Awards
Publications Program Improvement: Berkeley Carroll School - Gold Medal

Category 29: Publications Program Improvement
Berkeley Carroll School, Admissions Publications

Contact: Jodie Corngold, director of communications, Institutional Advancement, 808 Union St., Brooklyn, NY 11215, Phone: (718) 534-6587, e-mail: jcorngold@berkeleycarroll.org

Background: In 2005, the Berkeley Carroll School commissioned Cheney & Company to conduct an audit of the school’s marketing and communications materials. The audit included an assessment of the school’s image and key strengths, as well as a complete evaluation of all of the school’s printed and electronic publications, including admissions materials, fundraising pieces, parent and alumni publications, the school’s stationery suite, and the school’s website.

Berkeley Carroll was one of the first independent schools to embrace the importance of marketing, hiring its first full-time director of marketing and communications more than 20 years ago. Over time, however, the school’s publications had become fragmented and under-funded. In the years prior to 2005, the school had paid little attend to defining itself and communicating its distinctive attributes to important audiences, even including parents and alumni. In the absence of a proactive, integrated marketing/communications program, the school was flying under the radar of some of the people it sought to influence and was sending out fragmented, conflicting and sometimes fuzzy messages about who and what the school was.

In 2006, in conjunction with a redesign of all of the school’s print and electronic publications, the Berkeley Carroll School’s admissions and institutional advancement departments worked together with Cheney & Company to revise completely the school’s student recruitment publications. The process involved minor updates of some pieces, significant redesigns of others, and the creation of several brand new publications as part of a revised marketing and communications strategy to attract prospective parents and students.

The new integrated marketing campaign included the following:

  • Newspaper and magazine advertisements
  • Search brochure
  • Open house postcards
  • Viewbook
  • Curriculum flow chart
  • Information bulletin
  • PreK brochure
  • High School student booklet (yield piece)
  • New Web site

The centerpiece of the campaign is the new viewbook, which set the tone and design for the other recruitment publications. To fit in with the simultaneous redesign of the school’s fundraising publications, its Web site, and its stationery (all involving other graphic designers), the viewbook needed to achieve a classic look and feel that would be in synch with the school’s other publications, while at the same time projecting a modern, welcoming, and up-to-date image consistent with the school’s mission and culture.

In developing the viewbook, the school eschewed the traditional, hierarchical approach that organizes independent school viewbooks by division (lower, middle, upper). Instead, we organized our viewbook around five distinct school-wide themes that are articulated in the school’s mission. These had been identified during the marketing and communications audit. These themes are:

  • Challenging Students to Achieve
  • Encouraging Each Mind and Heart
  • Learning for Life
  • Connecting in the Community
  • Looking Beyond Berkeley Carroll

Each theme has one or more sub-points (more knowledge, more attention, etc), which, we hope, distinguish Berkeley Carroll from its competition in the minds of prospective parents. The overall feel of the viewbook is anecdotal and impressionistic; nuts and bolts information, such as a detailed description of the academic program and the names and degrees of faculty, is printed in a separate information bulletin, which will be updated annually. The curriculum flow chart, which in previous years had been a very basic internal publication designed for current parents, has been recast as an admissions publication highlighting the carefully designed progression of the Berkeley Carroll curriculum.

With the exception of the high school student booklet, all of the pieces were designed with the prospective parent, rather than the prospective student, in mind as the reader. In a school that runs PreK through 12 the overwhelming majority of inquiries are initiated by parents, rather than by students. At the same time, high school students are active and vocal participants in their school choices and fully one-quarter of our 9th grade class each year is new. For this reason, we created a separate piece aimed at the high school applicants themselves, rather than their parents. Mailed in early January to students shortly after their applications are received, it reflects the high school experience at Berkeley Carroll from the student perspective, using students’ own words as they were recorded during our marketing and communications audit the year before.

Objectives:
Qualitative

  • To communicate the balance that Berkeley Carroll seeks in its educational approach: strong academics balanced with an equally strong commitment to the arts and athletics, content knowledge with skill development, rigor with care and personal attention.
  • To communicate the school’s strong sense of community and the value the school places on the relationship between student and teacher.
  • To show the diversity – of all kinds – of the Berkeley Carroll community that allows for an exceptional variety of students to flourish here and an exceptional variety of student interests and activities for a school of our size (800 students, PreK-12).
  • To highlight the care and thoughtfulness with which the faculty approach both the students and the development of the curriculum.
  • In response to the “Brooklyn boom” of recent years, to distinguish Berkeley Carroll from other New York independent schools as being uniquely positioned to take advantage of the thriving historic neighborhood of Park Slope.

Quantitative

  • To increase the number of inquiries and applications from well-qualified students, particularly the high school level.
  • To increase the school’s yield of well-qualified students, particularly at the high school level.

Costs: The complete redesign of our student recruitment materials, including everything from advertisements to applications to web site, cost approximately $150,000, most of which is amortized over three years. The costs of the individual pieces included in this application are as follows:

 

Publication

Quantity

Creative Cost

Total Cost

Unit Cost

Search Brochure

5,000

$4,632

$9,520

$1.90

Open House Postcards

3,000

$935

$3,964

$0.79

Viewbook

12,000

$30,250

$66,027

$5.50

Curriculum Chart

6,000

$3,495

$8,646

$1.41

PreK Brochure

1,000

$2,107

$6,270

$6.27

High School Booklet

1,000

$5,500

$10,473

$10.47

With the exception of the Open House postcards and the Curriculum Flow Chart, which are updated annually, the quantities produced are for three admissions seasons. Additionally, the school printed enough copies of the viewbook for distribution to all parents and alumni.

Results:
Qualitative
We have received enthusiastic response to the new materials from all quarters. Anecdotal reports from prospective parents at school fairs and open houses have been very positive, but we plan to do a more systematic analysis of the response to the new materials after the admissions season ends in the spring. We have not received direct feedback yet from prospective students on the High School student booklet, but the overwhelmingly favorable response the piece has received from our current students suggests that we have accurately captured their experience. They commented on the piece’s distinctive size and shape as well as the fact that it speaks to and is mailed directly to the student, when most school materials are sent to the parents.

Quantitative
Inquiries are up this year by about 10 percent, but more significantly, applications have increased in the lower school by 50 percent and in the upper school by 25 percent. Though it is too early to judge this year’s yield, the overall quality of applicants has increased, particularly in the high school, and we look forward to an excellent pool of new freshmen in the fall. These are excellent results in just the first year of use of the new materials and it is unlikely that this sort of growth will be sustained. We would be very satisfied with this sort of growth over the three-year life of the materials.