A Conversation with Lane Rice About Word of Mouth Marketing

During the past year, Lane Rice has served as the Director of Admissions at Covenant Classical School in Fort Worth, TX. She has worked alongside of Eric Cook, Head of School, to grow the school’s enrollment through a focused “grassroots” effort with their parents. I have had the opportunity to coach her through my Enrollment Catalyst Program.

Lane Rice, Director of Admission, Covenant Classical School

Lane Rice, Director of Admission, Covenant Classical School

Lane understands the power of working through her team of parent ambassadors. In a previous blog post, I shared an interview with Lane about how she launched a parent ambassadors program at CCS. Through her relational and intentional work in admissions, CCS is expecting double-digit enrollment growth.

Lane also attended the WOMM-U Conference in May. Because she was only one of two school admissions leaders at the conference, I thought it would be important for you to read her thoughts about the benefit of this professional development opportunity.

By the way, WOMMA is sponsoring a WOMMA Summit in Nashville, TN, on November 18-20, 2013, that I would like to attend. I would also like to see several other private school leaders join me at the conference.

The following is my interview with Lane:

Describe what you experienced at the WOMM-U Conference in May? How did the conference meet your expectations?

“The WOMM-U conference was really informative. There were so many people there with such a wide range of expertise that it was hard to choose which breakout sessions to attend! The keynote speakers were very knowledgeable. Jonah Berger, professor of marketing at the Wharton School of Business at Penn, delivered an amazing keynote and sent each of us away with his book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. It was a great read – I finished it in one night. The conference itself was well-planned and well-executed with many speakers from all different organizations with differing areas of expertise.”

What were some of the most important ideas and takeaway concepts that you gleaned from the speakers?

“One of the most shocking things I learned was that only about 7% of word-of-mouth marketing actually takes place online. This was particularly interesting to me, not necessarily because it was shocking, but because it really validated the power of personal storytelling that we’ve encouraged our ambassadors to utilize this year. Our ambassadors tell stories; that’s their primary job. Some stories are of course more suited for social media platforms (like a Facebook album of our new building progress), but our most effective stories are told in personal conversation.

I also went to a session specifically on storytelling. The presenter stated that it’s important that we make sure that all of our stories (even those on social media!) have a story arc. I think it’s easy to forget this when creating a social media campaign, so it was a great reminder to think critically about how our stories play out on social media.”

What are some word of mouth marketing ideas that you plan to implement at your school as a result of the conference?

“1.  We’re revisiting and reviewing our social media presence. Now that we’ve been intentional about storytelling via social media for about a year, we want to assess our year-long metrics and evaluate the effectiveness of our articulation of the mission and vision of the school on these platforms.

2.  Pour even more time and energy into the ambassador program. There were several sessions that showed the importance of a robust ambassador program, and it was affirmation that we’re certainly moving in the right direction and need to continue to invest in this program.

3.  Continue collecting and using stories from every aspect of Covenant student life.

4.  Be intentional about encouraging loyalty with our faculty and families by continuing to care for them well. This could include continuing to provide excellent customer service, creating a school store, providing more giveaways, or just being even more intentional about passing along words of encouragement as often as possible.”

What are your recommendations about attending future WOMMA conferences?

“Even though the WOMMA conference isn’t targeted directly toward schools, it’s still a great conference to attend because it teaches you how to use different venues and strategies to increase your school’s marketing reach without spending a lot of cash. As schools, we often don’t have the types of big budgets that allow us to buy airtime or billboards on a frequent basis. Andy Sernovitz says, “Advertising is the cost of being boring,” and we know that our schools are far from boring! WOMMA helps school marketers to strategically encourage the people that are already talking about our schools to talk more often and more effectively – and it works!”

Thanks Lane for sharing your experiences at the WOMM-U Conference! This seems like a great conference for private school admissions and marketing leaders to attend.

As I mentioned earlier, I am considering attending the WOMMA Summit on November 18-20 in Nashville, TN, and would love to connect with other school leaders. Let me know if you are interested. You can email me directly at Rick.Newberry@EnrollmentCatalyst.com.