as moderators. But, beyond that, students are encouraged to post about their day-to-day activities to show what life is like at Jerudong. Or to even take part in worldwide media events like CNN's Call to Earth. For this event, pupils are drawing the flora and fauna of their home countries, then sharing them on the school's social media accounts.

3. Develop an inclusive culture you can be proud of

'There's a lot of student leadership within the school, that is the core of our culture. There's a real expectation that the senior students help and assist those younger than them.'

This is reaffirmed by their Head Girl, who says that when she joined the school 'everyone spoke to her as if she was already their friend.'

A lot of this culture is developed by establishing and encouraging communities at every level of school life. They ensure that no one at Jerudong is 'siloed'.

From their housemates, social clubs, and year groups to whole school activities, they make sure that everyone interacts with the broadest possible spectrum across the school.

Not only that but when new students join they take the time to ensure an effective, inclusive onboarding.

'During the first week, we onboard new pupils. On day one, we introduce them to the house captains and do all the admin like logging them into the system. On the second day, returning students join and they all stay within their houses, there are no studies. They welcome their new classmates and take part in team-building exercises.'

This allows pupils old and new, to feel a part of their school community in a way that encourages happiness, positivity, and achievement. And that fills them with pride at being part of the school.

'After all,' says Anne, 'if your students are happy, the rest will follow'.

Be yourself, that's all that you can be

'When parents and students apply to Jerudong, our social media is usually the final deciding factor.' Anne concludes.

'We post every day, providing a genuine, authentic look into life at our school. And we can see what messages resonate through engagement rates so we know what to focus on.'

This is a prime example of how storytelling and establishing a community can help you reduce the insight gap at your school or university. So, if there's a message we could give to any institution reading this that wants to boost recruitment numbers, it's this:

Be yourself, and show the world.