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  • Shmuel Hoffman

Striking The Balance

BH we are at the tail end of a successful winter recruitment campaign for Yeshiva Ohavei Torah. (We produce the films and manage the marketing - emails, Whatsapp, and phone campaigns.) Our Open House invitation films brought families to the open houses, and there Ohavei showed this Open House film:

We've shared with you how we come up with the concepts for pre-Open House invitation films on our blog HERE. But what about the Open House film itself? Ohavei is known for both its high level Judaics, and its top-notch academics. This is something of a unicorn in the religious world, and we know this is one of the aspects that makes Ohavei unique. So we made this topic the highlight of the film, and the title of it refers to that - Striking the Balance. In addition to that, the warmth of the teachers and rabbis, and the individualized attention that each student receives are unique to Ohavei as well, so we gave screentime to this subject to emphasize and highlight the family atmosphere at Ohavei. But what else should be in an Open House film? First of all, do your research. You may be the admin or the head of a school and think you know all about a school. But do you know the word on the street? Maybe you think you do, but I guarantee it; you don't know everything parents are saying privately to other parents, whether good or bad, and you should go into this project knowing as much as you can. Yearly, we create surveys for parents to fill out anonymously for our clients. We always discover something that admins at schools don't know - in fact otherwise would have no way of knowing - that we can use to inform our messaging. From the results of these surveys, we find out what are the most important things parents and students are looking for, who makes the decision, which other schools they were considering, and maybe even any concerns that parents have. The results of these surveys guide the direction of our film - specifically the topics. But not only that - we figure out from the surveys which potential objections need addressing, so that we can tackle concern head-on, and families can move from "maybe" to "yes." The goal is to create a film that makes an irresistible offer to potential parents and students alike. Nipping Objections in the Bud Most people - and institutions - like to ignore problems and pretend they don't exist. They think, if we don't bring it up, no one will know. But it's VERY important in a comprehensive film like this to address any potential objections and questions that prospective families might have head-on. Rather than avoiding a topic and letting any unsolicited talk amongst prospective parents and students continue, we want to shape the messaging and understanding of any given pain point, to change the narrative among the families. But you are not addressing these things saying, "We have this problem." You are addressing these things from a positive point of view, showing that you even pay attention to the details and questions that come up with parents, as opposed to putting them under the rug and pretending they don't exist. With this honesty and transparency, you show prospective families that your institution can self-reflect, and this honesty will win you the trust of parents. As an example: Ohavei draws its students from many communities around the NYC metropolitan area. We wanted to reassure parents that the commute is indeed doable, and shorter than commutes to other locations because of its centrality in Riverdale. So we told the true story about the commute - not just that its easy and quick from many locations, but that the commute is facilitated by one of the Yeshiva's rebbeim as the drivers, and his influence on the students during the daily rides is part and parcel of the Ohavei experience. With this, we've seen so many families turn what they heard on the street "Ugh the commute!" into a positive: "Not too long and time well spent!" Say Something without Directly Saying It One of our goals with this film was to hint at the eliteness of Ohavei, without directly saying that, as that could come off as trite and self-congratulatory. To this end, we asked the secular studies principal to not discuss the school and its acceptance rate, but to discuss the level of the students he sees coming into the school. Through this our aim was to get the message across without just crassly saying it. The Final Impact of the Open House Film Of course, the experience at an Open House can make a family decide right then and there about applying or attending. The beauty of the captive audience at an Open House means that they will for sure watch the film to the end. But your Open House film should of course be sent out subsequently to your wider list, including an application link. I cannot tell you the big percentage of students who applied without even attending the open house, but based on what they saw in the film that they received in their inboxes. Despite the relatively small size of Ohavei, this film currently has racked up over 7 thousand views. This is what you're sharing with the wider world, so make it impactful and comprehensive, and make it count. Because of the wider viewership your film will have beyond the Open House - online, where the audience isn't captive - it needs to stay exciting, upbeat, and meaningful throughout to keep people watching. Above all in your Open House film, be honest and attentive to the dreams of parents and students. Don't patronize, don't overinflate, and don't be too humble. Show leadership, confidence, and let the parents and students in your film - not teachers and admins - do the talking for you. Third party validation will always be what seals the deal.

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