Home' Independence : Independence Vol 34 No 2 Oct 2009 Contents Independence Vol 34 No 2 Oct 09 69
MARKETING & DEVELOPMENT
defined not by what you say about
yourself (spin and promotion), but
by opinions of third parties. This
is how people evaluate schools and
hence where schools should primarily
invest their reputation management
focus. Research has demonstrated that
word-of-mouth consistently rises to
the top in terms of the most powerful
medium for reputation management.
Second, reputation takes schools 'under
the skin' and invites them to consider
their cultural fabric. Reputation
management is more than clever
slogans and can't be managed simply
by being embedded in marketing or
communication materials. Reputation
management involves well thought out
strategies based on market analysis and
research with all key interest holders.
Third, reputation is conceptually closely
associated with the culture of people-
focused, intangible professional services
such as education. It is therefore more
easily embraced and applied by everyone
in a school than other concepts like
'branding' or 'customer satisfaction',
which are primarily associated with
products and the commercial sector.
Building reputation capital
Reputation is derived from and
manageable via two sources: information
and experience. For consumers direct
experience is the key factor (students
as well as parents, staff, alumni and
others including suppliers will all
have direct experiences of the school).
For the external community that
will have no direct experience of the
school, information counts more.
Schools seeking to analyse their current
reputation management practices must
examine what is offered in terms of
experience and how and to whom
it is communicated. Set out in the
accompanying text box are examples of
opportunities for schools to look 'under
the skin' as they seek to build their
reputation capital. Many of these areas
are largely untapped by schools. Staffing,
in particular, is rarely recognised or
managed as a strategic marketing asset.
To tease out the potential of each of
the levers identified for reputation
building and maintenance, market
analysis has a fundamental role to
play. It provides the essential basis for
development and evaluation of strategic
initiatives on reputation over time.
Broadly there are three key elements
to be managed to build reputation:
1. Credentials -- developing valued
attributes that ideally can be
interlinked in some way to form a
compelling package of benefits.
2. Desired (future ambition) -- the best
reputation is one that not only proves
you are in a good space but provides
strong evidence that you are going to
an even better one.
3. Perception -- recognition that
credentials and ambition must be
professionally communicated if desired
meaning is to be received, especially
but not only to audiences without
direct experience of the school.
Authenticity is essential in any attempt to
build and maintain reputation. Reputation
therefore requires formal management.
This means managing alignment between
parent, student and other interest holder
motivations and expectations, the school's
promises or propositions, and the living
out internally of those promises.
The Knowledge Partnership is a specialist
strategy, market analysis, communications
and reputation management research based
consultancy for the education sector operating
in Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Canada.
It has developed a reputation evaluation and
benchmarking process specifically for schools.
Dr Stephen Holmes is one of three founding
partners of The Knowledge Partnership.
His client list includes schools, colleges and
universities in every Australian state, across
New Zealand, the UK and Canada. For contact
details visit www.theknowledgepartnership.com.
Internal and external
Employee motivation and commitment
Employee team work and good practice
sharing and development
Quality of candidates when recruiting
Staff profile, including previous
employment history, ex-staff now
employed in high places
Contemporary processes including
parent feedback and reporting, student
progress monitoring and parent
Volume of student applicants for
a place, to identify demand and
How easy or difficult it is to apply for a
place at the school
Satisfaction, development, progression
The school's position relative to other
well regarded schools -- who the school
is thought to be like
Reputable connections, such as
domestic and international partnerships
Media profile, in terms of editorial not
Loyalty of students and parents,
measurable via referrals which can be
discerned through enrolment patterns
Candidate profile -- what sort of
student/parent (like minded)
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