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Just Say No to Vanity Metrics

The Danger of School Vanity Metrics

Just Say No to Vanity MetricsSchools are notorious for promoting vanity metrics such as a list of "prestigious" universities to which graduates have been accepted, the total dollar amount of college scholarships (a most dubious number), and standardized test scores.

Vanity metrics aren’t totally useless, but they do pose a danger to school leadership and to families who are trying to make the best education decision.

How you keep score matters.

As human beings we adjust our behavior based on how success is measured--we want to win. Whatever the metric is, the people who make up your faculty and the families throughout your school will adjust their behavior in order to achieve the desired results.

In general, you get what you measure.

Parents enthusiastically embrace traditional talking points (e.g., test scores or elite college lists), as they go out into the community as ambassadors for the school--or at least to defend their school decision. These are numbers they can understand and correlate to the common language of other parents.

But do these metrics measure what really matters?
Do they convey the achievement of your mission?
Do they build credibility for the delivery of your value proposition and brand promise?

Promoting metrics that are imperfect or lack real meaning can have serious consequences, causing the board and administration to miss strategic growth opportunities. Such data is easily manipulated, and doesn't necessarily correlate to what really matters:
achievement of your compelling mission in a manner that transforms lives.

Bad metrics are most common when the school lacks clarity on what success looks like and doesn't have strong, accurate feedback loops to access progress. 

What are some metrics that align with the market positioning and brand narrative of your Strategic Growth Plan? Your promotional points should be driven by the key performance indicators (KPIs) in your plan and provide concrete evidence to support your story. 

Marketing Vanity Metrics

Schools aren't alone in this communication confusion. Beware of marketing firms that want to tout vanity metrics when pitching their services. We have received multiple complaints from schools that have invested tens of thousands of dollars on marketing campaigns that produced little or no evidence of real growth.

Marketing gurus like to use vanity metrics such as social media followers, page views, clicks, and other analytics that may sound good, but they fail to generate enrollment inquiries--that's what you really want from your marketing investment!

Again, what you measure should be reflective of the organizational genius articulated in your Strategic Growth Plan. You want to make your story concrete and sticky, and that means your promotional metrics should play to your strengths and narrative--not theirs. 

Give your faculty and families something great to talk about and make it something that has meaning and gives credibility to your leadership and vision. 

Listen to the School Growth podcast

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