Speak to the heart. That’s how you can create messaging that captures people’s attention, influences their thinking, or even changes their minds. It’s how you can differentiate your school from its competitors and it’s how you develop recruitment and retention initiatives that achieve results. It’s that simple. Speak to the heart.
My very first job was working as a head-hunter. The owners of the firm, who I now realize were wise beyond their years, would inundate us daily with their six-word formula for success: Sales is a transfer of emotion. No matter what you are selling, from office supplies to nuclear reactors, if you want someone to buy something, you have to make them feel something. You have to speak to their heart.
A research report from Forrester corroborates my former employers’ wisdom. Surveying the opinions of over 100,000 people regarding 260 brands, the study concludes, “Brands that want to break away from the pack should focus on emotion: How an experience makes customers feel has a bigger influence on their loyalty to a brand than effectiveness or ease in every industry.”
The challenge is that we are not accustomed to thinking or writing about a school’s attributes in emotional terms. Rather, we appeal to people’s intellect, to their heads. We provide data, guiding principles, accomplishments and pages and pages of information.
Speaking to the heart is much more difficult than speaking to the head. You have to dig deep to find the visceral motivation. It calls for a profound sense of empathy. Personally, I find that it requires deep thought, putting myself in the shoes of parents and imagining what they are feeling.
The chart below illustrates the difference between intellectual and emotional messaging. Using what the EMA Ride to Independent School report (that I’m proud to have written) found to be the top five reasons that parents consider private schools, here are contrasting head-focused and heart-focused messages.
Reason for considering
Love of Learning
We nurture the curiosity of our students, encouraging them to continuously question and leading them on a path of lifelong learning.
As your child continuously craves opportunities to learn you will be astounded at her limitless curiosity and delighted by her ongoing quest to acquire knowledge
Education that will challenge
At KayTwelve School every student is provided with the opportunity and the support to grow and accomplish so that they can be the very best they can be.
You will beam with pride as your son pushes the limits of his learning and explores new horizons
The educational experience at KayTwelve is imbued with empathy, caring and compassion allowing students to develop a strong moral compass.
Witnessing your child put values into action will validate the principles by which you live your life and allow you to envision your child’s path to adulthood.
Social emotional development
Through the KayEight experience, students gain the self-awareness and emotional maturity to develop mutual respect, support decision-making and build relationships.
Watching your child become emotionally secure and sensitively caring for others while being confident in their decision-making, will fill you with pride and take your breath away.
Our low student teacher ratio and small class sizes allow students to receive the individual attention that ensures their particular needs are being met.
You will have a deep sense of comfort and confidence, knowing that your child’s individual needs are being met, allowing her to reach her full potential.
We implicitly acknowledge the importance of speaking to the heart by including storytelling and testimonial in our marketing and communicating efforts. Emotion is clearly the most compelling ingredient of someone’s personal account. But yet, we cling to intellectually driven messaging.
Speaking to the heart takes practice. We’re not used to allowing ourselves to be guided by our emotions in our professional lives. It also takes courage because it is often the path less traveled. Perhaps the table above can be instructive and inspiring. For some schools, I have developed a comprehensive messaging guide that includes key messages and the rationale for writing further copy. Another possibility is a messaging inventory with copy targeted at particular target market segments describing what the school offers that is relevant to each segment.
To be fair, we need a balance of heart-driven and head-driven messaging. We demonstrate our respect for parents by providing clear and complete information. But nothing will influence decision-making more than appealing to the heart. And nothing will contribute more to enrollment success.