Durham Academy (DA), a highly regarded pre-K-12, coeducational college preparatory day school in Durham, North Carolina, commissioned a positioning and communications study to determine how the School could maintain and enhance its leadership position in an increasingly competitive and sophisticated independent school market.
The School retained our firm to conduct comprehensive research: a demographic projection and analysis of the School’s current and potential markets; in-depth telephone interviews with admissions influencers; quantitative research with multiple cohorts of prospective parents; and a comprehensive assessment of the school’s communications operations. The research showed that, despite its established academic strength, Durham Academy had a narrowly defined image in the marketplace – an image based heavily on the school’s rigorous academic program. The findings suggested that in order for the School to appeal to a wider market, DA needed to convey its more complex, energetic, multi-dimensional reality so that a range of families and students could envision themselves as part of the School’s community. As with many schools, communications tended to be internally focused. The study confirmed the importance of DA proactively managing its message to external audiences. The research also suggested that while the public had high regard for DA, it was looking for the School to become even more engaged with the local community.
Our study provided the School an informed, broadened market perspective. The research findings, along with our positioning and communications recommendations, led Durham Academy’s leaders to begin a major shift in their communications efforts. New recruitment materials introduced a dramatically different positioning of this already successful, but not content, market leader.