TURNAROUND CREATES VARIED MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS PIECES FOR OUR INDEPENDENT SCHOOL CLIENTS. MOST PROJECTS START WITH BRANDING, BUT SOME DO NOT. THESE CASE STUDIES SHOW HOW EFFECTIVE OUR WORK IS. LET US GET RESULTS FOR YOU.
“Working with Turnaround forced us to think differently about the way we speak about ourselves and the messages we give to prospective parents...The branding project paid for itself in one year. And you can quote me on that.”
—Brad Rogers, Headmaster, The Gow School, South Wales, NY
Within the LD community, Gow has been known as a leader since it was founded as a boarding school for boys with dyslexia in 1926. Becoming more broadly known as it is today has proved more of a challenge. Most families who could benefit from the school’s program don’t learn of it until their need becomes urgent. In addition, Gow recently added a coed day program, subtly shifting its identity. The school recognized that, despite its long history, it needed to distinguish itself within its niche and galvanize its community around resonant messaging. Turnaround and partner Andrea Lehman worked with Gow to develop a brand strategy and implement it in new enrollment materials and a completely redesigned website.
Gow's remediation program, Reconstructive Language (RL), is time-tested. But being venerable can be a double-edged sword in a field that has changed with technology. While Gow has done an excellent job of incorporating the best of the new with what it has always done well, it hadn't conveyed its continued evolution and considerable technological expertise. We listened to the community and brought to the fore an authentic, current, and compelling picture of the school via six characteristics: RL: Rethinking Learning, Reigniting Lives; Start Fast, Finish Strong; Gow United; Expressing Newfound Voices with Quiet Confidence; Teaching As If Their Students' Futures Depend on It; and Structured to Fit. These brand messages distinguish Gow from its competition, depicting a small school that continues to be a big fish in the LD pond. “The entire school has embraced the brand that Turnaround developed for us, and now all of us at Gow are able to consistently tell the Gow story with the brand as a guide,” says Rogers.
"Having the brand makes explaining what Gow does to prospective parents easy."
—Doug Cotter, Director of Admissions
The first step was to make the new enrollment materials brand-centric, focused on the distinguishing characteristics identified in the branding process. The Turnaround team also understood that materials had to be tailored to readers, many of whom—students and parents—are dyslexic. Writing style, quantity of copy, and design elements such as typeface and column width were all taken into account. In addition to brand messaging, the new viewbook features stunning photography and success stories, while information on particular topics was saved for separate info sheets. Turnaround developed a new logo for the school during this process—one that would be versatile and clean—instead of the school seal they were using previously.
Gow’s very capable web manager worked closely with Turnaround who helped oversee the website redesign and wrote the copy for most of the landing pages. The school also asked Turnaround to assist with the development of a page hierarchy and brand-centric writing. On the homepage, a rotating series of photos trumpet the brand messages, which are reinforced on interior pages. “The writing on our web site and in our viewbook are excellent. If a parent reads our web site, it will be very clear if our school is the right place for their child,” notes Doug Cotter, Director of Admissions.
Turnaround strongly encouraged Head of School Rogers to hire a full-time marketing person to oversee the brand implementation, advice that at first he thought was “a crazy suggestion.” But since the Associate Director for Marketing, Communications, and Branding was hired to shepherd the brand, Rogers now says “it was a very, very good move that has easily paid for itself.” Perhaps the most gratifying, and effective, result of the process is the Gow community’s embrace of the brand. "Gow United" has entered the community's lexicon along with the other brand messages, and the brand is working for Gow because Gow is working the brand.
In the ensuing months, Gow started to use one of the brand messages as a hashtag and #gowunited became the rallying cry for the Gow community, even coming to life on an enamel pin.
“From your first visit to campus to the execution of the brand with our board and faculty, Turnaround has provided nothing short of exceptional insight, professionalism, creativity, and support…Decreasing demographics and a depressed global economy make these challenging times for even the most stalwart and established of admissions offices and prep schools. Your work on Ridley’s behalf will certainly help us ride out this storm, leaving us stronger and better positioned. For that, please know that Ridley College and I are most grateful.”
— Andrew T. Weller, Ed.D., Dean of Admissions, Ridley College, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
As one of the oldest and most prestigious independent schools in Canada, Ridley College has educated generations of Canadians. This pre-k through postgraduate year boarding and day school in St. Catharines, Ontario, hired Turnaround to develop a brand campaign. Our goal was to define Ridley’s most advantageous market position for recruitment and advancement success and articulate compelling brand messages to help this Canadian legend strengthen its brand presence in U.S. and global markets and gain even more momentum at home. How to accomplish this? Start with a head of school from the British system and an admissions dean fresh from East Coast U.S. prep schools, and add marketing expertise and communications strategy.
The results of this project came in stages.
Brand building is a long-term process that takes community buy-in. After Turnaround developed the Ridley brand and story, they were enthusiastically embraced by the headmaster and board of governors. Next, the administration took ownership of it, and new materials were developed, including a new logo and "pocket primer", which was distributed at the brand rollout, led by Turnaround, to help internal constituents remember and absorb the brand messages. As Ridley began to use the new branding, the community learned to be consistent in its messaging and the benefits of a Ridley education became even clearer to all constituents.
Our goal was to help this Canadian legend strengthen its brand presence in U.S. and global markets and gain even more momentum at home. Ridley has a powerful story and heritage. To introduce the school, we created a “brand” book that offers a sweeping overview of the Ridley experience for prospective families, but that can also be used to generate loyalty and interest among donors and alumni. The Ridley brand book tells the Ridley story in five “chapters”—Timeless Tradition, World Prep, Engaged Ridley, The Houses of Ridley, and A Legacy That’s Yours. Depending on the age of the prospective student, this introductory book is followed by either “Engaged Ridley: Where a Legacy Begins” about the Lower School or “World Prep: A Tradition, A School, A Ticket to the World” about the Upper School. Upper School prospects also receive “The Houses of Ridley: An Insider’s Guide for Day and Boarding Students to School Life.” Each of these books serve as a bump piece to keep communication open. The series also includes a light search/travel piece. As a result of Ridley's new brand and enrollment strategies, applications increased and in the first year, Ridley enjoyed an increase of 9% new student enrollment. In the second year, Ridley experienced an increase of 35% in inquiries; an increase of 4% in applications; an increase in 45% in enrollments; and an increase in 21% in campus interviews.
“Defining a single, unifying brand was especially challenging for our school as we pride ourselves on our somewhat quirky culture. Turnaround Marketing invested the time to get to know us and the patience to help us work through the process. The result is a brand identity that resonates with all our constituents—from older alums to brand-new students. Turnaround truly functioned as our partner in the process, guiding and challenging us while demonstrating that ‘branding’ for an independent school isn’t about slicker packaging. It is about letting the school’s uniqueness shine.”
— Lisa Grider, Director of Institutional Advancement, Newark Academy, Livingston, NJ
"We were very impressed with the time Turnaround spent to get to know Newark Academy and our culture prior to putting together the viewbook and search. Families have enjoyed the dual functionality of our viewbook and commented on the cleverness of the ‘flip style.’ Liza, Rob, and the entire Turnaround team made the process go smoothly, were quality focused, deadline conscious, and a real pleasure to work with."
—Willard L. Taylor, Jr., Director of Admission
Newark Academy is a coed day school for grades 6-12, which was founded in 1774 in Newark but is now located in Livingston, New Jersey. As with many schools that retain our services, Newark Academy came to Turnaround for a new enrollment strategy but soon realized the benefits of embarking on brand development first. Starting from a position of strength, NA wanted to take the next step in communications and marketing with all of its constituents. The school embraced Turnaround's brand messaging, graphic identity, and marketing advice and charged us with creating a new formal and informal logo, search piece, viewbook and website design. As a result, Newark Academy is well on its way to reaching higher levels of constituent engagement and motivation.
Among the goals of the NA enrollment project were to develop materials that could target prospective parents and students separately while establishing a cohesive brand, all in a cost-effective way. A key feature was to show the school’s blend of intellectualism with a sense of humor, reflected in the distinguishing characteristic of “Intellectual Power, Intellectual Play.” Turnaround and partner Andrea Lehman developed an innovative viewbook that can be read by parents starting from one cover and by students starting from the other (i.e., “from back to front”). The fun, attention-grabbing format underscores the intellectual playfulness of this creative school and enables brand messages to be delivered in ways that are accessible to each audience. The NA story is told to prospective parents primarily through text, testimonials, and proof points, while prospective students are invited to graze on quick, graphic “reasons why NA students love NA.” In its first year of using the new viewbook, Newark Academy enjoyed the highest application pool in the history of the school.
After Turnaround developed Newark Academy's brand and enrollment strategies, the school asked us to consult on the new website. Turnaround created the new homepage and provided guidance on interior pages to incorporate key components used in the viewbook, such as targeting prospective parents and students separately and using photography that reflects the energy found in classrooms—all with an eye to maximizing the visitor experience. From big-picture suggestions, such as how to highlight the school’s new brand messages and graphic identity front and center, to fine-tuned details to address particular issues, such as adding grade ranges to make NA’s middle school more prominent, Turnaround helped Newark Academy get the most from its website redesign.
When Newark Academy redesigned its website again in 2015, it kept the messaging Turnaround created, citing their success using them and centered their interactive viewbook around them. This is proof of the longevity of well-executed brand messages.
Turnaround enjoyed a long-standing relationship with William Penn Charter School, a coed, Quaker PK-12 day school in Philadelphia that was founded in 1689. Over a decade, we were honored to develop the school's brand, the school logo, magazines, and numerous specific marketing strategies and deliverables for the school’s major marketing and communications projects. Turnaround often says that brand development is a marathon, not a sprint. Penn Charter understood this from the outset and put highly qualified personnel and resources behind the brand effort… to remarkable results. Among these are a successful $47 million capital campaign completed in 2007, a fully enrolled student body even during a weak economy, the successful launch of a pre-kindergarten, and annual giving in excess of $1 million. Most importantly, Penn Charter is a school that is known for what it wants to be known for, the result of the commitment to, and success of, effective, integrated branding and marketing.
“A classic education has always been about gaining the keys of knowledge to unlock any door. In short, access to the world. The difference at Penn Charter is that along with classic academic keys, we give students a Quaker moral compass to guide them and friends of all backgrounds with whom to travel and explore the world. We integrate the power of arts and athletics into a vigorous academic experience. We give students a culture of service and leadership in which to grow. Classically educated, only better. A one-of-a-kind education that will change a student’s life forever.”
This is the opening to the second viewbook that we have created for this dynamic school, which continues to inspire us to create work that is fresh and exciting, yet true to the school’s mission and ethos. The strategy behind this viewbook is manifested by the theme “Reinventing Classic.” In one chapter, two columns stand side-by-side, one with examples of “classic” education and another with “Classic Reinvented” (the Penn Charter way). Compelling and vibrant, this viewbook helps Penn Charter draw families to campus, continue to meet enrollment goals, and reinforce its brand message for at least five years.
The campaign series that Turnaround developed to promote the $47 million "Frameworks for the Future" campaign for Penn Charter went beyond the realm of the traditional case statement. Donors were inspired to participate not only in the campaign but in the mission of the school. Turnaround sought to engage Penn Charter constituents by inviting them to take part in a conversation about the school’s culture, their definitions of success, and their hopes for the future. This research led to a thoughtful and creative strategy, which in turn resulted in cohesive, message-driven materials and events. The kickoff event was held at the Constitution Center in Philadelphia. The school hoped for 400 in attendance. They got over 600. All of the campaign materials reinforce the school brand that we developed. A new book in the four-book series was mailed out every four weeks, permitting the development office to have frequent, meaningful communication with donors, convey the vision for the campaign, and finally motivate donors to step up and give. The school community was electric with positive responses to the event and the communications. The campaign closed in 2007 having reached its $47 million goal.
As part of its $47 million capital campaign, Penn Charter sought $8 million to build a new performing arts center. To stimulate community interest in the project, Turnaround suggested that the school conduct a "Year of the Performing Arts." The campaign marketing committee wasted no time talking with faculty about the many opportunities to explore the arts, arranging special guest performers and lectures, and planning projects all year long. Turnaround created the logo, invitations and other materials that led to this campaign's success. In the highlight of the year, 500 Penn Charter students took the stage at the Kimmel Center in Center City Philadelphia and performed a sold-out concert for 1,800 family and friends. The LEED Gold David L. Kurtz Center for the Performing Arts opened in 2010.
At the tail end of the campaign, Penn Charter wanted to give every potential donor an opportunity to be a part of this moment in the school's history. So Turnaround developed a creative "sweep piece" (to "sweep up" the last contributions) that summarized the objectives, asked one more time, and waved the Penn Charter banner in celebration.
“I just received a call from an alumna regarding the case. She told me she had been planning on leaving the school a very modest bequest, but because of the case she has increased her estate gift to $50,000.”
“I had a visit from an elderly alumnus yesterday, who is already including us in his estate. The case made him decide to also give us $5,000 outright.”
“In response to the Centennial Campaign case, we received $358,000 in new unsolicited campaign commitments last week! Gifts range from $50 to $100,000. In fact, two of the three $100,000 donors were not even on our radar to solicit at some point. One donor has told me over and over for years that she will not give to the school. When she saw the list of on-campus naming opportunities, she changed her mind so she could name a classroom after her son.”
“Our annual fund is a month away from closing, and we have not only increased parent participation from 53% to 74% in one year, but we have also broken a 100-year record for it.”
— Doreen Rice, Director of Advancement, Pembroke Hill School, Kansas City, MO
In the fall of 2011, Pembroke Hill School in Kansas City, Missouri, turned to Turnaround Marketing Communications for help with its Centennial Campaign, whose goal was to raise $13 million for endowment. The school wanted to revive the campaign, which had become stalled as a result of the economic downturn in 2008. Deciding to go public after receiving $4 million in commitments, PHS secured a $2 million challenge grant from a prominent family, contingent on raising the $13 million by June 2013.
We discussed our usual campaign marketing process with Doreen Rice, Director of Advancement, who told us that the community was experiencing research and focus group “fatigue.” Pembroke Hill would work with us if we could truncate the normal discovery phase. We agreed, and we managed to get what we needed by absorbing the school's existing research and interviewing a small but key group of community members, whose authentic voices provided zest to the messages. Blending our client’s wants and restrictions with Turnaround’s experience and expertise in campaign marketing strategy, we created a recipe for a successful case statement.
We custom designed a strategy for garnering the attention of potential large donors. This included a great deal of education about campaigns in general and Pembroke Hill’s campaign in particular, tapping the school’s superior reputation and building on its success.
Rushing to get photography for the case statement before the end of the school year, Turnaround developed a shoot list for Pembroke Hill School’s photographer and selected the best shots to tell the campaign story. We then took the school’s “vanilla” statement of need and a number of supplied donor profiles and added flavor through the promotion of faculty, motivating quotes from interviews, and powerful charts and graphs. Our skilled writer baked all of this into a seamless, well-edited manuscript that set the right tone. In eight weeks, the 20-page case statement was delivered to 400 high-target constituents, followed by a mini case statement delivered to 8,500 general targets.
Well aware that print doesn’t translate well to digital media, Turnaround designed the campaign web page and filled it with content that was crafted to educate, inform, and motivate prospective donors. The goal was not to garner online gifts, but to generate interest and enthusiasm about the campaign for website visitors.
By June 2013 Pembroke Hill School had raised $15.7 million in commitments, surpassing its $13 million goal. The $2 million challenge grant brought the campaign total to $17.7 million. Unexpected gifts from known donors, gifts from donors who were not on the school’s radar, and increased gifts from the board and steering committee spurred the campaign's completion. Contributors had responded well to the case statement—the emotional resonance of donor profiles, the compelling and appealing case for endowment support, and the focus on estate gifts.
At many schools, when a campaign is in full swing, the annual fund suffers. At Pembroke Hill, the campaign had the opposite effect, especially with current parents. Thanks to a new focus on fundraising generated by the campaign, parents began to see their own importance.
The school decided to emphasize annual fund participation, not dollars. A segmented approach was taken, promoting 100% parent participation, 1,100 alumni gifts, and 2,000 general donor gifts. Turnaround developed a strategy and annual fund appeal for parents that hit all the high notes, including a chart that demonstrated how low Pembroke Hill School's participation rate was compared to its peers.
The school reinforced the importance of the annual fund with a clever and memorable idea. The week prior to spring break, standing in the carpool line, board members distributed Pembroke Hill School mugs with tags reading, “Every One, Every Year”—the annual fund theme. The board members introduced themselves to parents and answered their questions about fundraising. An “Every One, Every Year” thermometer continued to keep parents apprised of annual fund progress and postcards reminded them to make their contribution.
As a result, Pembroke Hill broke a 100-year record for parent participation in the annual fund, increasing it from 53% to 74% in one year.
Along with record-breaking participation, parent giving was also $50,000 ahead of the previous year's annual fund. Overall, Pembroke Hill's 2013-14 Annual Fund has set an all-time high for total giving, raising nearly $100,000 more than the previous record.