How Should Multi-Academy Trusts Approach Communications?

Drawing on our experience, we’ve investigated the options multi-academy trusts have when it comes to managing their schools’ communications.

If you're a regular reader of our blog, or you’ve gone back through the archives, you'll find a number of articles addressing the marketing and communication issues faced by schools.

We wrote them with individual schools in mind. But, for academies, many decisions regarding communications are often not their responsibility. Instead, they are the responsibility of the multi-academy trust they belong to.

This blog post will consider the perspective of a multi-academy trust (MAT), looking at key questions such as: what communications models are available for MATs, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

Communications Remain the Individual Responsibility of Each School

When a MAT assumes control of a school, there can often be a resistance to any changes that transfer control and authority from the school to the trust. For a trust looking to expand smoothly, it can be tempting to leave full responsibility for communications in the hands of each individual school. Unfortunately, the diplomatic benefits of this course of action do not outweigh the costs.

Firstly, it is far less cost effective for each school to develop their own communications policy, strategy, and templates separately than for the cost of this task to be spread across the trust. In this model, for each school to produce high-quality output, they would all need to develop their own internal communications team. In a large MAT, that would be an expensive endeavour.

A second issue is that keeping departments separate makes it very difficult for the trust to ensure that a common communications policy is followed by each school. MATs are expected to bear responsibility for the actions of all the schools under their charge. Consequently, it would be risky for any MAT to fully relinquish responsibility for something as potentially problematic as communications. It would also expose each school to risk that would be better assumed by the trust itself.

In-House vs Outsourcing

The issues associated with giving each school individual responsibility for their communications, combined with the fact that a MAT also needs to produce its own central communications, means that many trusts choose to employ a centrally based department. Addressing many of the issues inherent to leaving individual schools responsible, departments run directly by a MAT can ensure that policy is consistently adhered to and that significant amounts of time and resources are saved by the sharing of strategies, templates, and even content.

The question that follows is: should this team be hired internally, or should an external agency be hired to fulfil the same role? Below, the case will be made for MATs to outsource.

Demand for communications expands and contracts throughout the year. When work is outsourced, the MAT only needs to pay for the work that is required. In contrast, an in-house team will need to be paid all year round, regardless of demand.

For communications to be efficiently produced across a large number of different schools, a scalable infrastructure is essential. A good communications agency will have already designed and built a proven infrastructure that can be implemented within the MAT and scale as it grows. Consequently, outsourcing saves the MAT considerable expense and time when it comes to setting up a strategy and a process that governs communications across a number of schools.

At Eduprise, we are experienced in building communications systems for large MATs. For every trust we work with, we have wide-ranging documentation, an archive of templates, and years of expertise that allow us to quickly devise a strategy, issue a policy, and integrate the procedures necessary for a multi-school communications department to run efficiently.

The clarity provided by strategies and policies helps to build trust between the schools and the marketing department. By outsourcing their communications to an experienced external agency, MATs benefit from access to a ready-made communications infrastructure that simplifies the change in procedure for all the schools involved.

Our Offer at Eduprise

Through our experience of providing communications for MATs, our team has developed an extensive range of tools that help ensure high-quality, comprehensive, and flexible communications are produced in a time- and cost-efficient manner.

One of our primary focuses is scalability. Every school in the trusts we work with is given access to pre-written and customisable content built around specific events in the school calendar. This gives each school a baseline of communications that is crucial to increasing admissions and running effective recruitment campaigns without having to bear the cost individually.

Alongside this editorial content, we also produce ad-hoc communications in liaison with each school. For example, if a school has won an award, been issued an ofsted report, or requires particular admissions or recruitment support, the Eduprise team is on hand to produce bespoke communications as and when needed.

We have also designed systems to ensure our workflows are as efficient as possible, maximising value for our clients. We have developed a content management system that enables us to post all forms of communications across multiple schools and multiple channels at the click of a button, rather than each post having to be published individually.

Furthermore, when liaising with schools directly, we use consistent procedures that expedite the sign-off process while making sure schools and directors are always given the opportunity to fully review everything we produce.

By working together with MATs, we have been able to produce more content than internal teams, while costing our clients considerably less. If your trust could stand to improve its communications while also saving money, get in contact today.

Published by
Adam Barker-Wyatt

Producing content and communications on behalf of schools and multi-academy trusts.

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