As part of the company’s social media team, I’m struck by how quickly new marketing opportunities have opened up in just a few years, requiring one to stay on top of trends and technological learning curves. This transformation is far faster than anything I’ve seen over the past decade and a half handling the production end of traditional print advertising for Porter Sargent Handbooks.
I helped the company make its initial transition from camera-ready layouts to electronic files, finally giving us control over text changes as well as photo sizing and placement—no more notes to the printer, and no more four weeks between sending files and receiving proofs. This change saved time but was by no means without its problems (remember post script files and their sneaky formatting issues?), so we happily embraced the advent of the PDF file a few years later. This altered not just our own approach but also that of our advertisers, who were now getting affordable software that enabled them to design ads themselves, giving them a new alternative to using an outside agency or supplying us with text and photos for our standardized format.
Some of those early ads may have been rudimentary in design, but larger images and graphics—coupled with more concise text—enabled schools to convey an immediate feel for their campus and to demonstrate how they stood out from others competing for the same students. Still, the change in the overall look of our Featured Schools section has been an evolution—the number that switched to sending me a PDF layout each year continues to grow, but it is incremental. Many stick with the traditional style associated with The Handbook of Private Schools, first published in 1915.
But this luxury of tradition does not translate well into an environment where the life span of a tweet is considered to be hours, or even less. A school’s Twitter account can do a lot to reinforce the image that it projects through more traditional means of outreach—and to help attract the private school student who will be a good match—but how does that work in conjunction with a Facebook page? What tools are available to determine whether students and their parents are using Google+ to research schools? Moreover, how do you use these very same avenues to maintain a relationship with alumni, who require a different message to keep up interest and donations? Embracing social media is required to remain in sync with a generation for which technology is second nature—and that isn’t accustomed to waiting long for better versions of apps and devices.
It’s clear that you have to act now, but knowing how to maintain branding and adapt quickly may be less obvious. I can give you the specs for a print ad, but Carnegie can assess your newer forms of communication to ensure that all those countless bits of data flying daily into the online sphere are on point with other marketing efforts. And if your school still needs to take that first step into social media, Carnegie can guide you. If @PorterSargent can tweet, so can you.