“The plan spelled out different tactics and tools that teach those groups,” Dolan explained in an interview with your Catholic Herald. “Everything tangible that we have and is part of the plan is available on our online print portal, which is extremely rare for maybe any diocese.”
The marketing plan won top honors this spring at the Paragon Awards, sponsored by the Public Relations Society of America’s Southeastern Wisconsin chapter. They took home the only excellence award for “Grassroots Marketing,” a huge feat for the Milwaukee Archdiocese, according to Dolan.
The print portal is a Web site with pre-written and designed print pieces, mailers, fact sheets and flyers created for easy access and customization on a new “Principals’ Resource” section of the Catholic Schools Web site, created and hosted by Teuteberg, Inc., a company that specializes in print and digital communication. Principals can view all print elements and access professionally written and designed print pieces, and can customize the pieces with their school data, logo, contact information and even foreign languages such as Spanish and Hmong.
In addition to readily available marketing resources, principals and faculty have access to communication tools such as online chat rooms, which allow problems to be shared, ideas extended, opportunities broadcast and case studies published.
While participating in the marketing plan is recommended by the archdiocese as a way to increase enrollment and school morale, it hasn’t yet reached a mandatory level, according to Dolan. In spring, 88 of the 127 schools invited to participate were enrolled, a 70 percent participation, with numbers projected to increase as the school year progresses.
“We have been very happy with the number of schools that are participating in it, that are kind of making their way through it,” she said, citing Marquette University High School and St. Thomas Aquinas Academy, both in Milwaukee, as two of the schools that chose to participate. “A lot of schools are kind of testing the waters, taking different parts of the plan that they may start with. The nice thing is that it is a year-round plan, and it is kind of constantly evolving, as we realize different needs of the schools, things we may think of, things people may tell us.
“So, our goal obviously is to have 100 percent participation. The good feedback that we hear from schools, we try to share with everyone, which is why this award is such a great thing to share with people. If we all can do it, it’s going to work,” Dolan added.
“(A marketing assessment fee) funded the creation of the plan, the designing and the implementing of the online print portal, and we also rebate back some of that money to every school,” Dolan explained. “That kicked off last year; every school got $500 to use on the print portal toward whatever – the postcards, the posters, pencils or whatever they wanted to use to kind of kick off the plan.”
St. Monica has used the marketing plan and according to development director Tom Mlada, who has been working for the K4 – eighth grade school for eight years, the tools have been “invaluable.”
“I’ve been working to implement aspects of the marketing plan over the last few school years, both formally and informally,” he said in an e-mail interview with your Catholic Herald. “The archdiocese has been tremendously supportive in that regard – staff members like Erin (Dolan) are responsive, organized, innovative and tremendously informed – and the resources, tools, training and support they’ve offered have been invaluable.
“Whether in the form of a promotional piece we can utilize, a webinar I can attend highlighting a specific topic, or a specific initiative such as the ‘Refer-a-Family Program,’ I cannot begin to emphasize the difference their efforts have made for me and for us as a school community.”
As of now, according to Mlada, enrollment at St. Monica is more than stable. The 2010 – 2011 school year began with its highest enrollment number in more than a decade with 431 children enrolled, with three grade levels entirely full and two others near capacity. He attributes a big part of their enrollment achievement to the marketing plan.