This morning I read a terrific blog by Mia Major, the content marketing manager at Finalsite. We have never met, but I could tell from her topic that we were marketing soulmates, as she has been reading my mind and my mail, so to speak, for the last couple of decades.
Mia provided a list of top ten phrases to avoid in our communications, particularly on websites. I would extend that list to any conversation we have about our schools in print or in person.
By definition, these cliches no longer distinguish our schools. In fact, they insult our prospective families because we are telling them what to think, rather than demonstrating value and letting them draw their own conclusions.
Here's her list, with a few of my own added. Her blog is much more instructional, with examples of better practice!
1. Academic excellence. Everyone claims this. So what? By whose standards? Prove it!
2. Tight-knit community. Often interpreted as "exclusive" or impenetrable to newcomers.
3. Hands-on learning. I agree that learning by doing is great. But this phrase is ubiquitous. Come to think about it, the guilds and the apprentice system of the Middle Ages were built on it.
4. Outstanding student-faculty relationships. For the prices we charge, these relationships better be outstanding! They are at the heart of any good education: "Teach students, not subjects."
5. Unique. Who isn't?
6. Beautiful campus. Whose isn't ... in its own unique way?
7. Diverse. Show us how. You may have several different kinds of diversity. The question is, how inclusive are you?
8. Innovative. If you are not on the leading edge of teaching and learning, you're toast. Again, quit making the claim and prove it.
9. Nurturing. Unless it's your policy to cane recalcitrant students, this is an expected ingredient for any great education.
10. Academic rigor. Meaningless and endless homework, intended to create stress. OK if you think that's the way students learn best.
11. Warm, family environment. Most families I know are dysfunctional in their own way.
12. Educating the whole child. Again, every school claims this. Show the breadth and depth of your total curriculum and how it intentionally unfolds and builds, and you won't need to resort to stating the obvious.
The point is to quantify, prove, demonstrate, and show your differentiators.
How do you make a difference? Measure inputs and outcomes. Examine your real value proposition, which lets people judge for themselves whether you are right for them.
Let's quit insulting our customers by telling them what they should think about us. Too often, other schools are saying exactly the same thing. As a result, we ALL lose credibility.