Helping Schools Retain and Recruit
Students and Families

Sheridan PR Principal Laura Braam has 20+ years of experience supporting educational organizations in their goals to retain current students and to recruit new mission-appropriate students and families. Laura has worked on behalf of independent and charter schools, large government education programs, and nonprofit educational programs targeting school-aged children.

Most recently, Laura spent 10 years as Director of Communications for an established K-12 independent school for students with learning differences during a season that included:

  • 250% campus growth 
  • the addition of a high school 
  • a 30% dip in enrollment due to a complicated public relations crisis (and related crisis communications) 
  • a successful recruitment campaign to recover from this loss
  • a major national research effort to explore market growth opportunities
  • a Head's transition and related Interim year
  • creating and launching an entirely new website and back-end content system through Whipple Hill/Blackbaud 
  • producing 15+ feature videos for admission marketing, and 
  • a comprehensive mission statement revision project with the Board of Trust.

Laura's other related work includes seven years of consulting for a premier independent girls' school; handling promotions for a national museum's education program; overseeing pipeline market research and marketing collaterals for a national alternative schools charter; and helping to manage a national recruitment campaign for the U.S. Department of Labor's Job Corps program for economically disadvantaged youth.

Perhaps most important, Laura and SPR Partners Jay Sheridan and Chad Schmidt are parents of children ages 11-15. Laura, Jay and Chad have collectively attended a mix of highly ranked public and private schools in multiple states for both K-12 and college. Their children attend or have attended competitive college-preparatory independent schools, specialized independent schools, single-gender schools, public schools, and award-winning daycare/childcare/summer programs. In addition, Sr. Account Supervisor Virginia Reynolds has served in alumni relations, development and public relations roles in an independent school and in related roles for a large nonprofit that provides programs and services for children of all ages.

We know your audiences, and we are prepared to help you reach them in meaningful and lasting ways.

I worked with Laura for 10 years in her role as Director of Communications, while I was a Division Head. Now that I am a Head, I more fully realize all that Laura was able to do for us, often in a seamless and quietly strategic way. She keenly understood our mission and our goals for retention and recruitment. She knows how to tell stories in overt and subtle ways and how to move people to action. I know she will provide great insight to her clients.”
— Shannon Elders, Head of School, Ft. Worth Academy

Can You Hear Me Now?

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Every day, schools must communicate with myriad internal and external audiences to reach fundraising, enrollment and retention goals. Often, several individuals or groups are tasked with this work. This can result in missed opportunities and, often worse, mixed messages. When schools are embarking on a new program launch, a fundraising campaign, a growth goal, a major administrative change or a mission refinement, it is even more critical to ensure that all communications are strategic, clear and goal-oriented.

SPR will conduct a complete audit of your school's existing internal and external communications and marketing programs and related tools. This would include but is not limited to carefully reviewing: websites, social media content, paid advertising, earned media efforts, printed materials, e-newsletters, alumni materials, parent communications, donor communications, student communications, summer and ancillary program marketing materials, campus signage and event materials. The team would also attend official Admission events and participate as a "mystery shopper" in that context, if possible.

Ideally, this review also will include four to eight focus groups with key stakeholders (identified by the school, in groups of about 8-12) and a survey to the entire school community in segments. Once the audit is complete, we will prepare a comprehensive report that outlines strengths, weaknesses and opportunities.


 
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What's Next?

Like the great Yogi Berra said, “If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.” This holds just as true for strategic communications planning as it does for all strategic planning.

For Communications Audit clients, we can help you plan ahead. SPR will map out a three-year public relations and marketing plan that includes specific goals, strategies, tactics, and timelines, including ways to measure results. This plan may also include recommendations for the Portrait of a Graduate; job description adjustments; what to look for in new-hires; and how Admission, Development and Communications functions may work best together in your setting. If desired, we will also make recommendations for establishing important vendor relationships to handle work such as website development and management, digital/keyword advertising, social media management, graphic design, printing, and more. 

It is important to note that writing a comprehensive and well-informed plan will include a visit to campus for meetings with key stakeholders, including but not limited to members of the Board of Trust, the Head of School, Admission, Advancement/Development, Communications, Athletics, Parents Organization representatives, High School students (if relevant), Alumni, Top Donors, and others as recommended. These details will be tailored to each school's needs and can depend on what feedback was already secured during the Audit process.

 
Leading a school implies knowing its goals, its customers and its product. What is frequently missing is the story that holds these features together. Where does that story come from? Organizational documentation? Data? Focus groups? Research? Imagination? Yes, all of them – and still more. Extracting the relevant images and deep truth from the data, research, etc., and assembling them into an authentic story is ‘art.’ It is not an art for beginners. It is a well-trained and deeply intuitive artist that brings understanding to the surface and uncovers value for the customer and the organization. Laura Braam has uncovered those relevant messages for me under fire from economic pressures, leadership changes and constantly changing values in what parents expect from their independent school. Laura is not only an accomplished writer, she is a goal-oriented interpreter of values to leadership.
— Paul W., 20 years as Head of School for independent schools; eight years as a public school administrator
 

Projects and General Consulting

We know that schools often need support for communications projects and initiatives outside of a comprehensive audit or strategic planning process. Sheridan PR professionals have worked for clients in the nonprofit, for-profit, government and education arenas and are proud generalists who strive to remain in touch with the public opinions around our clients' core interests. Specifically, SPR founder and president Jay Sheridan is an author and chief researcher for custom "coffee-table" books that celebrate the stories of corporations, universities/schools and foundations as part of his work through Grandin Hood Publishers. The entire SPR team is also experienced in collateral material development, social media management, email and digital marketing, video production, website content development, event planning, crisis communications, paid advertising creative and placement and more. We are happy to talk with you about your needs.

Thank You for Your Interest

We would be honored to talk with you about your goals today. Pricing will be transparent and determined by the scope of your project. Feel free to email Laura directly or to call her at (615) 512-8892. References are available upon request.

 
While in the independent school world, Laura was always willing to help facilitate statewide and regional association trainings for admission and communications professionals and to help us brainstorm training topics and delivery ideas. She also helped us secure quality speakers from within the broader communications field. I value Laura’s perspective and look forward to continuing to work with her in the coming months and years.
— Jill Hall, Assistant Director, Tennessee Association of Independent Schools