September 11, 2022
Escuela Americana is a PK3–12 American school in El Salvador, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. Director Dr. Polly Parker tells prospective students, “We want your experience at Escuela Americana to last a lifetime. You will build friendships and connections with teachers that last for your whole life. We want you to connect purposefully with everyone in the community, and we want you to create whatever you want, follow your passions, and explore the world.”
The Challenge: The Board Demands Improvement in Marketing Communications
Polly believed the school’s Marketing Communications Department and strategy were solid, but her Board thought more was needed. “They seemed to look for communications every parent would read and understand completely,” Polly shared.
But Polly knew that was not the answer. So she engaged ISM. She knew the value ISM would bring to this effort, having worked with ISM several times over the past 15 years when she served as Head of two other schools.
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The Answer: Auditing and Adjusting the School’s Marketing Communications
ISM Senior Consultant, Advancement Department Head, and Advancement Academy Convener Penny Abrahams, IAP-L, met not only with the school’s marketing communications staff, but also with parents, faculty, and Board members to conduct a complete review.
She found the staff was doing an excellent job—as Polly thought. However, Penny found some opportunities for improvement. She presented a list of suggestions, with tasks for the team, and established check-in intervals—times when she would provide feedback.
“Our content was very traditional and needed to be more representative of the student perspective. Penny suggested some tweaks to our writing style and social media content—many small things you don’t see when you live and breathe the daily life of the school,” Polly said. “ISM gave us a fresh perspective and several suggestions based on what has worked for other schools.”
The changes to Escuela Americana’s marketing communications strategy made a significant impact, including an increase in enrollment. Penny recommended adjustments to the staff hierarchy based on her incredibly positive review of the leadership capability of the current Marketing Communications Director.
Specifically, Penny suggested combining the Admission Department with the Marketing Communications Department—now the Office of Institutional Advancement. “With this adjustment, we were able to establish a plan of work we couldn’t visualize before,” Polly said. “With this new alignment, we established a coordinated plan incorporating the responsibilities of both the Marketing Communications Department and the Admission Department. Some changes were difficult for our staff at first. But Penny made her recommendations in a nonthreatening way, with many ‘here’s why’ explanations. And after seeing the improvements, people are very happy with the result.”
“We changed our leadership structure to better meet the needs of our families,” Polly said.