Marketing & Communications Manager (Southbank International School)
At the end of 2017 Southbank embarked on a mission to fill its newest building in central London for September 2018. In order to do this we knew we would need to develop a robust campaign and an even stronger marketing strategy to attract our target audience – international families in London.
After collaborating with senior staff, teachers, parents and students we worked with a creative agency to develop a marketing campaign that represented Southbank’s unique culture and offer. We pushed this campaign on digital platforms, in the press and in and around our schools to ensure we were visible to those international families who were looking for a school in London. However, in order to considerably increase our student intake, we had to identify audiences we weren’t reaching and ask ourselves why not.
Whilst Southbank’s present families and those we currently reach out to are predominantly expats, research identified a new audience we should be targeting – inspired locals. These are British families or families with an international background who have settled in Britain and are feeling a bit disillusioned with the British Curriculum and are seeking an alternative. But the big question was how do we reach this audience?
Since selecting a school for a child can be an emotional process, we felt most parents would be seeking advice from their peers about which schools to consider for their child. Word of mouth was our strongest tool, but we weren’t sure how to encourage this. We were aware of parenting sites and forums such as Mumsnet and plenty of parent groups on Facebook, but we started to think about other ways we can reach families via parents. It was at this point, when brainstorming about how parents could be influenced, that we thought about reaching our audience via influencers – bloggers who have a large following on social media.
For an influencer post to be effective, it had to be authentic. We sought the help of an agency who had access to a network of some of London’s biggest bloggers. After whittling down a large list we compiled a final list of invitees. Two dads
and four moms, both international and British were selected. Confident in our product, we invited 6 influencers to tour our campuses individually. Each tour was approached like any other visit with a parent. The influencers all came while school was in session and could experience Southbank’s pulse themselves. All of the bloggers were parents with young children who posted predominantly about parenthood and life in London. The idea was to have them write a blog about their visit and opinion then link to the blog via their social channels.
We knew that many families in our untapped market weren’t aware of the IB. Those few who were, tended only to know about the Diploma Programme (16+) but were often unaware of the Primary and Middle Years Programmes. Therefore these parents didn’t see the IB as relevant to them, especially if their children were younger. We saw this as a barrier for local families, so our focus, when on the tours with the influencers, was to give a comprehensive overview of the IB as well as what made Southbank special and unique. We hoped to inspire the influencers to present the IB as a great alternative to the traditional British education for their followers, but in an organic way. We presented our school as it was and hoped the influencers would post their honest opinion. Luckily the end results were positive.
As expected, the 6 influencers were very impressed by what they saw. Like most local parents, many weren’t aware of the IB and those who were didn’t quite understand it and weren’t really considering an IB education for their child. By giving them a tour of the school, rather than spoon feeding them with what we wanted them to write, they were able to offer their own view of the school and the IB. This resulted in some very strong and positive blogs about Southbank and some persuasive arguments for why they themselves were genuinely considering Southbank and the IB for their child. The influencers wrote in their own words and spoke to their audiences about Southbank in a way we as a brand would not have been able to. They were a lot more convincing than we could ever hope to be too!
While we were very lucky with the outcomes of the bloggers’ experiences, we understood that we were running a risk. Inviting influencers in for a ‘raw’ experience of the school could have been a less than ideal experience, and therefore resulted in negative exposure. We didn’t create presentations, or have them meet with the leadership teams at the campuses to have them ‘pitch’ the school. The bloggers spoke with teachers, met students, and were able to create genuine content about their experience. This was essential in order to reach those desired audiences in a meaningful way.
The influencer campaign was a great success in engaging with parents, both local and international. It gave us the opportunity to use long form content to help inform and change minds regarding the IB – especially amongst local families. The posts were going to be read by those parents who were interested in alternative schooling options for their children.
More than 120k people were reached when combining all 6 posts made by the influencers. Over 5.7k people engaged with this content by either liking or sharing the posts, and there were many comments on the post with people discussing how difficult it is to decide on a school for their child and the pressure on them to make the right choices. The campaign also drove an additional 81 visits to the Southbank website.
The success of this campaign has convinced us that speaking to parents via their peers is a good strategy. We are discussing how we can repeat this activity or do something similar both with individual influencers but also on a larger scale by booking discussion threads on parent forums like Mumsnet. So watch this space!
About Southbank International School
Southbank International School is London’s leading IB world school, with campuses in Hampstead, Kensington and Westminster – and a brand new site opening in Central London this year. With over seventy nationalities on our roll, we live and breathe the spirit of internationalism, as reflected in our three programmes of learning as well as the many activities outside the classroom which enhance and enrich an individual’s education, and the life of the school as a whole.