Educational Excellence

Fryeburg Academy

Fryeburg Academy Strategic Marketing Plan Development and Implementation

Objectives:

  • Assist the private high school in its efforts to recruit boarding school students from overseas and throughout North America
  • Increase awareness and appreciation of the town academy among community members and elected officials
  • Enhance the public’s understanding of how a town academy is structured and the benefits town academies provide to the local students they serve
  • Help the academy’s development department increase donors and donation levels

Situation Analysis:
Fryeburg Academy is a town academy and one of the oldest private schools in the U.S. At Fryeburg Academy, tuition-paying boarding students from all over the world and local day students are educated together. Boarding students, many of whom hail from large cities, are able to experience life in rural Maine and immerse themselves in American culture while getting a top-notch education that prepares them for college in the U.S. or elsewhere. Local students have access to a tuition-free, world-class education. They also benefit from exposure to many different cultures represented among the Fryeburg Academy student body.

While the Fryeburg Academy educational experience is truly exceptional, many target audiences were not fully aware of it. First, with so many other New England private high schools to compete with, the admissions department of Fryeburg Academy was finding it somewhat challenging to attract new boarding students beyond the strong word-of-mouth network it had established among alumni. 

In addition, local residents didn’t fully understand the great return on investment their tax dollars were reaping. While the many special programs and educational offerings available at the academy are funded primarily through boarding school tuitions and support from Fryeburg Academy’s own endowment, some of the additional cost is passed on to local taxpayers, resulting in a higher cost per student than Maine communities with a traditional public school system are required to pay. Residents had to be reassured they were getting their money’s worth.

Methods:
Nancy Marshall Communications (NMC) worked with the academy’s head of school, admissions department and development department to create a five-year strategic marketing plan, branded The Marshall Plan®, to build a greater level of understanding and appreciation of the academy among the local community, prospective boarding students, local elected officials and prospective donors. The agency then partnered with the academy over the course of five years to implement the plan.

Results:
A number of successful new initiatives and improvements to existing marketing initiatives were implemented as a result of recommendations made in The Marshall Plan®.

First, NMC created a tri-fold brochure outlining the unique benefits and actual dollar value of a Fryeburg Academy education versus the cost per student covered by taxpayers which was mailed to residences in all the communities the town academy serves, thus increasing awareness of taxpayers’ high return on investment.

NMC also pitched stories on exceptional students to their hometown papers, focusing specifically on affluent communities where boarding school attendance was common among local youth. For example, NMC secured a feature in Colorado’s Vail Daily about a Vail resident and Fryeburg Academy student who was awarded the school’s highest honor given to a graduating senior.

In addition, the agency worked with the academy to create a detailed style guide. As a result, the Fryeburg Academy brand is now being used consistently among all town academy departments. NMC directives also led to a strategic redesign of the academy website’s Home page, making it much easier for target audiences with very different needs (students, parents, alumni, prospects, faculty) to find information related to those needs quickly.

Furthermore, NMC worked with the admissions department to create a monthly e-newsletter template used to create a new communications piece targeted specifically at prospective students and their families. Up until this point, the same e-newsletter was being distributed to current students and alumni as well as prospects. Now, the admissions department could better tailor its message to those considering Fryeburg Academy as an educational option. 

Another successful endeavor involved generating media coverage within Maine to help elevate awareness of the school’s excellence and its offerings to a diverse group of students. Placements were then shared with prospective families outside of Maine via social media to help build affinity with this key target market, as well. Placements included features in the Portland Press Herald and on WCSH-TV’s “Bill Green’s Maine” on a highly accomplished student and competitive skier who also happened to be visually impaired, as well as a second WCSH-TV feature on an origami fundraiser organized by students to aid victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. The agency’s media relations efforts also helped the academy’s student-staffed television station to be selected for a WCSH-TV “Schools That Shine” award and a Fryeburg Academy student to be recognized as WCSH-TV’s “Teens Who Care” honoree.

Finally, NMC managed media relations for a $15 million bequest left to the academy by a former alumnus. After securing an exclusive with the Portland Press Herald, the agency went on to secure statewide local coverage after the bequest was officially announced and succeeded in getting the bequest featured in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. This national philanthropic publication went on to name the bequest one of the top 50 most generous donations of the year, helping to attract the attention of alumni and other potential supporters.