The idea behind ‘Café Covie’ is simple. The underutilised kitchen attached to the school hall was opened each Wednesday morning. The Café counter opens to a fenced basketball court which creates a safe place for toddlers. Café style chairs and tables were added, some toys for young kids, a good quality coffee machine and grinder and a whole lot of passion. (You should see the IT Computer Guru on the coffee machine!)
From humble beginnings Café Covie has become a central meeting place for the school. The Café serves parents, staff and senior students from before school til the end of recess. The Café is run by a very passionate, organised and friendly member of staff with a fantastic volunteer army made up of parents and friends. All parents are expected to serve in the school each term in some way so helping in the cafe is counted towards this. As well as Wednesday mornings the Café operates for special functions like Colin Buchannan Concerts, School Musicals, fundraising morning teas plus Orientation Mornings for new families. As a school they seek to engage and honour the parents in the life of the school. Café Covie is seen as helping the school in this vision.
As well as providing great coffee, hot chocolates, good food (at competitive prices) the Café provides opportunity for Maths, Business Studies and Hospitality students to practice their skills. The Café is also part of the Community Service and internal work experience programs.
Like many commercial cafes the school offers loyalty cards and pre-purchase cards as an incentive. Staff also receive a Birthday card offering them a free drink and treat. It is simple but powerful.
Interestingly the Café was started before the school even offered a canteen. Due to the success of the weekly Café a canteen was opened on Mondays and Fridays from the same kitchen. There are requests to open Café more often but they like keeping it as a treat in the middle of the week!
Drop in and see for yourself. The toasted pear and raspberry bread with butter is a real winner! Check out Cafe Covie
PS: personally I don’t even like coffee – even the good stuff – but I do love good community! Fortunately for me Cafe Covie makes a great hot chocolate.
So let me tell you a story…
I was assisting a school with a marketing project. To help me learn about the school I went on a tour. As I went around I talked with teachers and students. I was interested. It was a slow tour because I wanted to hear their stories. I wanted to hear what they enjoyed, what they thought. Seeing some of the student work was good but hearing the stories behind it was far better.
In a few minutes I was hearing stories the Principal had never heard. Why? Simply because I was in a position to ask, linger and ask again. I was a stranger. It was unthreatening. It wasn’t a formal interview. They were not being reviewed.
Importantly the teachers were not in class so were not in a rush. The teachers appreciated my enthusiasm and interest. The stories were not of the brightest, fastest or most brilliant students. They were about what was memorable.
Some teachers had been there for many years. They still had a passion.
I was able to share with the Principal some of the stories. Some of them were stories he could have been using to share with local media. They were human interest stories. Certainly they could be in the school newsletter.
Part of the problem was simple. The Principal’s office and the lunch room were physically far apart. Everyone was busy. They ate in different locations. Telling a story was physically more difficult. Only the spectacular stories made it the distance.
Hearing stories takes time but is invaluable. It requires a change of habits. It requires creating simple mechanisms to share stories.
Another school I assist is different. The Principal is often wandering the playground or in the lunch room. He has a great team which allows this to happen. He hears stories. He tells stories. He is interested and curious. Students, staff and parents know they can approach him.
A Principal can tell a prospective parent “Yes we offer extension English”. Yet far more powerful would be embedding that reply in a story like… “Yes we offer extension English. Each year we also invite a top author to speak to students. Last year the author was Scott Monk. Scott wrote some of the HSC novels like Raw. Students go away for two days of writing and learning. Scott’s story is inspiring because he hated English. For a school project he had to write a 20 page short story. He became hooked and wrote 220 pages. Now he helps others fall in love with writing. I love reading some of the student stories from these camps”.
By mentioning a name it becomes real. By sharing not just the “what” happens it adds some life. Finally by saying he has read some of the work says to a parent that what the students do is important.
Yes telling stories takes more time but they are more likely to be repeated!
What stories are you missing out on by sitting in your office?]]>
It was an application for a consulting role at a local school. Did I really want to help market a school? After years of marketing and publishing I had never considered it. Would the same principles apply? Sure my three kids were at another school, my mum was a school teacher, my sister a preschool director but…
In February 2008 the school did offer me two days a week as a consultant. They were taking a risk. I accepted. A new adventure began. The first project was a new school website which was launched less than 4 months later. It was a great new tool in telling the school’s story.
In those early days someone suggested I subscribe to a free weekly email newsletter. Dr Linda Vining was considered the expert in school marketing. She had created the Centre for Marketing Schools. I was keen to learn. On a shelf in my new school office were books by Dr Vining so I began to read them. It was obvious she knew things from her first hand experience in schools.
Here was a lady who had taught for many years as a school teacher and then moved into marketing. She was now generously sharing her ideas and training others. The weekly email began to be something I looked forward to. It gave practical ideas, insights into what other schools were doing, resources, questions and answers. Her books did the same.
Via email I started to share with Dr Vining some of the things we were implementing at Covenant Christian School in Sydney. Often she would include them in her weekly email. Every time she did there would be a significant spike in visits to Covenant’s website. It was obvious people were reading her email newsletter.
In August 2008 Dr Vining was holding an Aforia – a 2 day school marketing conference – in Perth. I considered attending but as a 2 day a week consultant felt I couldn’t justify it. Besides I was busy and Perth was a long way from Sydney!
When the school renewed my contract for another year, including an extra day a fortnight, I kept in touch with Dr Vining by email. By now I was doing storytelling for a pest control business, serviced offices, children entertainers, lawyer and electrician but the most enjoyable was certainly the school.
In 2009 the marketing Aforia was being held in Adelaide. I decided to attend. Dr Vining asked me to speak on what Covenant was doing with the school blogsite which we had entered in the Annual Website Awards.
The Aforia was a great experience. I finally met Dr Vining in person. Yes she really did have purple hair and wear purple just like in her photo! I enjoyed giving my 20 minute presentation, but most of all I enjoyed meeting people, exploring two schools and hearing stories of what others were doing. Although Dr Vining was the co-ordinator it impressed me she was not presenting herself as the expert. At the Aforia was a generous community of people, who even though they paid to attend, were sharing ideas and encouraging one another. None of us was “THE School Marketing Expert” – but we were willing to help each other. A presenter may have been considered the expert in one specific area, yet before and after their session they would be taking notes from other presenters. Oh yes, Covenant’s website did win a Gold Award that year which was an added bonus.
Since then Dr Vining and I have emailed and had an occasional phone call. I wrote a page for her latest book Stand Out Strategies. She continued to share my ideas with the network and asked me to help on panels, or to speak, at Aforia’s in 2010 and 2011.
On Wednesday 5th October 2011 Dr Vining sent me a simple email. It was during the school holidays. We had just had a major kids’ concert at school with over 600 people. I was tired and about to shut down the computer heading off for a four day family holiday. Dr Vining’s email informed me the Centre for Marketing Schools was for sale. Was I interested? Although shocked I quickly responded “Yes I was interested” and would be in touch on my return.
Over the coming weeks via emails and skype we came to an agreement about purchasing the business. Dr Vining had already purchased a new business – it was time for something new – it excited her – it put her in touch with local people – she had already sprinkled her magic purple dust on it. In her own words “she loved it” and was “in my element!”. (Check it out here). Yet she also desired that what she had created in the Centre for Marketing Schools would continue. She wanted me to have first option as she felt confident I would continue to serve the network of people she had built up and connected with over 20 years.
The Centre for Marketing Schools has many elements.
The most obvious is the weekly email newsletter to over 1,700 school marketers in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and UK (plus more). This will continue, yet with the added ability for your feedback and ideas to be shared with others via a blogsite.
Other elements will also continue and be developed…
• A new expanded Centre for Marketing School website with ideas and tips from past weekly newsletters
• Annual 2 day School Marketers Aforia
• Increased use of Social Media including YouTube, LinkedIn, facebook and twitter
• Ebook versions of Dr Vining’s publications for purchase and easy download
• Print and Online versions of the Satisfaction Surveys
• Diploma in School Marketing
• Customer Relations Course for Non-Teaching Staff
There is no shortage of other ideas including online webinars and local workshops but that can all happen in time. I will continue to consult for Covenant Christian School and some other schools as I love the hands on approach to marketing – besides it’s fun and I have never been someone only interested in theory!
This network is you. Your ideas, photos, suggestions and feedback all make the network what it is. Please send me an email with your latest advertisement, photos, a link to your new website, news or ideas. In life I find generous people gain more. Naturally some people will join this network only to receive great free ideas. That is fine. Yet personally I have found being willing to give opens more doors. It is a wonderful group of people. Some I have met in person, others only via their snippets in the newsletter.
In December 2007 when I pressed SEND on my email I didn’t know what doors would open. When I subscribed to Dr Vining’s email I certainly didn’t imagine buying her business. I have much to be thankful for. I am excited about the Centre for Marketing Schools? Why? It is an honour to continue what Dr Vining created. Since joining the network I have been personally helped and encouraged by other members. My desire is that it will continue to fulfil that role for you, and many others.
It may seem crazy but I am currently studying a Graduate Diploma of Education to enable me to teach Business Studies part time. I have ‘nearly’ completed a Masters of Education (Leadership). As Dr Vining chooses now is the time for her to leave the world of education it appears I am making the opposite journey from publishing into education. With my youngest child going into Year 4 it’s likely I will be connected with schools for many years to come!
Together let’s continue to learn, explore and experiment. Schools really are a great place to be!
We will be in touch – but in the meantime feel free to email and say ‘hi’ or add a comment below.
The new Storyteller for the Centre for Marketing Schools
PS: if you are on LinkedIn then let’s connect via http://au.linkedin.com/in/neilpierson
School Marketing Aforia Presentation – with video
School Teachers are marketers
The School Principal as Chief Storyteller
A lot of my life is now spent in schools so it was interesting to go back, both as a former student, and as a school marketer. When I was a student 1,200 students crowded the corridors and the playground. There were 12 demountable classrooms to cope with the population boom. I didn’t know everyone in my year group – but I really enjoyed school. I look back and am grateful for the opportunities, the friends and even remember some of my lessons! That’s probably why I organised our 20 year reunion.
Now the school is around 800 students. Parents have more choices in the area and transportation has improved. The demographics have changed. The school had dropped down to around 700 students but fresh leadership seemed to have turned it around.
One of my teachers was still there. He has now been there for 32 years. His science room still smelt of bunsen burner gas. It was good to see him still there. The rest of the staff I met were newer. I liked meeting a few of them and learning about what students were doing now. One former student from my year who also attended now teaches in another public school. He thought the facilities here were more like a private school than where he was teaching.
So what had changed in 25 years?
The assembly started with an acknowledgement of the original Aboriginal custodians of the land. That was new. Next it was some musical items. The school had a good reputation for music so it was encouraging to see this was still promoted – even if I have no musical ability . The Principal spoke. It wasn’t too short and not too long which was much appreciated. She spoke of school history, some of the notable former students, family values and that their education philosophy was based on humanism.
Then the choir sang the school song. They did so with about as much enthusiasm as we used to – which I felt wasn’t a lot. It was interesting that I remembered the whole song but others around me in the crowd didn’t even remember there was a school song. It’s actually quite a good song – well at least when compared to some I have heard.
OUR SCHOOL SONG
Setting our eyes ever upward
We of the Forest High
Look to the towering tree tops
Straining towards the sky
And we will strive ever hoping
That each may achieve their goal
In work and in play together
For the Forest, green, red and gold
Some of us strive for Coolabah
Boronia and Waratah too
Others will fight for Kurrajong
Each to his house is true
But we all stand united
When the deeds of the school are told
Our pride will live on forever
In the Forest green, red and gold
There will be different faces
As the long years roll by
Others will take our places
Bearing the torch on high
But no matter where we may tarry
We’ll remember the friends of old
Still in our hearts we’ll carry
The Forest green, red and gold
It was at this stage it started to get confusing. You see some of the words in the second verse of the song didn’t relate any more. They were still sung but no longer applied. I was in the sport house Coolabah. We were yellow. I didn’t really ‘strive for Coolabah’ but I did enjoy the athletics carnivals but dreaded swimming carnivals. The sport houses were named after Australian fauna – trees and flowers. We were the Forest High School so it made sense. Now that I think of it they may include some Aboriginal names as well.
So when I saw four colourful banners at the back of the school Hall I didn’t know what they related to. There was no longer a yellow one. It wasn’t until we saw them again in the Gym that we asked what the story was. We were told they were the new sport house names. The old ones had been forgotten and become ‘red’ house etc. A couple of years back the students had decided to refresh them.
For a school based on humanism and acknowledging the Aboriginal custodians I found the student’s choice of house names quite amusing. Zeus, Ares, Athena and Poseidon. All Greek gods. The house names just wouldn’t fit the school song. I mean I could ‘fight for Kurrajong’ but isn’t Zeus going to fight for me? What happens when Poseidon, the god of the sea, sport house loses the swimming carnival?
Here was a school celebrating its 50 years of history yet showing it had forgotten parts of it. The messages were jumbled. Does it even matter that the song was still sung but had even less meaning now to students than it did when we were there. It reminded me of the importance of keeping alive the stories of a school community – asking WHY things were done rather than just WHAT.
Anyone who knows me would know I like to do new things in school marketing. To not just repeat things which have been done before. Yet schools need to take care they don’t lose something in the process. Student led initiatives like bringing fresh life into sport houses are great. Yet part of education is helping students understand where they fit in the bigger story and what mistakes and successes have happened before. Will the house names be changed again in a few years? Again does it even matter? Will the song ever be updated or just filed in a draw?
Looking around the School Hall I noticed some interesting things about education. The only photos were of past Principals. The list of Duxes was complete as was the School Captains. The Vice Captains list had gaps in it. Of the 1,000s of students and staff who have passed through the school only a select few names are recorded in gold print. What message does that say to the 800 students currently there? They asked the Alumni to let the school know of any students who had achieved ‘success’ so they could be acknowledged, reported and celebrated. Yet I realised that success means so many things. What is success to some would be failure to others.
Education – it really should make you think. And that is a very good thing!
Thanks for the Open Day. It was good to go back, remember and be grateful we live in a nation where education is both valued and available.
It’s true that half of those video views are for a guest speaker at school. The Human Calculator videos generate interest and comments from around the world.
Check out the Success Story of Covenant Christian School Sydney
Explore the Covenant Christian School Sydney YouTube Channel
Brad’s real name is Bez. He is from Iran. Video is a brilliant way for him to demonstrate to our multi-cultural society that he knows lots about termites. He is now seen as an expert in the field rather than just another pest inspector. Video has also helped overcome any potential barrier when people may not understand his accent. By creating a series of short videos it has also generated more traffic to his website.
Learn more of the Home Termite Control Story
Check out the Home Termite Control YouTube channel
The adding of a personal testimony via video has added to the conversion rate of the website. Written testimonials are great and should be used whether possible - but when someone is seen and heard in video it makes the testimony more powerful and believable.]]>
This customised CPR Training YouTube Channel has only one video. Yet it is still worth customising. It generates 400 video views a month and the customised YouTube channel makes it easier to find and presents a more professional overall image. The single video is an edited version promoting the full length Australian made CPR training DVD.
The customisation of the channel makes it easier to show the packaging and explain about the product and includes links to a website for purchase.
Check it out at www.youtube.com/CPRDVD]]>
I was recently asked to write an article about ‘Finding a Christian School’ for an online magazine. I wanted to use the opportunity to honour the pioneers of Christian schools rather than just say what schools are now doing.
You can read the article below. Click to open. It uses a clever page turning software called Issuu. It takes some getting used to but is a clever way of having magazines online. I then cover some of the highlights of a school conference that was held in Darwin in July 2011.
The article starts on page 6.
I was asked to present about some of the things we have been doing at Covenant Christian School on Sydney’s northern beaches. I am am subcontractor to the school and have a lot of fun.
Here is a condensed version of the presentation I gave at the conference.
In the video below I share a quick summary of the school marketing conference, and the highlights of being able to network with school. Many of the schools at the conference spend amazing amounts of money on their marketing. Its great having a ‘product’ I believe in. The Executive and Board at Covenant have taken some risks and been very supportive of us trying some new ways of letting our community Take a Closer Look at Covenant. We never stop learning so it helps to see what other schools are doing well]]>
I hadn’t been for over 25 years. Why? It just didn’t appeal enough to me to spend the time and money. The kids had been with grandparents. We had a great, long, exhausting but fun day. Fortunately I like crowds as there were plenty of others who decided to go. So what does the Royal Easter Show have to do with the idea of ‘photos are powerful?’
Let me tell you the story…
In wandering around exhibition stands we passed one called ‘Verve’. It had colourful photos of people on the wall. They was striking. It was NOT your usual family portrait. We were due for a new family portrait as the kids had grown so much since our last one. Verve had an entry form where you could win a $500 package so I entered.
Within a few weeks their package arrived – gorgeous – but that’s another story.
We booked in. Again a friendly experience with good customer service. We attended a beautiful trendy studio in Willoughby Sydney. We all were served tea and hot chocolates as the photographer Simon talked to us. Did I mention the props we had brought in? What makes Verve different is they are trying to capture more than a smile – they wanted to capture something of relationships and what makes us smile. They wanted to capture something of our family’s personality – our story.
We had a tray of home made cupcakes, a bicycle, electric guitar, life jacket, camera, large alphabet letters, fruit, a silly bow tie, soccer ball, a pile of books, a change of clothes – and yes even our pet rabbit Snowy. Simon the photographer was amazing. He worked so hard, was so much fun, and interacted so well with our kids. The time FLEW.
It was an amazing experience just to do the photo shoot. The eventual photos on canvas were simply a bonus.
The next step in the story was coming back to view the gallery of selected photos. Wow. The five of us sat in a mini theatre – again with served drinks, music and comfy chairs. We wanted them all – and there was no pushy selling.
We ended up selecting and paying. Then the next trip back to Verve was to pick them up. We decided to take the whole family yet again as now knew it was going to be fun. Once again there was drinks, a chance to see the whole gallery and the presentation of our selected pieces.
What struck me was that they were not selling photos – they had created a whole experience. It wasn’t ‘smile for the camera’, it was ‘tickle each other’, drool over some cupcakes, run around, have fun. What makes it interesting is that in many of the photos we are looking at each other rather than the camera. The white background highlights the colours in the photo.
I believe we got more than we paid for in memories – oh and yes the photos are really good too!! Yet when we look at the photos on our dining room wall we are not just seeing us – we are reliving the memory of the experience and the fun we had.
Now how to arrange to purchase some more of the gallery of photos they took!
Check them out at www.verveportraits.com.au]]>