All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘perception’
It’s always been the case, but is even more so now as the economy’s engine slowly (painfully slowly) begins to crank back to life: Patrons want value from anything they chose to – or have to – invest in.
But how do patrons decide whether or not they are getting good value? What they are telling us, via our research, is that their value equation has three parts to it:
What I see: Do the buildings look cared for? Do the students who are being educated appear to be solid citizens in the community? (Good luck with having that be viewed as universally the case.) Do the teachers, principals, administrators and Board of Education members seem to be pulling in the same, positive direction?
What I hear: Not so much from the district – although news from the Central Office and the individual schools does play a part – but more from what the neighbors are telling me. What the teachers are saying. What my kids are saying about what happens in school.
What I believe: Do I start with the general view that the school district is effective and efficiently run, or do I have nagging questions? What’s happening that’s impacting that view?
But understanding that value is not something that the majority of your patrons associate with a numerical equation will help guide your brand-building communications toward messages that demonstrate value on the patrons’ terms.
A recent trip to the bank’s drive-through was pretty revealing.
Now, this is not the slowest drive-through window I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been through more than my share), but I usually need a haircut by the time I get done. So, I had plenty of time to sit and brood. In doing so, my eyes happened upon a hand-lettered sign that was obviously meant for internal consumption only, peering at me from the window.
The sign was touting the virtues and benefits of a home improvement loan—not the benefits to the recipient, but to the bank. It seems the bank has an incentive program for the cashiers and anyone who “sells” a home equity loan gets a nice, fat bonus. The heading on the sign says “This month’s #1 priority—home-equity loans!”
It’s sort of like the signs that you see affixed to cash registers at some retail establishments, reminding the staff member to “Smile” and “Make eye contact” or to “Ask each customer if they (sic) need anything else.” These signs make me want to smile, because they suggest a rather basic approach to training and not a whole lot of confidence in the staff.
Plastering your educational objectives all over your school district’s buildings is a little like this. It’s fine to have an internal mission statement that says, for example, “Our objective is to help each student be a success, every single day” and to refer to that statement as decisions are being made.
But, remember that as you are getting your statement framed and suitable for posting that doing so takes an internal pledge and seeks to make it a marketing tool – which it isn’t. It’s little more than a promise to do your best, which doesn’t differentiate you from any other school district.
And that reminds me of the question I asked a former client in the health care field who proudly showed me the etched glass in their new hospital lobby that had the hospital’s slogan, which was (I’m not kidding) “We care.”
My question to her: Isn’t that what a hospital is supposed to do?
Recently, we wrote that we were seeing an increase in patrons suggesting “fundraisers” as a way for their school district to solve its budget challenges, as if cookie dough and wrapping paper sales were the path to financial stability.
The other side of that story consists of patrons’ ideas for cost savings. We’ve seen more than a few patrons suggesting such fixes as eliminating lamination, copying on both sides of the paper, dropping (or raising, depending on the season) the thermostat by 1 degree in buildings district-wide, and instructing staff to turn off lights in rooms they are not in.
All of these ideas – while well-intentioned and, in most cases, worth considering on general principles – make it clear that these patrons have a limited idea of the significance of the budget challenges. Over time, ideas such as these will make a notable difference. But, the school district doesn’t have the luxury of such time.
It seems clear that if your patrons continue to produce ideas that will save pennies, it means that you need to keep drawing their attention back to the enormity of the challenge, the difficult steps that have already been taken, and the ones which may need to be considered in the future.