b'RESEARCHSTRAIGHT TO THE HEARTSchools need to use research to find out what really happened during the last 18 months and what is yet to come. A data-driven strategy is the only way forward. Rachel Hadley-Leonard reportsNow is the time to bolster strategic intent and marketing campaigns with evidence-based data.In January 2020, as an independent schools consultant, I was just about at breaking point in terms of workload. I am a one-man band, an independent consultant, and so I can only ever work with a limited number of schools at any one time. Work was busy. Really busy. And then our world changed. The pandemic wreakedform of marketing. These schools had taken the time its havoc across the world, and our sector was notand trouble to find out exactly what it was that their exempt. But at precisely the time that schools neededtarget audience wanted. And they gave it to them.to be ramping up their marketing efforts, some chose, or rather were forced, to hunker down and focus purelyOne of the things that riled me during this period, on the effects of the pandemic. And who could blamehowever, was the medias incessant deluge of reporting them? After all, the wellbeing and safety of theiron what was allegedly happening in the independent students was their immediate priority, and getting theschool sector. Apparently, if the media was to be school online, was for many, a gargantuan feat. believed, independent school admissions were up, in places by 30%, the whole of London was moving Quiet life to the countryside, and demand for places at rural Work became quieter for me, and the usual torrentindependent schools was to be exponential.of enquiries slowed to a steady trickle. Schools were dealing with day-to-day real-life crises. It was tough.The reality was somewhat different. Many schools that I But what was frustrating was that the very schools whoworked with reported falling numbers, falling enquiries were struggling with recruitment and retention beforeand falling retention stats. Their families had been hard the pandemic, put marketing lower down their list ofhit and were worried that, economically, the worst was priorities and, subsequently, have been struggling everyet to come. Schools did not know who to believe or since, or worse, have closed or sold out. where to turn.So what were the forward-thinking schools doing? Well,Where next?they not only carried on with their marketing efforts,So where should they go from here? Where should but, pretty darned quick, they upped their game andindependent school heads, marketers, bursars and endeavoured to find out exactly what their parentsregistrars find solace? To my mind: in research. Lets wanted.stop guessing at what has happened, might happen and could happen, and start to look at hard facts. And, As a judge for the marketing category of the TESfurthermore, hard facts for each individual school. Independent School Awards, it was evident that theBecause lets face it, the pandemic has wreaked a schools with foresight were working to within an inchvery different type of havoc on a large, predominantly of their lives to ensure that not only were their currentinternational boarding school based in the rural students cared for, but also that their prospectivesuburbs of a large city, to a small prep school in the families had a way to engage with the school duringmiddle of the Midlands. what was to become, effectively, a year and a half of lockdown. We need now, more than ever, to turn to research to find out what our parents want, what they plan to do, and On the money where they now see their priorities for their children. 360 degree virtual tours and walk-through, student-ledAnd we need to know what trends lie ahead. What are visits, inspirational videos and testimonials, and contactpupil numbers likely to be in the next ten years? Are with the head almost on demand, gave rise to a newpeople really going to relocate?28 www.independentinsight.netIwww.iexcellence.co.ukIwww.i25awards.co.uk'