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The link between teacher retention, brand, and marketing communications

The fundamental link between teacher retention, brand and marketing

So you worked so hard to fill that post.  That maths teacher, that head of computing…….and then they’re off! Leaving you. Leaving the teaching profession.  It’s only been two years.  Utterly depressing.  What to do?  Has teaching just become a uniformly awful job, and every other option so much better?

The ‘researched’ facts for teacher dissatisfaction are bandied around endlessly: long working hours, paperwork and pressures to fulfil formal assessment criteria ‘squeezing out’ the time and space for delivering genuine education, ever-changing government policy, pupil behaviour, ‘teacher bashing’…..and yet, in 2016 almost 25,000 new teachers stepped into the classroom full of vision and enthusiasm, not heeding the dire warnings.  Why? ‘Wanting to give back’ is the number one pull of the job by a mile, with other emotionally-driven reasons such as ‘helping children enjoy learning’ well up there as reasons for wanting to teach.  All the research shows unquestionably that choosing to teach is an highly charged emotional commitment. 

There is a lot of research on why teachers go, but not much on why they stay, which is a shame, as to know the latter may be useful.  Could we augment the staying factors to help retain teachers? Many of the ‘push’ factors appear systemic or due to external factors, however are schools doing enough to develop ‘pull’ factors that relate to the initial emotional commitment? Developing ‘pull factors’ is something I believe is under the control of school management to a greater degree.  What is the strategy for keeping teachers feeling good about why they are there? – some do feel good about it – does the school make efforts to reflect back to teachers that they are in fact making the difference they wanted to? Regular physical exhaustion isn’t a good thing for anyone but an even greater problem perhaps is when however hard you work, you can’t seem to fulfil that vision and you are pummelled by negative messages on all fronts; it is not surprising that frustration and disenchantment can set in at that point.  And that is ‘retention danger-zone’ I would suggest.

I think maybe there is more that schools could do by exploring the notion of ‘Brand’ in a serious way; developing a strong authentic brand and a marketing communications strategy with the staff directly, involving the staff, and relevant to the staff....  Some brand and marketing communications strategy can help with the realities of physical exhaustion but much deals with psychological exhaustion; keeping teachers energised, happier, and positively committed to their school and their profession.   Acknowledging the extreme emotional stress and therefore needs teachers have at work, and doing something about it is not to be overlooked as a powerful tool for meeting the challenge of teacher retention.

So what’s Brand got to do with meeting those stresses and emotional needs? Brand is “the vision, character and values of the organisation and representation of these in all component operations and communications”.  Hence the Brand is often thought about in relation to how people feel about working in a place, and marketing communications can be thought of as different from any old communications as they have a greater purpose than only sharing necessary information; they are designed to make employees ‘feel’ something. 

A strong brand and marketing communications strategy can affect teachers directly by:

·         Reassuring them they are making a difference and fulfilling their vision - this they often doubt and are highly frustrated about; after all this was the number one reason they came into teaching

·         Making them feel valued by all stakeholders - which they very often don’t when they experience generalised teacher-bashing and disrespect from students and parents

·         Giving them a positive identity in their local community.  Teachers sometimes don’t have this and often don’t particularly feel this; when there is no positive identity of the school it amplifies the generalised attacks on teachers in the press, and has ramifications with parental relationships and poor student behaviour

·         Making them feel listened to and supported.  Teachers often feel victims of national policy they strongly disagree with and can do nothing about so at least being involved in shaping school identity and policy gives some feeling that their experience and opinions are taken seriously

·         Belief in school management’s ability to problem-solve and shape success A strong brand, internal marketing, and great communications can bring any team a long way through any difficult period and prevent people abandoning a ‘sinking ship’.  Even better when marketing gets parents and the community behind the school which can happen in times of crisis.

If you’d like to find out more about how creating a strong brand and marketing communications strategy could help teacher retention your school or multi-academy trust, please give me a call on 07792 503 815

Natasha McCracken