Adventist Schools & The Unicorn Conundrum

Over the years I have helped Adventist schools develop their online presence. However, over time these sites often become a brochure or placeholder at best and their content seems to become either cliché or an afterthought. This isn’t completely devoid of value, but the same schools tend to struggle with enrollments.

This is a genuine conundrum because if you are seeking more enrolment, wouldn’t it make sense to invest more in the outbound communication of the school?

My hypothesis is that with the rapid expansion of communications channels our schools currently lack the budget and/or willingness to invest in enough of the right people to maximize the value of each channel. This leads to under-utilized digital communications platforms and overworked, burned out staff.

So I set out to talk to people with real-world experience.

I spoke to a collection of communications staff from schools and conferences around the globe. It was not long before some similar problems began to emerge: Small budgets and overburdened staff leading to poor outcomes and in some cases high levels of staff turnover..

In search of a unicorn

So what is a school to do in response to these constraints? They begin to look for a “unicorn” staff member: One communications person who is expected to be competent across all disciplines, or worse yet, one administrator who manages communication along with their other responsibilities.

Let’s imagine for a moment that a school succeeds in this quest and finds their unicorn. Problem solved right?


The problem still exists, just in a different form. If this unicorn is going to actually execute all these activities they will need to be working 25 hours a day to fit it all in. We are back to unrealistic and unsustainable.

The challenge

Let’s frame the problem as actionable challenges to overcome:

  1. Increase team size and skillset without dramatically increasing spending.
  2. Lighten the load on existing staff to avoid burnout and staff churn.

This will result in better quality, professional communications, happier staff and less turnover of staff.

What would a dream team look like?

So, if my hypothesis is right, what if we were to remove the budgetary constraints? What would the communications team consist of?

Lets start with a team like this:

  • Marketing consultant To lead the high level strategy and build strong relationships with local organisations and media.
  • Copywriter to write an engaging Newsletter and compelling stories.
  • Social media manager to make the most of all your social channels and foster real engagement with your school community.
  • Graphic designer to create professional social media posts, print media, advertising themed slide presentations and consistent event branding.
  • Photographer to capture the real beauty of your unique school community for use in all visual mediums.
  • Videographer to create short-form vertical video for your social media and cinematic promotional videos.
  • Web developer to build you web presence and introduce digital systems to save staff time and make your site as accessible as possible.
  • Web Manager to keep everything up to date and aggregate your best content into a central hub for families to use.
  • SEO specialist to ensure your school is featured in a strong position when people are at their most interested.

But nine specialists is an unreasonable amount of overhead for most schools. So we either need to find a way of raising larger budgets or a more creative way to build our teams.

A better solution

There are some of the functions mentioned above you need to be physically present in order to do well (like photography and some social media tasks) but most of what is on that list can be accomplished remotely.

So, imagine having a team of specialists to support the in-house communications director. People to sit down with and collaborate on a long term strategy, then someone else to write a weekly article to share on your website, newsletter and social media. Then a graphic designer to generate a collection of on-brand posts that can be scheduled to be posted over the course of the month.

A service designed to support your communications department for a fraction of the cost of a full time staff member could be an effective way to solve the major problems I outlined earlier, resulting in:

  1. More staff for a significantly lower cost.
  2. Improved sustainability for your existing staff
  3. More effective and professional communications both internally and externally.

What happens next?

We are already supporting some schools and local conferences with tailor-made communications and digital support services like email newsletter management, website maintenance, content strategy and copywriting, but I really want to refine the service and make it as valuable as possible.

Right now I am working on clearly defining what are the most valuable services and how they could be structured in order to make the biggest impact.

If you are interested in providing input, giving feedback, or just being a part of what we are building let me know! [email protected] or reach me on Twitter @lukef

Update: Rolling out new service

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