• international schools
How can education suppliers manage school closures? By Diane Glass

This is an unprecedented time for global education. As I write, there are countries where governments have closed schools or adjusted school holidays, as well as countries where there are partial closures of schools. This doesn’t mean that international schools are not functioning. Many teachers are using online or remote solutions to ensure learning continues for many, if not all, students, and most leaders and administrators are working as usual.

It’s not an easy time to engage with senior leaders at the schools; their priority right now is directing and supporting their staff with new solutions to ensure learning continues, as well as responding to the concerns of parents, and addressing the needs of their immediate community. So what are the solutions for education suppliers who need to continue developing their international business right now?

Here are some suggestions from the support team at ISC Research:

  • Ensure your customer service team is being very attentive with your existing customers and their needs – needs which may be very different to normal.
  • Remain informed of the countries directly impacted and ensure your entire team knows of country-by-country limitations. ISC Research is sharing a weekly update of country closures here: Coronavirus COVID-19 update
  • Be conscious of the priorities of school leaders in locations where school buildings are closed. They will not want to receive sales messages into their inboxes at this time. If you have a message to share, take an indirect route to communication such as social media (school leaders like LinkedIn and Twitter, teachers also like Facebook and Instagram) and the marketing channels accessible to you through the international school associations you are a member of, to reach out to the schools.
  • Use social media thoughtfully - offer advice and valuable solutions to show your brand is supportive rather than promoting your products at a time like this.
  • Be active in publicly sharing good practice that might provide immediate benefit or good ideas to teachers and leaders.
  • Produce short podcasts for social media that provide practical advice and solutions to assist teachers. If they’re good, educators will share them, and your brand will be valued for its expertise and valuable support. 
  • Offer short, virtual, practical workshops or webinars, hosted during various time-zones, that allow teachers and middle leaders the chance to gather solutions and connect directly with you at a time that’s best for them.
  • Create opportunities for teachers and leaders to ask questions easily, and have an expert on hand to respond immediately, providing helpful advice that can be actioned immediately.
  • During challenging times, schools will not be able to spend time introducing high cost solutions that require complex implementation. Postpone a campaign if you have to, or consider an alternative target market or target location.
  • In countries where the coronavirus has not yet had a major impact, schools may be actively seeking solutions in preparation for possible building closures. Be conscious of the demands leaders in these countries may be facing at this time; consider solutions for them that are affordable, quick to implement, intuitive for staff to use, and easy for you to provide remote and regular support if necessary.
  • Raise your brand profile through indirect ways such as advertising on media that school leaders access.
  • Don’t forget to take care of your own employees at this time, especially if you’re providing more international access during hours unfriendly for your home office staff. It might be worthwhile to rethink work practices to ensure operations aren’t closed or struggling.
  • Create a core crisis communication team to ensure everyone within your company is updated regularly on changes that you need to make.
  • Speak to other suppliers and don’t be scared to share hints, tips and experiences. We’re all in this together.
  • Don’t panic. Schools need to be planning for the new school year regardless of what is occurring right now. Most will have already finalised large budget expenditure for their new year if they’re in the Northern Hemisphere school calendar. Provide the expert support that they need and want at this time and your brand will remain valued and may well build upon its reputation because of your sensitive and supportive approach.

If you would like specific advice relevant to your brand, contact us at enquiries@iscresearch.com