Interview with Bruce Mutch, Director of Admissions at Ashbury College
What strategies would you recommend to other schools that are considering diving into the marketing pool?
1. Get a plan together. Creating a blocking chart that concentrates marketing events around major admissions initiatives is strategic. We ran a major online retargeting campaign leading up to the application deadline, which was hugely successful.
2. Talk to your business office and see what you can develop for a marketing budget. The Director of Marketing and Communications and I, sat down with our CFO to share our new marketing plan. We didn’t get all that we asked for, but we were heard and adjustments were made
3. Understand your market and all available options. Does your school specialize in arts? Perhaps theatres and art galleries make sense. Does your school specialize in athletics? Advertising at the local baseball field or soccer pitch may bring in apps. Are you a great all around school? Maybe some great online ads are available to target your “perfect fit” kids.
4. Take Meetings. I was shocked to learn the difference in pricing with various outlets. Some were much more reasonable in cost than I anticipated.
What results have you seen since you started marketing?
Sometimes new initiatives in marketing and advertising can be seen as desperation or commercialization of the brand by those close to it (faculty, board members and current parents). Rest assured that this is a very small percentage. The sense of pride that these marketing and advertising initiatives emit in both new and retuning students is powerful. It creates conversations at the theatre, sports fixtures or convention. The stories that are current parents share with perspective families is valuable – get them talking.
In terms of pure metrics, we have seen double digit gains in applications and yield. Our major intake grade (9) saw an increase of 67% in 2016 vs. 2015.
What was the hardest thing about diving into the marketing pool?
The hardest thing about diving into the marketing pool, was having faith that an increased marketing presence in the community would be well received and understood.
Ashbury is fortunate to have a healthy application volume, but we also acknowledge that the school has changed and evolved over the last 125 years. We are no longer a school for small burrow of Ottawa that is home to many ambassador residences and affluence. We are a thriving international school that attracts students from, not only all facet of the National Capital Region, but from all over the world.
My goal, as the Director of Admissions, is for every person in Ottawa to recognize Ashbury College as the school of choice for students in grades 4-12 regardless of socio-economic make up. Personally, I want every student in Ottawa to aspire to enroll at Ashbury and gain from our wonderful resources as an education institution. This is hugely challenging, as we need to market across many different mediums to educate both parents and students alike.
Why is it important for Ashbury College to have a strong brand? How did they decide on their brand?
At Ashbury our brand is critical to our success as a school both within campus and outside. Every school must establish differentiators to keep them relevant and separate themselves from competitors in the market. For a school like Ashbury, our history separates us from the majority of schools in Ottawa. Dating back to 1891, families know they are choosing a school that historically significant in the national capital region. We further differentiate ourselves by being the second school in Canada to offer the International Baccalaureate program. This year we will celebrate 40 years of IB. Many independent schools across the globe are recognizing IB as a catalyst to prep kids for success at Universities, but at Ashbury we like to see ourselves as pioneers.
The brand itself has had variations, but it again comes from history. Honesty, Courage and Kindness, adorn our crest and we try to weave these values into all things Ashbury. We have also worked with consultants to contemporize the look and feel of our school crest, while remaining true to its’ historical roots.
Bruce Mutch joined Ashbury College as Director of Admissions in 2012. Originally from Summerside, Prince Edward Island, Bruce has spent much of his career in the independent school industry, working for some of North America’s most recognized day and boarding institutions. Most recently, Bruce worked as Director of Enrollment at Strathcona-Tweedsmuir School in Calgary. Previously, Bruce spent 6 years at Ridley College as Assistant Director of Admissions and Assistant Housemaster, and 2 years at Hillside School in Marlborough, Massachusetts as French Teacher and Assistant Head of House.
Established in 1891, Ashbury College is a leading independent school for boys and girls, grades 4 to 12. Located in Ottawa, Canada, Ashbury’s mission is to engage students in a dynamic learning environment and to inspire them to become intellectually vibrant, compassionate and responsible citizens. Ashbury is a World IB School, with an average class size of 17 students, and a university placement rate of 100%.