Relationships Are the Secret to Enrollment Marketing Success

When the leaders at Salina Public Schools noticed changes in enrollment numbers and birth rates, they didn’t wait to act. This central Kansas district of more than 6,800 students got to work with CEL as their partner, developing a dynamic “Greatness Grows Here” branding and enrollment marketing campaign. The multi-channel effort prioritized relationships, personal outreach and word-of-mouth influence to support ongoing enrollment marketing efforts, year over year. For Salina, bright visuals featuring key messaging, face-to-face marketing events and community outreach made all the difference. The plan resonated with staff and families. The district exceeded its enrollment goal and now has both a solid plan and a brand to build on for continual success.

2023 NSPRA Gold Medallion Award
Flyers for Salina public schools

A Fresh, Lively Campaign

Together, the Salina and CEL team agreed that the public school’s enrollment marketing campaign would inspire engagement and action using a combination of strategic messaging and a fresh visual campaign brand.

This included:

  • A custom tagline, Greatness Grows Here, captures the aspiration, promise and opportunities found in Salina Public Schools. The district uses variations of this tagline to support other areas of district work, such as HR.
  • Key messages to create consistency in print and digital spaces
  • A multi-channel integrated marketing campaign that included digital ads, website, email nurturing, direct mail, word of mouth influence and personal outreach. From May through August, the Google Ad campaign generated more than 3,000 clicks and more than 418,000 impressions (views) of the ads were shown. Facebook digital ads were equally as successful, resulting in more than 250 unique website visits.
  • Website updates for SEO and accessibility, as well as a custom landing page targeted to engage and inform prospective families
  • CEL designers expanded the existing color palette. It was built to include the district’s signature apple red and green, as well as the spirit colors that represent the two high schools. A few other complimentary colors offer the Salina team both flexibility and freshness.
Salina greatness grows here enroll gif
Digital ads for Salina on mobile phone

Building Relationships to Build Enrollment

Like many other districts, Salina leaders were particularly concerned about the students who no longer enrolled after spring 2020 when public health measures and the pandemic changed the school experience. The superintendent and her team agreed that recovering this “lost enrollment” would be the top priority.

Knowing that school-based relationships are the strongest bonds with students and families, school principals stepped up to connect with parents of students who were still eligible for K-12 but had not returned. At its heart, this plan used a concierge approach to personal outreach that was designed to start caring conversations and encourage re-enrollment.

  • Campaign-branded postcards that allowed principals to write a personalized note and send to target “lost enrollment” families
  • Personal phone calls and email follow-up to help principals feel comfortable calling parents to rekindle a conversation
  • Email nurturing campaign to the “lost enrollment” list to build on the personal outreach that began in early summer and offer enrollment resources

While personal outreach is time-consuming, and some recipients of a call or email asked to be removed from the list, the results of the hard work paid off. Relationships were renewed through each of the tactics used, and many formerly “lost” families were prompted to complete enrollment in a timely manner.

The district also leveraged the annual “summer packet” mailed to employees to share classroom signs with the brand and key messages. Three variations with key messages were created in English, and one was sent in Spanish. Photos of the signs with staff and in classrooms were a key component of the district’s back-to-school social media content.

greatness grows here stickers - salina public schools
Flyers for Salina Public Schools

"The CEL team of experts provides breadth and depth allowing a small PR/communications office access to an arsenal of strategies, content and expertise. The volume of material produced in a short span of time is game changing. Still working to plug all the marketing pieces in. It’s super exciting and staff throughout the district have been so positive about the branding changes. We developed a first-run brand guidelines for our district that features the color palette, fonts and other important elements we had never communicated… So, so, so glad we worked with you and CEL. The experience that keeps on giving."

Jennifer Camien Salina
Greatness grows here Salina notecard

Relationships All Year Long

While it’s traditional to think of spring and summer as enrollment time, the power of relationships is never out of season. When it comes to word of mouth and building trust, enrollment marketing efforts fit on every month of the calendar.

In addition to enrollment time efforts, Salina’s plan includes other strategies and tactics that will be most effective in fall, winter and spring. This helps the district communications team pace their work among other projects and priorities throughout the year. 

  • Recruiting “family reps” for each school that a prospective parent or guardian could call to learn about the school
  • Creating an ambassador program to share good news and key messages about the district to keep positive stories top of mind
  • Collaborating with area community and business leaders, including chamber of commerce, real estate and property management and HR teams that often help employees relocate to Salina
  • Building a bank of stakeholder testimonials 
  • Requesting online reviews from key influencers
  • Campaign-branded items to surprise employees during American Education Week
Salina digital ads spread