Allison co-presented a session at a local conference yesterday called "It's All About The Kids: How High School Counselors and Private Counselors Can Work Together." Private counselors can be a great resource for schools, delivering workshops, sharing information, and even training new counselors, but we have to a) earn schools' trust and b) deliver real value through our involvement. For Allison's portion of the talk, she focused on how private counselors can forge relationships with schools and overcome the (sometimes justified, sometimes not) negative perception that we're all just money-grubbers who make school counselors' jobs harder.
Here were the three most important tips she shared.
1. Become an expert at one thing.
There is so much to know about college admissions that while we all want to be experts at everything, none of us are. So pick one part of the process and make that your "thing." It could be athletic recruiting for non-blue chip athletes, colleges that give generous aid to first-generation students, great schools for B and C students, etc. Dive in and become an expert. You may not necessarily limit your business to this one area. But developing an expertise is the quickest way to stand out.
2. Share that information for free.
Once you become an expert, share it with everyone. Go to conferences and present. Write a blog or a newsletter. Give free sessions at your local public library. Make videos on YouTube. This might seem counter-intuitive to just give it away, but marketing by sharing like this is the most effective way to build an audience and convince them of your expertise. As Allison pointed out, Emeril puts hundreds of recipes on the Food Network website that you can get free. But that just makes people more–not less–likely to eat at his restaurants and buy his cookbooks.
3. When a high school or organization invites you to share with their students or parents, don't betray their trust.
We've seen private counselors and representatives from for-profit companies who get invited to present at high schools and spend 20 of their allotted 60 minutes selling their service. When you do that, you've just guaranteed that you won't get invited back. It's fine to be clear about who you are and what you do. But that doesn't mean you should abuse the permission the counselor has given you. If you forget about selling and concentrate on giving a presentation so good that you send the crowd away thankful that they gave up the time, the business part will take care of itself.