Tara is the in-house content lead at Digistorm, tending to all content needs, big or small! When she’s not writing copy or managing the Insights editorial calendar, Tara is passionate about supporting theatre and live music.
“To whom it may concern, we are a primary school that provides education for children aged from 5-12, from Prep through to Year 6. Our staff provide high-quality education in the hopes that students will excel in life beyond their schooling.”
Whoops, sorry — we just nodded off for a second. Maybe it’s just us, but the above sounds dull, lifeless, and most of all, frustratingly repetitive.
Choosing a school for your children is not simply a transaction. “Oh, they provide education, let’s pay them to do that,” said no parent ever. It’s about selecting where your child will receive the education they need to set them up for a life of realising their potential and continually expanding their horizons.
In short, it’s personal. You’re a school, and people already understand the technicalities of what you do. What they really want to know is what you stand for and the journey their children will take if they decide upon your establishment.
So, how do you make that personal connection, and explain your “how” and “why” in a way that stirs the emotions parents should feel when making their decision?
Tell them a story.
For too long, businesses relied on “the PowerPoint format” to get their message across. This consisted of a few dot points and short paragraphs that laid out the essentials as sparingly as possible. “We are a school. We educate children. You should send your kids here.”
Sure. The information you’ve stated is technically correct, but the real issue is - who cares? Could you imagine if Martin Luther King Jr’s speech had simply been “I want equality for people of colour”? Not quite the same rousing narrative that would change the course of history…
By telling a story, you’re inserting your client or customer into the narrative. Making them feel as if they (or in this case, their children) could thrive in the world you’re describing is half of the mountain scaled. The other half of the journey to the top involves all of those factors that need to gel between the two of you - finances, curriculum, extracurricular offerings and so on.
By stating your values in a creative, engaging way, you’re showing how your school will perfectly slot into their day-to-day routine without a second thought. Just like Steve Jobs helped Apple reach new heights by explaining how they’d change consumers’ lives, you’ll do the same to present your school as the number one choice for like-minded families.
Put simply, the “what” about your institution is a very small sliver of the whole picture. People want to be taken on a journey that will show them how their lives, and those of their children, will change for the better when they walk through those school gates.
Jeff Bezos famously banned PowerPoints from all meetings at Amazon, instead asking every idea to be presented in a one or two page memo with a compelling narrative. Why? Because hearing an idea in the context of a bigger picture quickly weeds out the ones that are going nowhere.
Turning an idea into a story builds an emotional connection, makes the idea actionable, and makes it memorable, compared to simply having data points that are hard to envision in practice. Storytelling takes all the information you need to present and turns it into a journey, igniting the imagination and building a true connection.
Storytelling is easier than you’d ever guess, and we guarantee you and your school can do it. Feeling a little intimidated? Don’t - we promise you won’t have to relive Grade 10 English class, except to remember this one handy hint. All stories have a beginning, middle and end. In the context of business, it should go a little like this:
Beginning: here’s the problem we have
Middle: here’s our proposal to fix it
End: here’s how we can put it into action
Let’s run through a quick example to show you how you can put storytelling into action with this simple format. Your beginning, or the problem you’ve identified, may read a little like this:
“Here at ABC College, we understand that every child is different, and that helping them reach their full potential requires unique attention.”
With this sentence, you’ve shown you understand families’ primary concern, and are committed to addressing it. Now show how you’ll do that with your middle:
“Through smaller class sizes, adaptable curriculum and a focus on personalized learning, we ensure your children are receiving the consideration they need to grow and succeed.”
Your middle shows parents that you have an action plan in place to help their kids achieve everything they dream about. Finally, wrap up your narrative with an ending:
“We’ll be there every step of the way, ensuring your child’s education is not only full of learning opportunities, but gives them the skills they need to pursue their passions.”
And, there you have it - you’ve illustrated a short yet effective educational journey, that’s reflective of your values, using basic storytelling. Now, it’s up to you to dig deep and get creative, building upon this format and taking it to new heights that will really give families something to think about.
People spend money on brands they trust, and the same goes for schools - the likelihood of them making that important investment is solidified by how well you make them feel considered and heard.
Do you feel stirrings of trust when you read an itemised list of services? Nope, neither do we. Conveying your values through narrative builds a sense of familiarity and comfort, and fosters the trust they need to feel when they’re considering you as their child’s education provider. In short, your aim is to give them those warm, fuzzy feelings you get when you read or hear something that truly, deeply resonates with you and your values, and the best way to do it is by authentically telling your school’s story.