Admissions Team Turnover? 5 Safeguards for Making a Smooth Transition
Whenever there is turnover on a school’s marketing or admissions staff, it creates a bit of angst for everyone. Since these positions usually handle recruitment and retention, it is well understood by the team in place and the new hire that the success of the school is at stake. That’s why it’s so important to start off on the right foot, establishing efficient processes and building the foundations for strong relationships.
For more insight to the process, we interviewed two individuals who have just been through it firsthand at Grace Christian Academy in Knoxville, TN (www.gcarams.org): Teri Rash, the school’s new Director of Marketing and Communications, and Elizabeth Kose, new Director of Admissions. Before Elizabeth was hired, Teri had been responsible for the admissions, marketing and communications effort.
Understand the Job Description
When starting any new position, it’s wise to have a clear understanding of your role, responsibilities, and expectations. School marketing and/or admissions directors often wear many hats. The job description should help you understand how and where you will be spending your time, as well as any new skills you’ll need to master.
“Giving tours, onboarding families, and recruiting new students seemed like a lot to have on my plate when I was new to the job,” Kose explained. “Also, learning RenWeb from a new perspective was a big challenge.”
Rash recalled that it was daunting, albeit exciting, moving into her new role as the director of marketing and communications, as it was a newly created position. “In my case, I had the freedom to shape the position and even helped write the job description during my first month.” As a result of this transition, she was able to focus her efforts on marketing and communications.
If there’s no job description in place, don’t hesitate to volunteer to help develop one. This is a worthwhile investment of time for both you and the school.
Prioritize Your Strategies
Coming into any new position, you’ll likely have a dozen fresh ideas, plans, and strategies bouncing around in your head. Your new team may also have goals in mind that they’re looking for your help to work toward. Remember the old adage, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and know that prioritizing is the best way to see these things come to fruition.
“I knew from the beginning that our online presence needed significant attention and improvement,” Rash said. “ I had dozens of ideas and a tentative marketing plan that I’d developed, but it was hard to know what the highest priorities should be – there are many great strategies and concepts and not enough time to implement them all at once!”
She expanded, “Our school administration had already decided, thankfully, to begin a partnership with Rick Newberry of Enrollment Catalyst. Once we began working with Rick, he quickly helped me pinpoint the most critical areas that needed attention and develop a laser focus on the strategies that would yield the best return.”
Search for Learning Opportunities
Establish a mindset of continual improvement by seeking out opportunities to learn and grow in your role. There are hundreds of webinars, conferences, and even readings that can expand your horizons and help you stay up-to-date with current trends.
Rash had previously been working with a marketing company, and Kose was transitioning from a second-grade teaching position at Grace. They both recognized that they had a lot to learn.
“Even with twelve years of freelance experience with a local marketing company, I knew the strategies for an educational setting would be very specific and unique from other markets,” Rash explained.
From their successes in implementing new enrollment and marketing strategies this year, Rash and Kose are excited to continue to grow in their roles.
Establish Strong Lines of Communication
Even if you’re technically a “one-man/one-woman team,” no marketing or admissions director can lead a school to success alone. Develop open lines of communication with others in the school — whether it’s your admissions team, principals, or specific teachers.
“It is important for admissions and marketing to work closely as a team so we can cast a large net to families. For example, we have created close relationships with the art teacher and librarian as they are providing activities for children in our community,” Kose said.
Furthermore, you may consider external sources that can help you achieve your goals.
Rash added, “It’s been exciting to develop relationships with the local media; the coverage has been beneficial, providing a look at our school community and student accomplishments.”
In addition, it is critical for the admissions and marketing staff to meet regularly with the head of school to discuss processes, strategies and results.
Partner with Parents
You will find that parents are some of your best teammates when marketing a school. They’ve been through the selection process and hand-picked your learning community for their child. As a result, they are highly qualified to help you understand what marketing messages resonate and uniquely equipped to share their experiences with other parents.
Rash shared, “The emphasis on “storytelling” to convey the life of our campus is my favorite aspect of this role! Our school families have gotten involved and have shared great accounts of the positive experiences they are having at our school – and there’s no better story to share! I’m extremely thankful for the excitement and support from all of these individuals.”
Congratulations to Elizabeth Kose and Teri Rash at Grace Christian Academy for their outstanding enrollment results this year. Since 2012, the school’s enrollment had been declining and, with a large graduating class last year, the prospects of growth seemed challenging. However, they were able to experience increased retention to 94 percent, as well as a 36 percent increase in new student applications this year. As they began the year this fall, the school is stable in its enrollment for the first first time in six years and is in a much better position for continued growth.