Unplugged | #1 Julie McAllister Barker College

Unplugged | #1 Julie McAllister Barker College

Today’s show is the first episode of our ‘Unplugged Series’ where we speak to school marketers just like you to get an insight into the day to day role. Today I’m really happy to introduce to you, Julie McAllister. She’s the Director of Communications at Barker College and she’s had particular success in the area of video that she’ll be sharing with us. 

Can you tell us a tale from the trenches?

 

This one was just last week actually. With the move to co-education, we’re obviously having to redesign and introduce new uniforms for the girls coming into the school and at the same time, we’re refreshing the uniforms for our current male students as well.

So that parents and the students can see what the uniforms are going to look like when worn we’ve had to be carrying around these mannequins around the school in various states of dress. Carrying these things that aren’t that easy to manoeuvre and carry. And they keep appearing in different places one day they’ll be in the junior school and then we have to get them back the other end of the school so that the mannequin can then appear to be a middle school girl. So I think it’s confusing quite a few of the students because they keep popping up in the most unusual places in different outfits.

It’s those sort of moments as you carry a mannequin around a school, you think they don’t really prepare you for that at University. The types of things that you’ll be having to do as a marketer one day. No two days are ever the same.

 

Julie, what do you love about your role?
 

I guess what you just said and what I was sort of referring to, it has to be the diverse nature of the role. When I started in this role, coming up to 10 years ago now, it’s so vastly different to what the role was when I first started. Just looking at the sort of media for example that didn’t exist 10 years ago when I started in this job. So that’s been a huge addition to what we do on a day to day basis. I definitely think the diverse nature. As I said you sort of come in thinking at the beginning of the day you’re going to be doing one thing and then something happens and it turns into just a totally different scenario. It’s a little bit unpredictable which is nice as well. 

 

Can you tell us about a schools marketing area that you are particularly passionate about?
 

You mentioned at the beginning of the program about videos, I guess for us a big part of what we’ve been doing in recent times is producing a lot of mini videos. I think when I looked the other day we’ve produced close to 100 mini videos this year, and we just seem to do more and more of that every year.

We don’t have an in-house video production person but we’re fortunate to have a company, it’s just two former students actually, a husband and wife team, and they have a video production company and we work really closely with them, they’re almost an extension of our internal team here. I put together a program for them each term with what I know we have coming up that I would like them to film for. That could be events or showcasing the work of students, and also meeting some of our new student leaders, seeing what their plans are for the school in their new leadership roles.

We’re also starting to do a lot more community updates via our Head. It’s a good way to actually show our community in a weekly bulletin, the progress that’s taking place. As I said we’re fortunate that they’re able to turn those videos around for us really quickly.

We might have an event, it might be a play at the school one night, and I’ll come in the next morning and they will have this little highlights video, including interviews with the students and it’s really professionally done and we’ll push it out through our social media channels that next day, on YouTube and through newsletters, Facebook, etc. We know that they’re really effective and they’re certainly enjoyed by our community as well.

People are time poor they like to know what’s going on. So it’s really just a quick snapshot of this is what’s happened, and they can hear from our students or from our head of school. Sometimes they’re a little bit longer if we’ve got more of a message to share.

They’re something that you can easily watch on your phone or if you’re on the train. We know the kids really like seeing their friends on the video and what they have to say. We get quite a few subscribers through the YouTube channel. I’m always surprised at how quickly you can push something out and how quick the reviews are as soon as it goes out. So we know that people are definitely watching them.

 

Do you have a low-cost marketing tip for other school marketers?
 

I mean obviously, we don’t have an extensive budget. In terms of video production, the company that we use, I think we get a particularly good deal with them having explored other video production companies. There might be a couple of former students or even a couple of current students in any particular school that might have that passion for videography or video production that can potentially turn it around for you. I know there are some schools that use an internal process with their students who have that interest.

We found Facebook advertising to be really cost effective. We recently ran a campaign over three months, we were looking to focus on parents aged between 30 and 55 within a 22-kilometre radius of the school and we were really pleased with the result. In that three months, I think we generated something like an additional five hundred clicks to our book a tour page on the website and that wasn’t expensive. I can’t remember what the figure was off the top of my head but I just remember at the time thinking that we got a lot of measurable benefit from that.

 

Do you have a favourite tool/app that you would like to recommend to other school marketers?
 

We’re a department of only two so there is just me and a graphic designer. We find Trello to be a really useful app, it’s constantly opened on our desktop each day. We both can see what we’ve got coming up and what the deadlines are. I can add things that I know our graphic designer will just instantly pick up as I think about it. He can see what I’m working on and we both know what our deadlines are and what our workload is. Trello has been a really useful app for us.

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