This provided image shows an example of the “I Believe” campaign funded by Goshen Community Schools as part of its ongoing contract with South Bend-based marketing firm Villing & Co. Goshen school board members Monday voted to continue the marketing contract with Villing & Co. for a fourth year at a cost of $49,700.
This provided image shows an example of the “I Believe” campaign funded by Goshen Community Schools as part of its ongoing contract with South Bend-based marketing firm Villing & Co. Goshen school board members Monday voted to continue the marketing contract with Villing & Co. for a fourth year at a cost of $49,700.

GOSHEN — Goshen School Board members this week voted to continue the school corporation’s campaign aimed at attracting new students to the district while keeping the ones it already has, though with a much smaller budget than had been approved during the campaign’s earlier years.

During their meeting Monday, board members voted in favor of extending the corporation’s existing campaign with South Bend-based marketing firm Villing & Co. for a fourth year. The cost will be $49,700, a 42 percent reduction from the $85,300 budget approved for the campaign last year.

“In discussion with Villing, we all decided that we would be able to reduce the cost but still receive positive results from the campaign extension,” Diane Woodworth, superintendent of Goshen Community Schools, said of the decision to go with a smaller marketing budget for 2019. “Villing & Co. believes that we can still do this extension and that it will be effective. It is needed due to open enrollment and vouchers, both of which were enacted by the Indiana General Assembly.” 

THE CAMPAIGN

School board members initially contracted with Villing & Co. back in early 2016, paying $190,000 for a year of branding and marketing services for the school corporation, including TV spots, billboards, social media and newspaper advertising. The goal at the time was to increase enrollment at Goshen schools and get the word out about what the school corporation has to offer.

According to corporation officials at the time, competition among school districts for students has become an inevitability since a state law went into effect in the 2011-12 school year allowing students to transfer between public schools and receive vouchers to attend private schools.

That in turn meant education money started following students, making enrollment figures critical for funding school districts, they explained.

Faced with this new price of doing business, school board members in late 2016 agreed to extend the corporation’s contract with Villing & Co. for another year of marketing work, though at a reduced cost of $150,000.

Yet despite this “new normal” in the need for school marketing, the cost of the marketing campaign hasn’t been an easy sell for some on the board and in the greater Goshen community.

Concerns raised over the life of the marketing campaign have included things such as measurable return on investment and a general distaste for the idea of “poaching” students from other local school corporations and the potential that practice has in damaging the corporation’s relationship with those school corporations.

Despite the detractors, the board’s members have ultimately fallen on the side of the need for the practice despite their obvious distaste for spending school dollars on marketing, as evidenced by their unanimous consent to extend the agreement for a fourth year Monday evening — if at a significantly reduced cost.

“We believe we are doing great things in Goshen Schools, so we need to tell our story and help the larger community know about the excellence that we provide,” Woodworth said of the continued need for the campaign. “What we know is that our enrollment has remained steady even in this era of open enrollment and vouchers. Since the money follows the student, we do believe it has been worth the cost. We will never know what would have happened to our enrollment had we not done the campaign.”

2019 PLAN

As approved Monday, the 2019 marketing campaign extension highlights four primary areas of need when it comes to the overall rational for extending the campaign for another year. Those four areas include:

• Maintaining the school corporation’s market presence in light of the competitive educational environment;

• Continuing to capitalize on the school corporation’s growing brand equity to advance awareness and positive perceptions;

• Continuing the campaign’s overall momentum, given that the campaign’s sustained effort over the past three years has shown measurable and anecdotal results in the areas of web traffic, community feedback, competitor remarks and marketing activity; and

• Maintaining visibility and a positive presence following the corporation’s successful $65 million construction referendum.

Approved by district voters in 2018 during the May 8 primary election, the referendum project involves the corporation’s plan to construct a new intermediate school for grades 5 and 6 on approximately 37 acres of land located north of Ind. 119, west of Greene Road/C.R. 19 and south of Berkey Avenue on the city’s southwest side.

The plan also calls for converting the existing middle school to serve grades 7 and 8, and adding classroom and transitional space to Goshen High School, all with the goal of alleviating crowding issues across the district.

Total cost of the project has been quoted at about $65 million.

2019 OBJECTIVES 

In outlining the campaign’s marketing objectives for 2019, the plan again highlights four main areas of focus. Those include:

• Increasing enrollment in Goshen Community Schools;

• Demonstrating the unique features/benefits of a GCS education;

• Creating awareness and positive perceptions about GCS among unfamiliar/uncertain audiences and/or those who may be dissatisfied with other schools; and

• Continuing to reinforce positive perceptions about GCS among familiar/supportive audiences (augmented by internally managed social media activity).

According to the plan, Villing’s suggested strategy for meeting those objectives includes a number of tactical recommendations, one of which includes refreshing and/or modifying the corporation’s creative execution of its ongoing “I Believe” campaign theme.

The plan also calls for discontinuing the use of television adds due to budget restrictions, and instead expanding digital display/social advertising for targetability and measuarability by using strategies such as geofencing and behavioral, contextual and other relevant digital targeting strategies.

The plan does suggest the continued use of outdoor billboards to maintain general market awareness, and recommends concentrating media outreach during the summer period leading up to the school corporation’s August enrollment window.

Lastly, the plan recommends an expanded focus on social/content marketing and PR to highlight the school corporation’s recent construction and renovation milestones.

A point-by-point cost breakdown of the $49,700 campaign extension for 2019 is as follows: $3,900 for campaign concepting and planning; $11,000 for digital/social media ad space; $6,800 for outdoor/billboard ad space; $5,000 for a web landing page; $8,000 for a web video; $7,500 for a production allowance; and $7,500 for PR/marketing consulting.

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