The following is a guest-post by Rebecca Egolf, facilitator of PEJE”s Admission Community of Practice.
During Monday morning’s case study analysis, I observed something very intriguing. At one point, we were asked to go around our tables and identify three things that we all had in common, and then one thing that was completely unique about each of us, which no one else could claim. The first part was easy, for we had many obvious things in common with each other. My surprise was that it was also quite easy to identify our unique characteristics. None of us had any trouble quickly conveying our personal distinctive traits, some of which were indeed quite extraordinary!
If it’s so easy for a tableful of day school professionals and lay leaders to identify our unique characteristics, why is it so difficult for schools to do this? Why do the websites, marketing materials and admissions publications of most Jewish day schools tout features such as academic excellence, close relationships between students and teachers, small class sizes, and a challenging dual curriculum as their most important features? These exact same characteristics describe almost every other independent school in the country!
Face it, about 95% of what all Jewish day schools do is the same. We teach the same academic subjects, offer enrichment in the arts and music, physical education and science, computers, and more. We teach Hebrew and Tanakh, celebrate the Chagim and welcome Shabbat. We all have wonderful teachers who love and nurture their students and who are passionate and dedicated to their craft. But it’s the 5% that distinguishes us from the others on which we need to focus our key messages, because no one else besides us can claim those traits. There’s really no point in trying to build market share with a brand that someone else can already claim. We need to build a brand that is completely unique to our individual schools.
So what does your school do that no other school can claim? Or what do you do significantly better, or much differently, than anyone else? Returning to your school’s values, those unwavering commitments at the core of your vision, will yield the answer. Just walk down the halls of your school and you should be able to come up with a dozen examples on any day of the week. Those magic moments of menschlikeit, of values-laden decision making, and of the love that permeates your community are the messages that will sell. You just need to find them.
The only way to break through the noise is to say something that no one else is saying. Find your uniqueness, and embrace it. Then spread it far and wide, or post it here, for all of us to see.