There are no two ways about it: education is a competitive business. A huge component of a learning organization’s reputation is its credibility. As non-profit organizations and schools jump on the marketing bandwagon, there is a temptation to promise more than you can actually deliver. There is no faster way to lose a good reputation than by disappointing your learners, or their parents, depending on who is footing the bill for their education.
Promising fluency in three weeks or guaranteeing students a certain score on internationally recognized tests are bad ways to market your program. Why? Because you’re lying to them. And lying does little to build trust or an excellent long-term reputation.
A more effective way is to show students what they will be learning and the benefits they will receive. You can do this by including a syllabus in your promotional package and on your web site. Be honest about the kinds of activities and excursions you take them on. Don’t promise them they will go whitewater rafting and horseback riding unless you actually plan to take them. (By the way, it is a good idea to check with your insurance policy before endorsing high-risk activities for your students.)
Many language schools do promise only what they can deliver, only to work with the occasional agent or representative who inflates the promises while they are promoting the school abroad. While many agents are legitimate, there are those who are not. It is worth your while to review all literature your agents plan to send out on your behalf, even if that means hiring a translator. Your credibility is on the line, and it is your responsibility to ensure that prospects are getting a true picture of your school before they sign up.
Another way to boost your credibility is to outline on your web page exactly what students can expect from your program. That way, it is clear and you will show that you are being accountable to your students and to your own sense of credibility.
This post has been adapted from “Idea # 14: Promise only what you can deliver” from 101 Ways to Market Your Language Program.
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.