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Five Things You Need To Know About Setting Up An Advertising Program For Your School District.

Before your school district approves a new advertising program, there are 5 things you need to know:

1.) Who is your audience? - Are your programs going to be focused on helping companies reach your employees, your parents, community members, and/or students? There's a lot to think about here and this question alone can determine what types of advertising programs are right for you, what types of programs will be successful, and what companies you will be working with.

My take: In larger markets, some school districts can reach an audience of over 40% of the population. This fact alone allows school districts to compete with major media channels in their markets. There is money to be made to help fund your school district but there are other factors as well. I've seen school districts quickly destroy programs by allowing too much access to their audience or by not pricing their programs competively, and (worst of all) allowing access to their students during school time. This is a big no-no in my book and we follow a strict rule: No advertising in "trapped environments." Nothing in the classroom. Nothing in the bus. Students and communities are very open to advertising messaging in off-hours at school events where the community is used to seeing advertisements, i.e. Friday Night Football.

2.) If you have a booster club asking for money, you do not have an active advertising program. If you have a foundation that helps fund your programs, you still don't have an advertising program. There are many different arms a district has to help in acquiring funding, volunteers, and resources. An advertising program should be based on the competitive market you live in and winning marketing dollars from companies that want to reach your audience. These are not donations and should not be looked at as such.

My take: Setting up a thoughtful program in-advance will allow your school district to earn new dollars. Not move money from one department or booster club to another (or from the right hand to the left.) Use data that you have on the your district to talk to companies about things like reach, frequency, and target audiences. Make these programs effective and you will quickly start earning money that was going to cable, billboards, and direct mailers in your market.

3.) Release programs slowly - Don't go from having no options to having 20 options. Even if you just buy a new scoreboard, don't release 12 panels off the bat (especially if they are different sizes) and same with web advertising... slow and steady drives up interest and demand.

My take: Always have a long-term plan and short-term plan in place. Have programs ready to roll out but remember that it's supply/demand and the education system doesn't need another diner menu full of ads, another coupon book, another rewards club. Advertisers are looking for engagement and visibility and prefer areas where only a select few are. This also helps cut down on the work your staff or the company you are working with has to oversee (and allows you to continue "selling" sponsorships as opposed to "managing" them.

4.) Train your employees. Setting up a strong advertising program without training employees is winging it. You need to have everybody (if there's more than one person) on the same page.

My take: I always say, I don't want to design your lunch menu (and neither do the parents) and I don't want to handle transporation services and you probably don't want me teaching French.... so why do we contstantly ask employees with no advertising and marketing background to try to run these programs. Take the time to educate and train your employees (or consider outsourcing your programs) to ensure that all the work on the front-end (planning, pricing, placement, etc) doesn't go to waste. There are some great programs I've seen developed and then dissolved because they didn't have an experienced person managing them.

5.) Establish terms. Make sure when you have a new platform for a company to reach your audience that you and the company both agree on what this looks like. How big is the ad going to be. Is it going to be color or black & white, will it be in the print version and online, will you have it up year-round or only during events, etc. etc. etc. There's lots involved with setting terms but it should absolutely not be over looked. It's the cornerstone to having a high renewal rate.

My take: This is important because it manages expectations. The successes in school-based advertising comes in the details and it comes from managing and setting reasonable expectations by both the school district and the advertising partner. Watching large partnerships built without strong terms can hold your inventory hostage (like a stadium naming rights deal with no end date - should be a lease not a sale - happen everyday and they are hard mistakes to undo.)

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