The Woodlynde School in suburban Philadelphia has a distinctive mission, providing a great college prep education to students with learning differences. However, their experience partnering with Kelsh Wilson on a school-wide branding project teaches at least one lesson that any school, college, or non-profit can use.
We all know that a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing, and in the world of marketing communications, the #1 bit of knowledge most people have is that you need to focus on what makes you unique. #2 is that you are supposed to move beyond “features and benefits” to talk about your mission and impact in big, inspiring ways. Both points have validity, but if you take them too literally or too far, you can end up with communications that fail to speak to the issues your audience members care about most—or at least the ones they care about first.
Take the example of Woodlynde School in Strafford, PA, a K-12 college preparatory day school that has served students with learning differences since 1976. When Woodlynde wants to inspire, it’s not hard. Its everyday stories of student success bring tears to people’s eyes. But those stories are just part of what the families of prospective students want to hear.
As Kelsh Wilson discovered through a process of message-building focus groups, what’s more important, at least at the outset, are key facts: Exactly what kinds of learning differences does Woodlynde support and which does it not? What methods are employed and what services offered? Is specialized reading instruction daily or weekly—offered in class or through “pull-outs”?
If these points seem surprisingly detailed, a conversation with any Woodlynde family would reveal their value. The answers to these questions tell families of children with learning differences whether Woodlynde is a potential fit—and whether they want to learn more or not. They also prove the value of informational marketing.
It’s important to note that this kind of marketing is not just for LD schools. Consider these scenarios:
You are a consortium of universities offering online graduate degrees in engineering. People want to know… What degrees and specializations can they choose? Are courses synchronous or asynchronous ? How many can you take at a time and how long does it take to finish?
You are a community school of the arts offering lessons and classes in music, art, and dance. People want to know… What instruments can they choose at each branch location? Do you have individual or group instruction? Do you start just in the fall or all year round? Do you have evening lessons?
You are a summer camp operation at a school or college. People want to know… What programs do you offer for each age camper? Which ones are scheduled for which weeks? Is robotics all day long, or do you also get to play outside? What about after care and early drop-off? And lunch?
Of course, it’s possible to answer these questions and still have bandwidth left over to focus on your quality, your philosophy, or other less tangible selling points. The key is to identify the facts most people want to know, present them in a clear, brief way, and do it consistently every time.
Doing so not only gives people the answers they want, but also has persuasive power. It positions you as the kind of organization that’s easy to deal with and that delivers customer satisfaction. And it keeps folks from clicking away to your competitors.