6. Keeping Up with the Changing Environment for School Marketing with Brendan Schneider
What are the trends in marketing that independent schools should be paying attention to? In this episode, Aubrey and Tara chat with Brendan Schneider, of SchneiderB Marketing and MarCom Society, about issues and trends facing marketers right now, and how to incorporate mindfulness into the hectic environment of school administration and marketing.
About Brendan Schneider:
Brendan is one of the leaders in the field for teaching and knowledge about inbound marketing for schools. With his workshops, exclusive MarCom Society, the SchneiderB Media blog, his Schneider.FM podcast, his SchneiderB VirCons, and his SEO Coach software, Brendan continues to advance the abilities of the independent school admission, communication, and marketing professional.
Aubrey (00:01): Welcome to Mindful School Marketing, your go-to podcast for personal and professional growth.
Tara (00:07): We’re school marketers, business owners, and moms passionate about connecting other school professionals with tools and strategies for success.
Aubrey (00:13): We love solving problems, exploring new ideas, and thinking outside the box! Let’s transform your school and life, starting right now.
Tara (00:21): Welcome to Mindful School Marketing, I’m Tara Claeys,
Aubrey (00:27): And I’m Aubrey Bursch. Today, we’re joined by Brendan Schneider. Brendan is one of the leaders in the field for teaching and knowledge about inbound marketing for schools. With his workshops, exclusive MarCom Society, the SchneiderB Media blog, his Schneider.FM podcast, his SchneiderB VirCons, and his SEO Coach software, Brendan continues to advance the abilities of the independent school admission, communication, and marketing professionals. Welcome Brendan. We’re so glad you’re here.
Brendan (00:55): Well, thank you very much. I’m glad to be here. This is great.
Tara (00:58): Yeah. Thanks for joining us. Can you tell us more about yourself?
Brendan (01:01): Sure. Thanks for that very lovely kind introduction, but I think the way I think about it is I have a day job and a night job. So my day job, I am the Director of Advancement at Sewickley Academy, which is a pre-K through 12 day school located just outside of Pittsburgh, and at night I do all that Schneider B stuff and the MarCom society and all that other stuff. Yeah. Speaker 1 (01:26): I’m so impressed. I feel like you’re like one of those superheroes who, you know, dawn’s clothing and then, you know, puts on your mask and you’re helping people everywhere you are. So I’ve had the pleasure of being a part of several of your communities and I’d love to find out, especially now you have such a large impact on so many schools and you’ve built such a wonderful community. Can you tell us a little bit about what are you hearing right now in your MarCom community forums? Like what’s coming up, what issues are coming up and challenges do you think schools are facing right now?
Brendan (01:58): Yeah, that’s a great question. I thought about this. And there were three overarching things that I’m seeing the first is really issues related to taking what people have done and moving it or changing it because of the restrictions of COVID. So how do we take things and move them online, or how do we take things and pre-record them and make them okay. So that’s the first one. Then the second one is just stress people, people are stressed out and they’re kind of done, even though we do have a few weeks left of school. And the final one is just really questions related to, I call them fringe social media channels fringe for school markers, TikTok even something like LinkedIn, which a lot of schools haven’t used for marketing per se, it’s more professional development or networking. So those are the overarching things that I’ve seen.
Tara (02:51): Yeah. That’s probably, it’s nothing that you could have predicted when you started this. So I want to kind of back up and ask you about how long been doing this, what prompted you to start this night job? And you know, what the issues were then, because I’m sure there must have been some things that prompted you to dive into this that are very different from what the environment is now.
Brendan (03:13): Yeah. Thank you. I would say Aubrey, you said superhero and I would probably classify more as geek. It really started for me in 2008-9 with, I had just become the Director of Admissions here in Sewickley and the economy tanked. It was really vested interest, you know, people freaked out, what are we going to do? It’s a very, very long story and I’ll spare all the gory details, but I found the inbound marketing book by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shaw. And this is pretty cheesy, but the light bulb went off. So how do I then take these ideas and techniques that they’re talking about in the book and apply them to school? So that’s really how the blog started is I thought, let me start the blog under my own name, Schneider B not very original. It’s just my Twitter handle and I could get the.com. So I thought, why not? And I started blogging and using those techniques, thinking that if I screw something up, it’ll be under my own name and not school. I quickly learned and you guys know you don’t screw anything up in marketing. People just don’t pay attention. So I kept trying these things and brought them to school. And then this is pretty embarrassing, I never really intended to get found. I just thought that this blog would just be kind of my sandbox, so to speak. And the other thing for me is that I had been looking fortalking about inbound marketing and social media marketing for schools, and all I could find were things for business. So it was really just a lot of me translating and changing the words and the, you know, something as simple as lead to inquiry and, and things like that. So eventually got found and then it kept going. Then my wife one night finally said, you do this all the time, could you make a couple dollars? My son plays hockey and for people that play hockey, they said, can you pay for ice time? Find enough money to pay for ice time. So that’s really where a lot of these other things started. Then that led me to being here today.
Aubrey (05:20): I really enjoyed that story because I relate so it so much to you and that it worked in a lot of schools and sometimes in schools, we get so much buried in the weeds, but you were able to kind of look at that higher level or ask the right question. Maybe that’s it, that’s the thing, you were able to ask the right question. If I try something like this, could it be successful or could I tweak this and maybe see some results? I think that type of thing of like asking the right question is so key so that you were able to do that not only for your school, but how you’ve helped so many other schools with this kind of process of asking the right question and getting curious and putting together systems has been just eye-opening, and I admire you for that because in schools it can be, especially during COVID times, very stressful that you don’t think at the higher level. So thank you for bringing that to all of us.
Tara (06:17): Yeah, it’s also a perfect example of content marketing success because, and that elusive thing that people are trying to get to, because what you described saying that you never intended to get found. I mean, people try so hard and do so much and spend so much to get found. So there are many people like you who set out and just, they don’t intend for it to turn into what it is, but it’s because you’re providing good, valuable content that people want and are looking for. So it’s a great testament to that. Sometimes you don’t even have to try, you just have to do what comes naturally. So I really think that’s a great success story of what you’ve built.
Brendan (06:56): Yeah. Thanks. I think there was also two things that helped me. One was just timing. I came along. I mean, there’s luck involved, you know, it came along at a good time and there wasn’t a lot of content out there, so people were really looking for it. Then I have the other thing I think is just as with any of this work, it’s playing the long game, there are no magic bullets, there are no quick fixes and it’s just showing up every day to do whatever. So when I first started blogging, I was writing and publishing three times a week. I could think of doing that now, and it probably because the time was different, that would be a waste. You just have to do it again and again and again and again, playing that long gamegood things happen.
Aubrey (07:46): I’m curious, as we’re thinking of the future of marketing and communications in schools, do you have any thoughts of where we might be going and some interesting insights as to what might be happening in independent schools?
Brendan (08:03): Yeah. It’s such a big question. I wish I was drinking something a little harder than a cup of coffee right now, because we could spend a lot of time on this. I’m excited about the future of it, for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve seen our industry get a lot more knowledgeable, so it’s a lot less, and I think the other thing for me is schools and people are taking marketing more seriously. So I think there’s a nice virtuous circle there because the schools take it seriously and they’re not just hiring the first grade teacher to, you know, “hey, she tells great stories, let’s let her”… You know. I mean there’s a professionalism to the whole thing. Then the other big thing is that marketing is being elevated to getting a seat at the table so that typically, if you think of silos at schools, especially within the advancement realm, a marketing person would answer to most likely a development person or an advancement person, sometimes admissions. But what I’m really excited about is that the marketing person is now at literally and figuratively at the table and answering to the head, which has really elevated the profession. I think that’s only going to be better for the profession. I think the other thing, one of the things that’s holding us back that will eventually get better is the lack of resources. So the money hasn’t necessarily followed that. And when I mean money, I don’t mean just like money to spend that’s part of it, but also personnel, so people, and then just time.
Aubrey (09:42): That’s so good by the way, I could just see, people. People is so key. I mean, how many marketing shops do I meet that it’s just like half a person almost it’s like the marketing plus, some other jobs topped up on there. So that is key. And I think getting a seat at the table, just from my 15 years in the independent school community, I’ve seen that such a big change that now marketing has a voice at the table because people are recognizing the holistic newness of marketing. It touches everything. So it is, I think you’re right. There are exciting times in the future for independent schools in marketing, for sure.
Brendan (10:20): Well I think the people piece which is going to help as we keep going—the people that aren’t doing the work underestimate the time it takes to do the work. So that’s why we do need more people and more resources and really some internal messaging to help the other people to realize that you can’t necessarily, I mean, some of this stuff is we know this quick, but some of the stuff takes time, at least to do it well. So that’s important.
Tara (10:48): Yeah. Time, resources, and knowledge. I want to ask you a little bit about one of the things that you said was a popular topic in the community now. That’s these different media platforms, tech talk and, and others. What’s your take on those and what challenges do you think that schools are facing when it comes to approaching different social media platforms for marketing?
Brendan (11:14): Yeah. Again, another, you guys are asking big home run questions. This is good. I’ve got to work here. Where do I jump in? I would say for these new channels, I’m always a proponent of jumping on yourself first. So do it personally, make up a name, it doesn’t matter. Engage and see if it can eventually apply to school. The other side of the coin there, and that’s why I was wondering where to jump in is as we just talked about lack of resources and time. I think about schools already are very good at adding things to people’s plates without removing them. So if you’re going to add another channel and be consistent, and do it well, I think you have to have the time and the resources or the people to do that, and I don’t think a lot of schools do have that. So I think they jump in thinking that this is the cool thing, and somehow it’s going to solve all our problems. When, again, as you jump into do something, are you going to remove time from something like Facebook or let’s say Instagram, which again, I still have problems with, because of the lack of conversion. You get one linkby the way, we’re talking about organic, not paying for it. Again, here’s a set another way do one or two things and do them really, really well before you add something else. So that’s where something like Tik ToK for me. Linkedin’s different, I mean, even Snapchat are you doing those other platforms really well before you jump into something like that? I’d love to hear what you guys think.
Aubrey (12:53): Oh my gosh, I love this. Oh, Tara, did you want to go? Like you said, this is so amazing because it’s so important. It’s return on investment, right? It’s also doing something really well, and seeing the return on investment before I think, all of us in marketing, we must have some creative streak in us, right? We’re drawn naturally to the shiny objects that get laid before us of, like TikTok, and everything like that. We want to do it all. And we think, oh, how great this would be for our school, but if we’re already maxed out to capacity, something else is going to have to drop from the plate or else we’re going to do it a B- or C- effort, I should say, on all of the above. Then that’s where the conversation you just had has to take place. We have to say, what what’s worth it? What can we do well? And with the time we haveI think that’s so important, I’m so glad you brought that up, it’s really important. If I might ask a follow-up question, when you’re talking, thinking about return on investment, what are some of your advice for schools you have and how do you quantify? How do you show return on investment?
Brendan (14:02): Yeah. This is another, you’re killing it with the big questions! But they’re important, I get it. I go back, because again, I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’m getting old and gray and the hair’s getting thin, although you can’t see it, so it’s perfect. But when we talked about traditional marketing methods first, whether that was print or direct mail or things like that, super, super hard to measure. Nobody will question that. You think about digital methods, if you’re using Facebook ads or some sort of social media stuff they’re easier to measure in a way, but they’re still hard. I think the holy grail is drawing the line back from a newly enrolled student to some initiative, and it’s never one thing and that’s hard. So I think schools need to understand that first, but as we all work to become more data-driven and have a sense, to answer your question, Aubrey, I think about social media two ways—recruitment or retention. So as we post and we don’t do this every time, I mean, we’re not perfect. We screw up all the time, but are we posting to drive people back to a web asset where we can convert them, get their email address, etc.? Or, are we posting and having them stay on that web asset to just reaffirm, so this is the retention piece, reaffirm their great decision to enroll in our school. Maybe TikTok or Snapchat could be one of those plays, but I go back to all of these things, are content creation. I mean, you guys know it takes a long time to create A+, A, B, content. I mean, if you want to do a D or C level, have at it. But you might get in trouble and then maybe you don’t get in trouble. It’s just a waste of time. Does that answer?
Tara (15:51): Yeah, it does. It really does. I think I could get hurt you, even if you don’t do it well, if you’re not paying attention to it, which I’m going to ask you a question that hopefully won’t be quite so hard because I think it might pull together everything that you’ve talked about. And that is that this podcast is called Mindful School Marketing because we feel it’s really important to bring in sort of, not just the tactics and the strategies, but also how you approach them mindfully and how you approach your job mindfully and your day and your planning. So kind of what you’ve described and what we’ve been talking about, the question Aubrey asked may kind of just feed right into this and almost answer it for you, and that is, how does mindfulness play a role in a school’s marketing strategy?
Brendan (16:36): I thought about this and for me, the thing that keeps popping into my head is the most obvious, which is self- care. It’s something that I didn’t always pay attention to or make time for. So one of the things that I’ve tried to do in the past year or two is practice mindfulness and take time and be intentional. It’s funny, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what to feel, but I know that if I practice, and I just use Headspace, I just use the app and I try to take time every day to go through something. For me, it’s not like flipping a switch. It’s just this again, you got to show up every day, do it and do it. Then I find myself that I’m just better. I react better. I’m better with my family. I’m not a jerk, you know, I don’t snap at my kids, I’m sure my wife will have a different perspective, but those are those things that I’m trying to get better about that that is not marketing, but if I’m better, I assume my work has to be better. My interactions at work, my colleagues, stuff like that has to be better. So for me, that’s where I go to.
Tara (18:03): Yeah, thank you for sharing that. I think that’s really helpful and important, and I certainly tried it myself too, kind of on and off. And I think what it applies to, but it’s not only that sort of meditativeness that calms your mind, but then it helps you approach some of the things that we talked about, like being mindful about taking on Tik ToK or asking your marketing person to take on Tik TOK, being mindful and thinking about what is this actually going to do, like taking a step back and looking down from 500 feet after you’ve had this meditation looking down at your whole day, from that perspective. So I think it all is full circle. It all relates to each other. And I appreciate you sharing that with us. We are going to move on to some questions that we ask all of our guests. The first one is what are the most important things that you can do to grow professionally and personally?
Brendan (18:51): My first is read. I love to read and I read a lot. So for me, it’s reading and in a lot of ways too, I have found for me that I used to read a lot of marketing books and business books and leadership books, but the older I’ve gotten, I found that I enjoyed listening to those and the reading books that are my guilty pleasures, my beach reads, which for me are, I love spies and assassins and killing. I don’t have to think, you know, I can unplug. And I find that that’s so important to turn off. I’m not trying to kill anybody, but that’s been really helpful for me. The other piece is just networking and having conversations. As I was preparing for this, I was thinking about COVID and it’s killed conferences, and my favorite time of a conference is at night at the bar. Now I love a good bourbon, but it’s not about that, I enjoy it, but it’s just having that conversation. So if I find somebody who spoke or I see a colleague or somebody that I want to meet, or somebody that I’ve known for years, you can say, yeah, I heard your presentation. That was fabulous. That’s all crap. I want the story, and you can dig in and you have great given intake and back and forth. That’s been great for me in terms of that professional growth, probably most importantly, that it’s okay to make mistakes and, and there are warts and it’s not perfect. So that’s what I do.
Aubrey (20:30): I love that. I could identify myself in each piece of the things you said, I was listening to all the things all the time. Like I was listening to the marketing books and reading them, I was doing that on the weekends. I was so stressed out, that’s why I needed the beach reads. Our beach reads are slightly different, but still. Then also what you said about the conferences and the connecting is so important. You are a connector. I know, because I have had the pleasure of connecting with you many times and it’s, it’s just those relationships and those building of, just getting to know people on, not that presentation level, like you were talking about, but the level where we’re just talking and I learned about your kids and you say something funny, you know, that sort of thing is so important, it’s it really does help so much. So thank you for sharing those. Then I will follow up with a second question, which is what is one of the most important things we can do to be more mindful?
Brendan (21:31): I tip my hat a little bit earlier, but for me, and this is, I don’t know if this is advice I’m giving advice to myself. It’s being more intentional. For me being more present. So probably the normal one is if I’m at home, if I’m with my family, put the laptop away and do that. If I’m at work, do that. I’ve also found too, especially in the past year that I need to come completely unplugged. I love podcasts, but I feel like I need to get my brain space just to do what it does. I don’t know what that is. Sometimes it’s scary, but do it process it in order to be creative. So if I’m going to do that, be intentional about that, turn stuff off, go for a walk, do whatever, but that that’s been helpful for me.
Tara (22:27): Yeah. That’s helpful advice. I remind myself of that. And then I go out to walk my dog and I’m walking the dog and listening to the podcast and looking at Instagram and replying to text messages and it’s embarrassing sometimes how much I think I’m doing multitasking when I’m not doing any of it well. So that’s a good reminder for those of us who need reminding. So thank you. I’m going to ask you some rapid fire questions now. Are you ready? Okay, if you could put one book as mandatory reading in the high school curriculum, what would it be? Speaker 2 (23:03): Getting Things Done by David Allen.
Tara (23:07): I love that book.
Aubrey (23:08): Yeah. That’s so cool. You had like a really quick answer. You were like, yes, this is the book. I’m so curious. Was that just the thing that you liked and it just, it felt resonated with you. You wish you had read it in high school?
Brendan (23:21): Yeah, I wish I would have. It changed my life in terms of organization, because I was reading all these things and trying to figure out how to be more productive. When I read it, it’s like the inbound marketing book, the light bulb goes off. And as much as I love the inbound marketing book, I don’t think every high schooler needs to read it. But I think the GTD, Getting Things Done, book, it helps everybody. The thing I’ve really appreciated about it is that it’s not, there’s a framework that you can tweak. So it’s not like you need to do this, this, this, and that’s why I think every kid should read it. I haven’t made, talk about eating your own dog food,I haven’t made my son read it yet, but I’ve been working with him with those things. I’m probably failing at that, but we’re still trying.
Tara (24:11): Yeah. No, David Allen’s a master. He’s like a classic productivity person.
Aubrey (24:17): That’s awesome. Yeah. Okay. So next in our rapid fire questions, I’m so excited to hear your answer to this. What is one app you couldn’t live without?
Brendan (24:27): Okay. I’m going to cheat and I’ve heard you guys cheat before, so I’m going to go to2, because I’m a fan of the show. I’ve listened. Headspace, so mindfulness. And then for me, it’s Overcast, which is my podcast app. And I just love it because I listen to podcasts all the time. I love the UI, but really I love that I can speed up the podcast in a, not for lack of a better description, weird way. So you can go like 1.2, 1.4. So it doesn’t change and sound weird, but I can go through and faster. So those are my two.
Aubrey (25:05): I love that you cheated by the way. Because I cheat big time.
Tara is like, bring one book to show
Aubrey. I’m like, I’ll bring 5.
Brendan (25:12): I know, you said 6 Aubrey!
Tara (25:21): I know I have so many apps, it is very hard to choose. So what are you reading right now?
Brendan (25:27): I’m going two, because you cheated with six, and I’m not including listening. The one we’re actually reading in the, in the MarCom society book club is Think Again by Adam Grant, the new one.
Tara (25:40): Aw, I love him. Yeah. He’s got a great podcast.
Brendan (25:44): Have you guys read it?
Tara (25:44): I haven’t, but I listen to his podcast regularly.
Brendan (25:49): So I mean literally just, why read on a Kindle? But I literally just downloaded it and read the first page and stop for now, but I’ll get going. And then one I’m finishing that I’ve absolutely loved is Notes from a Young Black Chef, a memoir by Columbian Wachee. So I love food. I cook every night and I’m obsessed with it, we watch food network and HGTV and YouTube and stuff. But I love this book because I’d heard about him and followed him a little bit. He’s the top chef guy he’s on there, but I’ve seen him some other stuff, but like I love the lens of the food and the restaurant industry, which I was fascinated with. But the DEI work in there that kind of learning about that. So that was a good book for me.
Tara (26:35): That is very cool. Okay. Have you watched, Searching for Italy with Stanley Tucci on CNN yet?
Brendan (26:40): No, not yet. I will. It’s on the list.
Tara (26:44): I totally geek out on food shows.
Aubrey (26:46): Oh my gosh. So you guys are foodies, meanwhile, I can’t find my way around the kitchen. I was like, I don’t like cooking, but I did admire, you were doing sourdough bread for awhile, I feel like, weren’t you? I saw your pictures. I was like, oh, that looks delicious. Does he deliver?
Brendan (27:03): It’d be a good haul from Pittsburgh, but I started to – I’ll tell this quick story. My mom would kill me if she ever listens to this, but she won’t. I am the oldest of three, two younger sisters. And I remember once,coming home from some sort of practice and my mom’s like, hey, dinner’s on the table. And I was like, yeah, great. I run into the house, running into kitchen. There’s a $20 bill there. And I thought, I thought I’d better learn how to cook. My mom was a good cook. She just wasn’t a huge fan of that. She preferred other things. And so I just started cooking when I was like 16 or 17 and I’ve continued. And then when we got married and we’re like handing out, who’s going to do what? I do the cooking. Now my wife’s doing more lately, but yeah, she bakes, which is not good. It’s fantastic. But I eat it.
Aubrey (27:53): Yeah, I would be in big trouble if that happened at my house. Yeah, no, I love that. That’s awesome. So basically what you’re saying is my nine-year-old son. I need to put a 20 on the table next time and say, oh, there’s dinner. And then I’m going to have a chef like you.
Brendan (28:08): My son’s cooking now, 17, he’s doing a lot. And we’re getting my daughter. I’m like, we’ll always have a date.
Tara (28:17): It’s very helpful. I think you can burn out too, if you, especially for me having done it for so many years and the planning is the worst part actually is trying to decide what you’re going to make and I just kind of get sick of it. And so now my husband’s taken over and it’s awesome. So I can appreciate that.
Brendan (28:34): I know that, sorry to cut you off Tara, but one of the reasons that, I should have mentioned this earlier, that I love cooking so much is it’s I view it as a practice of mindfulness for me because both hands focus, I can cut fingers off. So I got to pay attention. I can breathe, you know, so that’s a way for me to put music on and I can focus and do that. Plus I love to eat. So that works.
Aubrey (28:58): That’s awesome. Well, thank you for sharing that. Maybe I’ll be more mindful in the kitchen and therefore enjoy it more often. Okay. Last one. What is one great piece of advice you’d like to leave us with?
Brendan (29:12): It’s, and I stole this, but it’s don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. And I learned that early because I was getting stressed and having anxiety with the people that I followed or read or admired. Then someone told me that once, like they’re 10 years ahead of you. You can’t see this, but compare their 10 years ago to you, and it’s probably pretty close. They’ve done the work they’ve executed. So that’s what you have to take from that. And I’ve talked to people and they’re like, “Brendan, you do this and you do that.” I’m like, “Don’t compare to where I am now. And you guys are the same and people following you, you guys have done this for awhile, you know what’s going on. You’ve had success. You’ve produced. Remember where you were.” So that’s the advice I would give.
Tara (30:09): That’s very smart. That’s really helpful. I appreciate that. That’s great advice. Even for those of us, who’ve been doing it for awhile. It’s still not comparing in general. It was helpful too. Thanks for sharing that, Brendan. We are so thrilled that you joined us what a great conversation we’ve had from start to finish, which it is now, but I’d like to ask you to just share where our audience can find you online.
Brendan (30:30): Probably the best place is just my blog, schneiderb.com.
Aubrey (30:34): Thank you Brendan so much for coming.
Brendan (30:37): Thanks guys. This was great. Thanks. Bye!
Tara (30:42): Thanks for joining us on the Mindful School Marketing podcast.
Aubrey (30:45): We’d love it. If you pop into iTunes and leave a review, five star preferred! Let us know how you liked the show. It helps us improve what we’re doing. It helps others find us too.