How A School Used Blogging To Fight The Recession And Win More Admissions

In the past, we’ve looked at how blogging can benefit businesses (and schools), and we’ve calculated the cost of blogging as well. Now let’s look a real life examples of blogging with actual business value.

Sewickley Academy struggled with sagging admissions when the Recession hit. Their response was to start a blog. As you’ll read in this interview, their success was built by connecting their blog to their traditional marketing. As a result, their admissions jumped, more families enquired about their programs and visited the school to see what the campus was like.

Brendan Schneider is the Director of Admissions at Sewickley Academy, a private school near Pittsburgh, PA. He also writes his own blog at schneiderb.com, helping schools embrace social media, online branding, and inbound marketing.

Here is Brendan’s interview with me on how blogging as helped Sewickley Academy:

When did Sewickley start blogging? What was going on in Sewickley at that time? (What stage of growth, were admissions doing well or poorly, any leadership transition…any notable events or changes in company culture.)

We started blogging almost 5 years ago when we made the shift to inbound marketing at Sewickley Academy with blogging at the core of our strategy. Our decision to switch to inbound marketing was in direct response to the economic downturn that occurred during the 2008-2009 school year as well as our decreasing numbers of enquiries, applications, and visits.

What was the initial goal for the school’s blog? Has that goal been achieved? Has that goal changed much since the beginning?

Our initial goal for blogging was to help with our search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. As a result we focused on creating new content, generating inbound links, and targeting keywords where we needed to rank better on Google.

In terms of metrics, we focused on views, comments, and inbound links, but we have been deliberate to always tie the success of our blogging efforts back to our traditional admission metrics of enquiries, applications, and visits.

In the 5 years that we have been blogging our enquiries, applications, and visits have increased over the previous 4 out of 5 years. The one year in which it didn’t increase was because the previous year had been so incredible in terms of numbers and not that we had a bad year.

Does the blog generate revenue directly for Sewickley? What other benefits have come from blogging?

Blogging does not directly generate revenue for our school but it does directly help with our admission efforts.

Did blogging directly solve any problems for Sewickley Academy?

Blogging, as part of our inbound marketing efforts, has absolutely helped with our admission metrics and outcomes.

Name 3 challenges associated with the blog (present challenges, or significant past challenges). How have you approached each challenge?

While we have had success with the blog and will definitely continue with it’s usage, blogging does have it’s challenges. I tell schools all the time that blogging, as part of an inbound marketing strategy, works but that it’s an engine that needs fuel and that fuel is content.

As a result, our main challenge is always finding content. Our solution to this particular challenge is to have as many people as possible contribute to the blog. In this way we can find content as well as share different voices from across our school.

Our second challenge, which really only occurred when we started the blog, was determining what type of content would resonate with our audience. Through experimentation we determined that content that was not focused upon us and instead focused on educating and/or entertaining our audience would be more successful.

A great book that helped us with this direction is Youtility by Jay Baer in which he suggests being helpful more than promotional with your content.

The final challenge was realizing that once you publish your blog post the work doesn’t end there. You must promote your post in order to help people find your post.

What are the 3 most important metrics you track to measure the impact of the blog on Sewickley’s success?

I mentioned before that we pay attention to visits, comments, and inbound links but ultimately we measure the success of the blog by our number of enquiries, applications, and visits.

Who writes the posts? Is it just you, a team of writers, the owner/CEO…?

As a response to our first challenge mentioned above, we created a blogging team of three people who meet frequently to discuss topics, author ideas, and assign writing assignments. While the three of us contribute content to the blog, we are looking for different voices and ideas to share. We specifically target faculty because we feel they are our best asset in recruiting talented, mission-appropriate students.

What kind of editorial schedule do you keep up?

We try to publish once per week and at times have tried to publish twice per week. Twice per week is hard work for us though. Starting with this school year we will continue to publish our written, longer form content once per week but might experiment with additional posts during the week that include images, quotes, or audio.

Now for your input.

Does your experience match Brendan’s at all? What are some of the challenges you’ve met and solutions you’ve come up with?

Share your thoughts in the comments below. And share this post! Let’s see how others have used blogging to benefit their business.

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