Encore! The reality of Season B admissions

 

by Pam Mason-Norsworthy
CRANE strategic partnerships manager

 

I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
–Douglas Adams, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

‘Twas a time in the independent school world when prospects contacted schools in the fall then visited some weeks later. They submitted applications sometime around the holidays then waited for the mail carrier to deliver the hoped-for good news just as the crocuses—or daffodils and dogwoods in the case of southern climes—were preparing their spring show of color. It was a simpler time.

But a convergence of realities has transformed the traditional admissions “season” into a continuous loop—or at the very least, a Season B. Our new digital lives mean applicants wait longer to apply because they can hit that “submit” button on the iPad at the eleventh hour—or perhaps, long past it.

What used to be the first hurdle prospects needed to clear to demonstrate serious interest has transmogrified into a hurdle for the admissions team to clear: “They inquired. They visited. They emailed. They called. They started an application. But how do we get them to complete and submit the darn thing?”

The rise of the Millennial parent

 

Millennial parents are doing their demographic research and in many markets, are well aware that the fewer number of four-year-olds out there means that their child won’t necessarily get turned down just because the paperwork is late. In their book Millennials with Kids, Jeff Fromm and Marissa Vidler assert that today’s parents want a very tailored and individualized education experience for their children. And perhaps that begins with the application process, where they may test the school’s willingness to consider their family’s particular situation and timeframe outside of published deadlines.

With qualified families operating on their timetable—not the school’s—social media, earned media, and website newsfeeds must tell a compelling story all year long. Not just in the fall when admissions season kicks off. Not just during the weeks before Open House. Not just as a reminder when the application or financial aid deadlines near. But ALL. THE. TIME.

So how can schools respond?

Even well-reputed schools must increasingly go beyond simply posting adorable photos of the sixth-grade field trip with the caption “Sixth graders had a great time at the Air and Space Museum!” Instead, they must help the uninitiated decode the message in the photos. And whenever possible, must tie the event or activity to pedagogy, academic program, and school culture.

Sixth-graders got an inside look at how history, physics, and politics merged during our visit to the Air and Space Museum. We examined how the Space Race catapulted engineers, scientists, and mathematicians to new discoveries— all to ensure the Russians didn’t get too far ahead of us! It’s part of our Cold War study, which students incorporate into grade-wide presentations later this year.

While this kind of post requires a bigger investment from the communications team—to connect with the teachers involved to get an authentic picture of the value of the experience—it also does far more heavy lifting in appealing to prospects than a straight-tell caption could ever do. While we’d all like the admissions work to be wrapped up in late spring, technology and market forces have changed the game. So remember to shape every public-facing message through a marketing and positioning lens all year long—not just in the fall. And have a little patience with those running-late Millennials. They simply want to make the very best choice for their child. And that, increasingly, takes time.

Photo credit:  HowToStartABlogOnline.net

Resolutions

by Dr. Leslie Batty,  CRANE writer 

It is always during a passing state of mind
that we make lasting resolutions.
Marcel Proust

It seems as if the new year just started, but here in Atlanta we’re swiftly rounding the corner into spring. Our dogwoods and our Blue Ridge foothills and our weather-beaten, ill-fated Falcons banners are awash in a glorious, clear light.

As we look back on the winter that was at the crane offices, we notice that 2017’s herd of new year’s resolutions has already been rather dramatically culled. Originally they included the tried and true inclinations to climb more stairs and eat less caramel, to practice gratitude and get to bed at a decent hour. A few colleagues pledged to watch less television and one was determined to spend more time roasting more things in a Big Green Egg.

scrabble-resolutions

Most of these promises were left out, in what passes for the cold here, sometime in early January.  Now, at the three-month mark, it seems the resolutions that survived are ones that aligned most closely and meaningfully with our existing values. Our nature-loving colleague has made good on her promise to hit the mountain trails twice a week. Our resident bibliophile is plowing through his book-per-week at top speed. The office sugar junkies/caramel disavowers, however, have long since slunk back to the candy drawer in our company kitchen.

The bottom line seems to be that we strive most strongly toward more of whatever already resonates with us. And perhaps that’s why new year’s resolutions, for all their storied fragility, tend to be substantial rather than superficial. The best resolution—the one most deeply felt and the most likely to stick—is really just a promise to circle back to the best of what’s already in us.

The same undercurrent of authenticity shapes our work at CRANE year round. Our clients don’t come to us to be reinvented, but for help to reintroduce their existing, differentiating truths. To flesh out what they already do beautifully. To better connect with the kinds of students and families they already serve brilliantly. Together, we resolve to create powerful, enduring messaging that sticks—because it connects to the best of what was already there all along, waiting to be excavated and exclaimed.

Magnifying Glass Old Book Dark Globe Lantern

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Making your magic marketable: translating teaching for best-fit families

by Dr. Leslie Batty,  CRANE writer 

aristotle

We are what we repeatedly do.
–Aristotle

We live in a mysterious world where, every day, things happen that defy explanation. We’re not just referring to mental telepathy, housecats riding Roombas, or just about every aspect of the current presidential campaign here.

We’re also talking about people expertly knitting socks and easing pineapple upside-down cakes out of pans and onto platters perfectly intact—all without the slightest intimation of how to explain the technique of what they’ve just accomplished. Turns out, doing and explaining are two vastly different feats.

It’s no surprise, then, that sometimes we see even the best educators struggling to explain themselves. To define their pedagogy. To tell us how they do what they do so well.

And we find that even truly awesome teachers can retreat into the shorthand of buzzwords. Or simply knit their brows or throw up their hands in frustration. And, good gracious, rightly so. It’s hard to explain how teachers teach and how learners learn—to pin down that kind of pure magic—in mere words.
magic-book

This presents a pressing dilemma. If transformative teaching is so difficult to define—even for experienced teachers—how can we ever hope to convey an illuminating, inspiring sense of how it all works in your school, in ways that reach prospective families?

The answer lies in backtracking from wobbly ontological abstractions to something much more concrete. In short, we ask educators better questions: Not what is your teaching philosophy? but what do you do in real time for real students?  Not tell us about your methods but show us your best moves. And when we pose the right queries, we get the most revealing and relevant responses. We get stories and examples and memories—and profound, powerful insights into how your school helps students learn.

Toward a clearer view(book)
A few years ago, St. George’s Independent School was puzzling over how to make their innovative methods more accessible to Memphis, where tradition is vitally important and classic pedagogy is deeply respected. Fortunately, St. George’s teachers are intentional, reflective, and effusive about their teaching, and they were able to flesh out how the SGIS approach woProcessed with VSCOcam with m3 presetrks in human, anecdotal terms.

They detailed day-to-day activities and outlined year-long projects. They described assignments and shared touching, specific, individual outcomes. And at the end of our discussions, we funneled these vibrant slices of the St. George’s experience into vivid scenes.

At St. George’s, your child also inventories the supplies for a make-believe pizzeria and tracks the movements of an imaginary herd of buffalo. Later, he studies photosynthesis on the sun-dappled paths of a nearby nature preserve and hikes through a cavern to explore the bat habitats he’s been studying in class.

Instead of listing subjects and skill sets to tout what St. George’s students are learning—addition and subtraction, ecology and history—we offer a series of snapshots to show prospective parents how they learn.

At St. George’s, your child also uses scientific principles to design a golf course. He applies an understanding of forces and vectors to the construction of nine holes and adds an electronic circuit to notify players when they sink a putt. And then he donates the game to the junior kindergarten for field day.

Rather than unleashing an avalanche of jargon to claim experiential learning, problem-solving assignments, project-based learning, service learning, and real-world concepting, we invite prospective families to view all these methods through the lens of a single, multi-disciplinary project.

Starting with evocative examples of what your teachers and students do every day in the classroom equips your school with the details you need to translate your transformative pedagogy clearly and compellingly. Like a cat on a Roomba, the best teaching can’t really be explained. It must be seen, if only in the mind’s eye, to be believed.

 

 

 

Warming your website welcome letter: from navigational chart to intriguing invitation

by Dr. Ann Gelder, CRANE writer 

The newest computer can merely compound, at speed,
the oldest problem in the relations between human beings,
and in the end the communicator will be confronted
with the old problem of what to say and how to say it.

–Edward R. Murrow

murrow

In approximately one million ways, computers have compounded the problem of what to say, and how we say it.

Your school’s website presents a case in point. Especially as busy, distracted, often anxious prospective parents comb through your site—plus those of five or ten or more other schools— looking for … what, exactly?

AP offerings and athletic teams, college matriculation lists and tuition costs—yes, no doubt. But above and beyond the nuts and bolts, your prospects seek a way in.

Not just your admissions procedures, but the key to understanding who you are as a school. For that, more often than not, they turn to the Head of School’s Welcome page.

And then, just possibly, they turn away again.

Because, just possibly, the welcome letter wasn’t quite what they were hoping for. Instead of quickly and powerfully conveying what your school, and only your school, offers, the letter might, for example, dash through a few paragraphs of generic jargon (“We value critical thinking, diversity, and a whole-child approach”), followed by a brief and probably unnecessary site-navigation guide (“Click on Athletics to learn about our sports programs”). And so, rather than “Welcome! Come on in!,” the prospect may hear, “Move along. Nothing more to see here.”

We’re not saying that every school’s welcome letter reads like this. Even if many do, they haven’t necessarily lost a prospect. But a less-than-optimal welcome letter represents a missed opportunity to draw the prospect further into your school’s world.

So what goes into a really welcoming welcome letter?

Writing Clipart 349

Take a look at your letter, and see if it includes these essential elements:

  • A clear, differentiating statement of your school’s vision. What kinds of individuals, thinkers, and citizens do you help create? How and why? *

At Langley, we know children’s social and emotional acuity is critical to their academic success—that’s why we intentionally nurture both in equal measure. We graduate uncommonly optimistic, grounded, poised, and kind learners and thinkers—citizens of the world, wholly prepared to thrive in the nation’s top high schools, and to lead lives of integrity and self-defined purpose. (Elinor Scully, The Langley School, McLean, Virginia)

  • Specific, differentiating examples of your vision in action.

Trevor’s school architecture embodies [our] commitment to children. Student-centered common spaces define the Trevor experience. Here, teachers and students collaborate in a dynamic manner, and together, navigate a classic curriculum that leads to academic mastery, innovative thinking, and a global perspective. (Scott R. Reisinger, Trevor Day School, New York, New York)

  • A compelling sense of what it’s like to learn and grow at this school every day, not just for students, but for parents, teachers, and staff members, too.

You hear, in the laughter and excitement of our lower school students, the lure of curiosity and the thrill of discovery. You see, in the faces of our middle school students, the joy they find in discovering emerging interests and latent talents. You feel, in the passionate exchanges among our upper school students, the confidence that comes when sustained and focused investigations reveal to them their own values and convictions. For all of our students, learning is powerful and transformative, and it’s a great pleasure to watch it unfold. (Christopher P. Garten, The Seven Hills School, Cincinnati, Ohio)

  • A warm, engaging voice that doesn’t just tell prospects who you are, but actually embodies your school’s and your head’s (merged) personalities.

When I walk through our light-filled hallways and see our 4th graders discussing the nuances of evolution and revolution then and now, Kindergarteners installing Goldsworthy-inspired art in our hallways, 2nd graders preparing to present their history of the Seaport to a community board hearing, 4-year-olds performing plays based on original beanstalk stories that grew out of their study of edible plants… I know we have unearthed a secret that many have spoken about but not enough experience: powerful, deep learning is joyful. (Allison Gaines Pell, The Blue School, New York, New York)

In each of these letters, the schools, through their heads, express themselves. In a few paragraphs, they give prospects a memorable and meaningful sense of who they are, what they do, and—always, always, always—why.

sm-Oakwood_ATP_0515126_LR* *Disclosure: Each of these schools has been a CRANE client.

 

 

 

 

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Sticking our beak into the arena

For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.

–T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

The silence, we’ve been told, has been deafening.

And not in a good way, like during meditation, but in the disconcerting “The Sound of Silence” way.

hellodarknessSHERLOCK

For years and years now—and a few more years on top of those—CRANE has been steadily busy doing what we’re supposed to be doing: Helping our clients claim their rightful market position. Establish their institutional voice. Adopt a dynamic visual aesthetic. Grapple with big strategic issues. Achieve internal alignment. And, on the whole, grow as healthy, self-actualized institutions prepared for whatever happens next.

On that front, we’re all systems go.

But. . .

We’ve been equally unbusy establishing our own digital presence. Blogging. Posting. Sharing ideas. Making ourselves a known entity outside the small circles in which we interact face-to-face. And perhaps most importantly, we’ve been unbusy applying to ourselves the same social media advice that we have grown so accustomed to giving our clients.

Hello darkness, indeed.

So, after a few friends politely questioned why they couldn’t follow CRANE online, why, aside from our website, scant evidence of our existence could be found anywhere on the web, we knew it was time.

Shakespear

Actually, we realized that the time had long passed. But we meta-realized now was the time to actually do something about our lack of a social media presence, rather than wax poetic about it and then lose ourselves, once more, to the Siren-song of inertia.

Shakespeare probably put it best: Action is eloquence. So here we go.

Nomenclature

CRANE isn’t just a name. It’s a metaphor! We’re full of surprises. So of course our blog name—in the fold—ties into our overall metaphor of transformative brandwork.

  • Start with a piece of origami paper—something that possesses inherent beauty and worth.
  • Apply expertise—fold it in very specific, often difficult ways. But never sacrifice the integrity of the paper by cutting, gluing, decorating, or appliqueing.
  • Release the paper’s full potential. The two-dimensional paper was a beautiful thing. The three-dimensional creation is a fully realized and transformed idea.

Crane origamiThe expertise of origami lies in the artfulness and precision applied in the fold. Mission-driven institutions, like a one-of-a-kind piece of origami paper, already possess all the inherent worth they ever need. By expertly “folding” in precise ways—by applying the metamarketing process—we help reveal the full, three-dimensional potential residing within.

Metaphors aside, we also want to invite anyone interested in education, in marketing and branding, in communication and design and strategy into the fold to learn more along with us.

Expectations

We’re not going to try to catch up all at once and inundate this page with blogging for the sake of blogging. You can expect monthly blogs from various CRANEs sharing their perspectives on current topics in education and branding, on writing and design, on recently attended conferences, on books and articles we’ve read, on whatever seems interesting and relevant to us and adds value to the lives of our audiences. We’ll sprinkle in some interviews.

Maybe even some pearls of wisdom from our founder, Patti Crane. In between blogs, we’ll be active on Twitter and Facebook, to slake the thirst for CRANE you’re sure to develop shortly after reading this.

Should you choose to follow us, you’ll get some glimpses—fleeting, impressionistic, incomplete, but glimpses nonetheless—into the people behind the CRANE curtain. We’ve got an interesting collection of personalities all doing and making five days a week at the Nest (that’s what we call our office, because, again, the metaphor), and we think we could stand to be slightly less anonymous to our clients, prospects, and peers in the industry. But we’re not going to be too cute about it either and post pictures of the deer grazing on the blackberry bushes behind the office. Well, ok, no promises there. But if we do that, we’ll figure out a way to tie it into something at least tangentially relevant.

"I had my own blog for a while, but I decided to go back to just pointless…" - New Yorker Cartoon
Alex Gregory cartoon originally published in The New Yorker on September 12, 2005.

Anomaly

This post is going to be as CRANE-centric and naval-gazey as we get on here. You’ll be hearing from all sorts of CRANEs on this blog, but not so much about CRANE. By us, but not about us. You get the point.

So thanks for your patience. We know you’ve been waiting with bated breath for years for this very occasion, and that very likely you’re right now frantically messaging your friends and loved ones with the triumphant news: CRANE has a blog! Let’s cash in the 401k and head for Vegas! But first, we need to locate the fatted calf!

But seriously, we do look forward to the conversations and connections that will surely come out of this new venture. The deafening silence ends now. Our earnest intent is to fill that space with content that will at least make you think, and sometimes laugh, and sometimes just nod along with us, and other times disagree. We’re so happy to have you along.

Here’s where you can follow us:
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn