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Write your website content first, then your brochure

In which we introduce you to a big frog and a little one, and offer our advice on how language schools should know which to catch first.

Every year, language schools the world over sit down at the busiest time of year to complete the work on their latest brochure, ready for the international trade workshops which start towards the end of August.

Whilst it’s true that many schools will be starting to veer away from printed materials in favour of more digital offerings, we know that printed brochures, ideally translated, are still very popular in many countries worldwide, and that competitors will still gain an advantage by having a nice printed offering in the agency’s offices for prospective clients to walk away with.

But what is a brochure? What is its purpose?

Visually, it can showcase the school – provide graphic confirmation that the school looks nice, the surroundings are pleasant and safe looking, that the location is culturally rich and interesting, and that it seems like people have a good time there.

Textually, you can explain in summary or in depth how your academic processes work, how you organise the school, what programmes you offer, how you care for students’ welfare, what accommodation you offer and so on. You can even include course dates and fees and paper booking forms.

Kinaesthetically, you can use paper stock and finishes which wow your clients. The quality feel of your brochure can do a lot to position your brand to agents and potential clients, and can be a direct metaphor for the quality and value of your offering.

Graphically, your brochure can reinforce your brand values, cement your brand id in people’s minds and help form positive associations with your brand (to the extent that you have control over this).

This is all good, and the chances are that your brochure is amazing and is selling your school and location(s) successfully, but…

What is the relationship between your brochure and your website?

In the vast majority of language schools we encounter, there is a colossal disconnect between a school’s physical paper brochure and their digital, web-based offering.

Perversely, it appears from speaking to schools that the website is frequently perceived as being much more static and immovable than the brochure, whereas in fact one element is printed and utterly unshiftable (as any marketer who has missed a typo will know to their pain), and the other is a fluid, dynamic, digital interface.

It feels relatively easy to hire a designer to come up with a fresh, new, contemporary look, make any necessary amendments to text, factual content, prices, dates and add a couple of new courses, and get the whole thing printed and shipped abroad.

However just the very thought of making design changes to the website and the entirety of your website content is enough to send marketing team and senior leadership into hiding.

Write your website content first

And yet in the words of Mark Twain:

If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.

Like it or not, it is your website, and the content on your website that is always going to sell you more courses than your brochures. Regardless of how dependent you are on international agencies to promote your programmes, everyone will benefit from your very best information being online.

The big frog is your website. The little frog is your brochure.

The great thing about getting your website content as optimised as possible is that you can do it on a rolling basis.

Here are Disquiet Dog’s 3 top tips on getting this right:

1. Set up monthly tasks throughout the year to review and refine key content

If you break up website content into areas, you can easily assign responsibility to key departments in the organisation, such as:

  • Academic managers for course content and descriptions
  • Social programme organiser for excursions and activities
  • Accounts team for payment information
  • Admissions team for terms and conditions and entry requirements
  • Welfare team for well-being and safety issues 8 Accommodation team for options, special requirements, what you can and can’t organise….

If your website was created with an easy-to-use content management system, you’ll hopefully be able to add and amend content internally.

2. Collect new images over the year

Waiting until the summer to get the latest pictures sounds great in theory but it puts pressure on everyone when they’re at their busiest.

Instead, you could try these ideas to source images:

  • Run photo competitions and award weekly prizes to the best images
  • Ask students for high quality selfie images
  • Give your social programme manager a decent camera and a photography course and get them collecting footage as part of their role
  • Give someone in the marketing team the monthly task of taking classroom shots and collect images from around the school. Let them hone their skills as they go and see how creative they can get.

New images can be used on blogs and social media, but hold a few back from core website content to keep updating and refreshing what you have. Keep images referenced in folders when you use them on the website, so you can easily find them if you need them for print.

3. Pilot programmes online first

There is nothing worse than starting with a random course idea or simply lifting an idea from a competitor without running your own research. What works 50m down the road at another school may not work for you. It’s now down to your teachers and the building’s physical capacity to provide a certain new course, it’s down to your pre-existing and potential ability to connect to the market that wants it.

Therefore, rather than throw things at the brochure in the vague hope that an agency will remember your new shiny course from flicking through the hard copy, go create your own demand first.

  • Run an SEO audit around the subject you’re interested in teaching as a new programme
  • Find out the most widely used keywords when people are searching for that kind of programme
  • Use those and related keywords to actually inform the programme content Write the course description and programme details and ensure you can genuinely deliver the programme
  • Post the new course to the website, create related blog articles and website content and proliferate through social media.
  • Track your online positioning for this course, and see how effectively you can position yourself in search engine results.
  • If great positioning leads to bookings and you get a group off the ground, then feature it in the next brochure as a going concern, not a vague hope of a programme.

Think of your brochure as a snapshot

Once you’ve eaten the big frog, the little one will seem comparatively much more palatable.

Now you already have a busy, dynamic, updated, relevant site with great images. Your content is working harder for you, it’s better positioned with search engines and it’s now anticipating student questions, providing comprehensive and accurate information. Your website is the go-to reference point for agents and students (and staff!) alike.

For the brochure, all you need to do is decide on the cut off date for web content and take a snapshot of that content at a moment in time. You now have the basis of your brochure.

How much of the content you use, how specific you are, whether you want detailed content or something very superficial and visual is entirely up to you. But you no longer have to create that brochure content from scratch and worry about how to backload it into your website. All you are doing is editing down.

Two frogs eaten, enjoy the just desserts.

Working in this way ensures you’re always putting maximum time and effort into the part of your marketing mix most likely to deliver sales and profitability. By keeping your website content bang up to date, you’ll increase your online positioning, have more relevant information for everyone, reduce enquiry volumes and increase bookings. Kick back and watch it happen.