Marketing Your Way to Program Success

by Stephanie Sarkis

You have a great career counseling center in your school. Problem: too few students know about it or use it on a regular basis. Here’s how to make sure all your students benefit from what you have to offer.
•Redefine career.
    Many students think that “career” is synonymous with “job”. We as counselors know that there is so much more to a career. Help your students realize this, too. Redefine “career” in a way that speaks to your students. A flyer that says “Find your life path” is much more effective than one that says “Find your career”.

•Survey your students.

    Find out what your students want out of a career program. When companies such as Coca-Cola want to market a product, they do a lot of “market research” to determine what their audience is looking for in a soda. You are your own Coca-Cola! Find out your students’ goals. In which careers are they most interested? This can be accomplished through talking with your students, making a paper-and-pencil survey or an online survey.

•Ask them the questions that they want answered.

    Once you find out your students’ interests, tailor your marketing materials in that direction. When creating a flyer, write questions such as, “What careers in science are perfect for me?” and “Wouldn’t it be nice to love going to work every day?” By asking these questions of students, it makes them actively think about your program.

•Use the Internet to its full potential.

    Email newsletters and websites have the potential to market your career program around the world. A website also makes your program accessible to parents who can’t come in during business hours. A website doesn’t have to be fancy and filled with graphics to make an impression. In fact, with websites, simpler can be better. Clearly put the title of your program at the top of the page. Provide a link where people can email you. If you have questions about setting up webpages, take advantage of your community college’s courses or take a tutorial online. You may also want to suggest website creation as an inservice topic. There are several programs that make website creation easy and even fun!

•Make use of guest speakers.

    Guest speakers really spark the interest of students. A professional who has “been there, done that” opens up many windows of opportunity. Guest speakers also teach the importance of networking.
    Prepare students for the guest speaker. Have them brainstorm questions to ask the speaker after his or her presentation.
    Make sure you write thank you notes to your guest speakers. Use stationery that has your program’s logo, slogan, and contact information.

•Create a logo and slogan.

    Businesses use logos and slogans because they work. Not convinced? Go to www.logogame.com and see how many logos you can identify. You can create a simple logo on your computer, or you can see if students in the graphic design program can help you out.
    A slogan is a sentence that states your program’s goal. For example, “Helping students find their life path” is simple and to the point.
    Use your logo and slogan extensively. Include it on all your marketing materials - flyers, business cards, bulletin boards, newsletters and your website.

•Give them a “take home”.

    Always have a pencil or note pad with your program’s title, logo, slogan, and contact information. Give these out liberally to students, faculty members, parents and people in the community. You never know who is going to see your name and phone number. The more places your name is visible, the more students you will potentially reach.

•Get creative with your marketing materials.

    This is where computer skills are a real bonus. There are many types of specialty papers available for printing. You can produce a very good-looking flyer or business card on your computer. Take advantage of the free templates available at www.microsoft.com/office.
    Make use of both sides of your business card. Put your title and contact information on the front of your card, and list features of your program on the back of the card.

•Reach beyond the school.

    Go beyond standard marketing materials. Who in the community could provide support for your program? Think beyond the school setting. Counselors in private practice may be willing to place flyers in their waiting rooms. Consider giving talks to groups in the community about your program. Some businesses may be willing to provide shadowing opportunities or attend a career day.

•Participate in as many community events as possible.

    Make sure you have a table set up on school orientation days. Have your flyers, business cards, and “take home” materials available. Have materials written specifically for parents. Wear a name tag that clearly identifies your name and your program.
    Be a visible presence in the hallways at school. Go to games and school events. You’ll reach more students by being visible outside of regular school hours.
    If there are not many community or school events available, create your own!

•Keep track of your marketing efforts.

    For accountability, keep a detailed record of your activities, including the date, time, and type of activity.
    When students ask for an appointment or show up at a career event, have them complete a form that includes how they found out about the service or workshop.
    Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of the various methods you use. Does the return justify the investment of the time and money?
    Talk with others about their effective strategies.
    Share your successes. Present at a conference or district meeting.

By practicing even a few of these tips, your career program can hit new heights and expand its reach.

Stephanie Sarkis PhD NCC LMHC is the author of 10 Simple Solutions for Adult ADD, published by New Harbinger. The book has a chapter specifically devoted to career choices. Dr. Sarkis is an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Counselor Education at the University of Florida. She also has a private practice in Gainesville, Florida and is the Director of Assessments and Evaluations at Sarkis Clinical Trials.
She can be reached at
www.stephaniesarkis.com and mail@stephaniesarkis.com.

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