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Marketing Beyond Your Back Yard

Marketing Beyond Your Back Yard

Dr Linda Vining, Director of the Centre for Marketing Schools, is interviewed by David Shearer, Director of Synergy Education, about the need for NZ schools to develop a global perspective to school marketing.

David: Attitudes to school marketing have changed dramatically. I remember a time when you had to justify why marketing should even be discussed in schools - when teachers and academics were screaming loudly against the intrusion of business ideas in education, and marketing was labelled as a threat to educational purity.

Linda: Yes, that’s how it was a decade ago, but today’s schools realise they operate in a competitive marketplace where it’s competition for enrolments, financial support, community appreciation and good teachers. As a result, school marketing has become an essential role in school management. No longer do I find resistance. Quite the contrary. Schools are hungry to learn new skills that will help them promote themselves and build stronger relationships. I am pleased to announce that Synergy Education will be facilitating the CMS Certificate Course in School Marketing in New Zealand.

David: Principals and marketing people repeatedly say that the biggest obstacle they face is resistance from teaching staff. Is this so?

Linda: Slowly there has been a shift in teachers’ responses to marketing. I am most encouraged by the findings of a recent survey of New Zealand and Australian teachers conducted by CMS which found that 89 per cent of teachers said they saw parents as customers of a service; 82% felt their own school was not doing enough; and 71% said they would like to receive training in public relations.

David: I think that for too many teachers, marketing is seen as identical to advertising, and sadly, advertising is not always seen as a field of great integrity. Perhaps the real reason for resistance is the common failure to appreciate the scope of marketing.

Linda: Yes, many educators hold the narrow view that marketing is only about glossy brochures and advertising. But it’s a lot more. For example, we live in the media age. Press, radio and TV are trawling schools for scandal, controversy and sensational stories. Critics abound. Every school needs someone to vigorously publicise its success stories and promote its strengths in the public arena. If there is a lack of positive news coming from a school, the critics’ voices will prevail.

David: You often say that school marketing is becoming global and that schools must operate on a broader front. How can they do this?

Linda: It’s alarming to see how rapidly the population of school-aged children is declining worldwide. Instead of marketing in a local arena, schools are increasingly competing in an international market. For example, as the pool of students in Japan declines and colleges close the Japanese are preparing attractive educational packages to appeal to NZ and Australian families.

David: What are the best ways for schools to go global?

Linda: Schools must be seen and heard on the international stage. They have to reach beyond their shores. It’s the reason I am co-ordinating an international education expo in Sydney next year. I want to assist schools to broaden their horizons and talk universally. NZ schools are invited to attend the 2004 SCHOOL EXPO and talk with school placement consultants, relocation organisations and education agents and the many overseas families who will be flying from overseas to talk about education.

David: SYNERGY Education is representing NZ institutions at the 2004 SCHOOL EXPO which will be held on 15 and 16 May at Parramatta. Schools can contact me for details.

David: How much do you really believe that image determines which school a parent will select?

Linda: Another word for image is reputation. Reputation is extremely important in initially attracting people to a school. However, a reputation must be substantiated at every point of contact. People soon see through a misrepresentation. For most people, the first contact is with the school office. That’s why schools are examining their first impressions. I spend a lot of time training office staff in customer relations. To reach a wider audience I have developed a “Customer Relations Course for Office and Support Staff.” This distance learning certificate course is designed as a professional development package and it is now available in NZ. But it’s not just office staff who benefit from relationship training. All members of a school need to see themselves as image ambassadors, proud of what their school stands for. Parents pick up these vibes very quickly.

David: How important is the internet as a marketing tool?

Linda: I am convinced that a school’s website is a communication tool with dynamic capabilities to reach prospective families and win both domestic and international market share. It enables a school to deliver marketing messages at low cost. It works 24 hours a day and even during the holidays. However, while many schools have given attention to the educational content of their websites there is still a lot to do to tap the marketing potential of the internet.

Increasingly, prospective parents and students who are shopping for a school turn to the internet first for information. Many of these shoppers are discerning technology consumers. Take Monique Delving, a senior at a school who described herself and her friends to me in this way: “We have grown up with computers, we carry mobile phones to school and we use the internet daily. We are a very tech-savvy generation forced to synthesise information quickly and coherently in a world continually bombarding us with text and images.”

This is our modern customer. When Monique wanted to find a new school, her first move was to search the internet. Her second action was to prepare a shortlist of schools that met her expectations, and her third move was to pay a personal visit to the school. It was at this point that she involved her parents. She said that if a school had a poor website she did not even give it a second thought.

I frequently hear from families that this is how they select a school. In a competitive marketplace, if you are not online or if your site is inadequate, you run the risk of the “quick-flick”.

A school’s website needs to be part of your marketing plan. After a visit to your site, a prospective family should feel a sense of excitement, action, fun and achievement. They should want to come and visit in person.

Linda: David, as an expert in the recruitment of international students tell us how overseas families make a decision about schools.

David: Students base their decision on which school to attend on the 4 R's: Reputation, Responsiveness, Research and Recommendations. Choosing the right school is a very complex and highly involved decision-making process. For international students this process is measured in months rather than years, therefore schools must have the 4 R's covered.

To attract overseas students schools require credibility. To develop credibility schools require a consistent, cohesive marketing strategy. To develop a marketing strategy, schools must know what makes them different and their market. Research shows that an international student will consult at least 10 different sources of information before deciding which country, region and school they will attend. School marketers must have a broad marketing strategy in place that incorporates a variety of promotion tactics to get their message across to the 'influencers’ (those people or publications that influence the decision maker).

Linda, I have been following your work in leading a new profession for many years and I am delighted to represent CMS in New Zealand. Let me tell readers what I am doing. SYNERGY Education is dedicated to supplying international education providers, private training establishments and secondary schools throughout New Zealand with specialist education advisors and innovative EduBusiness solutions.

I will be running the CMS Certificate Course in School Marketing in different locations - 19 February 2004 in Christchurch; 19 April 2004 in Auckland; 21 April 2004 in Wellington; 23 April 2004 in Christchurch. For an e-brochure contact me on I will also distribute CMS books in NZ and facilitate the CMS Customer Relations Course for Non-Teaching Staff. People can contact me on 0800 440 447 or visit our website

About the authors

Dr Linda Vining is the Director of the Centre for Marketing Schools. David Shearer is Director of Synergy Education.

To contact David Shearer: 027 20 48 161 or Alternatively, enquirers can be directed to the Synergy Education website:

David Shearer Director SYNERGY Education - EduBusiness solutions for education providers

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