Justin Smith on attracting the very best teaching talent

Justin Smith, director of marketing and management at Wymondham College on attracting the very best teaching talent

Recently – for an article in Education Executive – we spoke to Justin Smith, school business management consultant as , about successful school marketing campaigns and how to attract the very best teaching talent

What would you say are the key principles in marketing your school to teachers?

More than anything it’s about understanding your key messages – what are your core values and what makes your school such an attractive proposition – for example, what are your CPD arrangements, do you have a leadership programme for new staff/new teachers, do they have a way of progressing through your school? Can you articulate your school’s positive reputation and do you have good staff retention rates? All these key messages need to be spelt out in your advertising to ensure you attract the very best staff.

How do you make that work in conjunction with a broader marketing plan? Are there many crossovers and differences?

The key to all marketing processes is to ensure you have a plan – a strategic approach that fits within your wider school development plan. Your strategic marketing plan must have an immediate buy-in from, and oversight by, key stakeholders and be a living, evolving document that can be changed and adapted to circumstances. You would identify ‘attracting new, high quality teaching staff’, for example, as a priority and develop a programme, actions and timescales designed to deliver this.

Your school website will be the main source of information regarding vacancies so make sure these are easy to locate

When advertising vacancies, what would you say are the most successful platforms for marketing to prospective candidates?

It probably depends on the post you’re advertising, especially as traditional print advertising can be quite costly. That said, trade press can be a way of communicating with a specific audience while social media can reach a broader audience and, of course, it’s far less expensive. LinkedIn can be used to appeal to professionals – and remember that 65% of Twitter users are under the age of 35, so that’s a platform worth utilising too. At Wymondham College we have a very strong social media presence and we know from feedback at open events that most people learn about college activities via our social media output. Your school website will be the main source of information regarding vacancies so make sure these are easy to locate. Remember to pull in those key messages regarding opportunities to progress/CPD etc. – high quality staff, by their very nature, are likely to want to progress and develop their career – show prospective candidates that you can help and that your school is the place to be!

Are there certain approaches that you can take to make sure you stand out amidst the competition when advertising vacancies?

Be different!  Remember Seth Godin, the best-selling entrepreneur and marketeer said, “In a society with too many choices and too little time our natural inclination is to ignore most of it.” So, rather than re-print that advert you use all the time, how about re-thinking the wording and imagine yourself applying for the post – what would attract you?

We have a student panel with their own set of questions at interview and they also oversee the college tours for prospective candidates

How do you attract, screen, recruit and hire the very best teaching talent at Wymondham College?

We always involve students in the process, especially if it’s a fairly senior post. We have a student panel with their own set of questions at interview and they also oversee the college tours for prospective candidates. This works both ways; their honesty and transparency is welcomed by candidates whilst their straightforward feedback to the panel is really valuable!

Don’t assume you need to spend vast sums on traditional approaches

How important is student and staff involvement?

Wymondham College is a large state boarding school and we’ve just begun working on some ideas involving student-led videos. We’ve developed teams of students within each boarding house – known as the ‘Press Pack’ – who generate content and publicity stories surrounding life in the boarding house and we post these video clips on our website. Similarly, we are just in the process of editing a new promotional film which focuses on the lives of one boy and girl at the college – parents are far more interested in what the children have to say than the traditional and rather stuffy approach of hearing from the headteacher in a dark, wood-clad office!

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When starting a marketing campaign what would be your top three must-dos?

  • Define your key messages and be different!
  • Try to evaluate what you’re spending your budget on – your conversion rates. Don’t assume you need to spend vast sums on traditional approaches.
  • Ask for feedback and views from a ‘critical friend’, a fresh pair of eyes from someone outside education can be quite revealing!

Are there any ‘don’ts’ that you’ve encountered?

  • Don’t just carry on as usual – unless, of course, you want the same results!
  • Don’t keep it to yourself – try to involve others in your marketing plan – you might be surprised, some people are happy to help!
  • Don’t forget that fellow staff and students are your best ambassadors – invest in them first – involve them and communicate with them.

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