Historically considered Cincinnati’s premier independent school, Seven Hills had hummed along for years, trusting in the integrity of its program and its fine reputation. But as more and ever-more-competitive (not to mention sometimes less-expensive) educational options arrived on the scene, Seven Hills’ quietly self-assured approach to recruitment had left the school seriously underpositioned. The school’s ingrained “Ohio modesty” left unaware families lumping Seven Hills into the undifferentiated mix of “good schools” or, worse yet, “expensive schools.” Seven Hills needed to speak up.
When our CRANE team looked inside Seven Hills, we saw a well-defined pedagogy, uncommonly devoted teachers, genuinely engaged students, and gleaming facilities blended seamlessly with historic spaces. Seven Hill’s strengths seemed so multitudinous that focusing on a single benefit might sell this school short.
Busy internal stakeholders recalled for us their own early misperceptions and then the exhilarating ah-ha! moment of recognition: when they saw Seven Hills for the school it truly is and the way it transforms students’ lives. Recreating that moment for prospects, we urged, could perfectly frame the new messaging and show the distinctive culture and personality that truly make The Seven Hills School, well… The Seven Hills School.
So CRANE got people talking. Everyone had a chance to contribute: responding to questionnaires, writing on a hallway banner, posting comments on a Facebook fan page. From here, we created a database of hundreds of descriptive statements, all following the form of “THE [in your own words] SCHOOL”: from “THE they truly know my child SCHOOL” to “THE ah-ha! moment SCHOOL.” The words of community members themselves conveyed the warm, collaborative culture, spirited learning, and contagious exuberance that define life at The Seven Hills School. And these natural outpourings provided enough momentum to finally overcome that natural “Ohio modesty,” finding their way into 30-second cable television ads, mallscapes, radio spots, print ads, and direct mail campaigns.
Through the CRANE program, Seven Hills dramatically transformed its relationship with its city. Both lower and middle school inquiries were up an astounding 1100% in the first year. At the high school, inquiries are up 225% and open house attendance is better than ever–up 54% from the previous year. And the capital campaign, which built on the branding in both video and print, is on track to reach its goal 18 months ahead of schedule.
Our two-year partnership with CRANE has had an incalculable impact on this school community. It’s not just that they helped us hone our communications strategy or craft stunning new materials; they helped us fundamentally understand ourselves and what makes us unique in our marketplace. They helped us find our voice and taught us to speak about what we do in fresh and compelling ways.
–Christopher P. Garten, head of school