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An Argument For Pinterest’s Place in Your School Social Media
Pinterest for schools

Pinterest has a reputation as a platform women use to plan their next home renovation and learn to make mason jar salads. But hang in here with us for a minute or two as we make an argument for why your school should add Pinterest to your social media platforms.

If you’re unfamiliar with Pinterest, it’s a “visual discovery engine” where users find inspiration on topics from DIY projects to event planning and, yes, even recipes. In 2021, one of the most popular categories for Pinterest searches was education, with subcategory searches including subjects, education level, applied science, teacher resources, etc.  

Just the facts please for school Pinterest usage

Let’s look at a few facts that should appeal to schools from Influencer Marketing’s “31 Mind-Blowing Pinterest Stats for 2022.” 

  • Pinterest has 444 million users.
  • Pinterest is the fourth most popular social media site in the US, outranking LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter, and TikTok. 
  • Women are more likely to use Pinterest, and eight of ten moms use Pinterest. 

Schools should definitely pay attention to that last point because women are more likely to be invested and actively engaged in their child’s education. The study indicates that one reason for the high number of women users is that the platform encourages users to form an emotional bond with Pinterest. Sounds a little weird, right? But a 2020 study of social media platforms looked at intimacy rankings, and Pinterest claimed second place. That means your school has an opportunity to connect emotionally with key stakeholders using Pinterest. So doesn’t it make sense for your school to have a presence there? 

Best Practices for Pinterest

best practices for Pinterest

If your school is new to the world of Pinterest, here are five best practices you should be sure to follow: 

Link to your Pinterest page from your website’s homepage with a graphic icon. 

This will let people know they can find you on Pinterest and help drive traffic to your Pinterest page. For example, Region 9 Education Cooperative has all its social buttons listed prominently on its website’s homepage. 

Link to your school’s website from your Pinterest page. 

This “backlinking” to and from both pages helps your website with search engine optimization (SEO) and also makes it easy for people to find your school’s website, where they can find out more about who you are. 

Fill out the profile section. 

Make sure you highlight the most important features of your school in your school’s profile. This profile is visible to everyone who visits your Pinterest page. 

Be sure to include where you are located, what type of school you are, and what grades you serve. Leaving this area blank or with a generic line like, “We are a public school,” leaves people with more questions than answers. Gadsden Independent School District is a good example. 

Brand your Pinterest profile image. 

Your Pinterest profile picture should be your school or district logo or mascot. The image you use should be the same or similar to what users will find on your website or other social pages. Willcox Unified Schools does an excellent job with this. Branding your school helps people to know they are in the right place. 

Follow other schools and local businesses. 

This not only lets you see what type of content others are pinning, but repinning content from other schools and local businesses will encourage them to repin your content. This is helpful if you are trying to spread the word about your school’s latest fundraiser, car wash, or canned food drive. 

But it’s not just a great platform to reach parents; it’s also a great way to market your school. By following these five best Pinterest practices, your school is also engaging in good marketing. 

Having a Pinterest presence helps more people find your school. By creating backlinks and optimizing your profile, you’re increasing your reach. And branding and networking are essential to good school marketing! 

What is Pinterest?

Schools should definitely pay attention to that last point because women are more likely to be invested and actively engaged in their child’s education. The study indicates that one reason for the high number of women users is that the platform encourages users to form an emotional bond with Pinterest. Sounds a little weird, right? But a 2020 study of social media platforms looked at intimacy rankings, and Pinterest claimed second place. That means your school has an opportunity to connect emotionally with key stakeholders using Pinterest. So doesn’t it make sense for your school to have a presence there? 

How to Create School-Centered Pinterest Content 

Next, let’s take that marketing to the next level by following these five ways to create exceptional school Pinterest content:  

  1. Create pinboards that highlight your school. Some examples are: Who We Are, Meet Our Teachers, Our School Facilities, School Events, In The Classroom, etc. Then pin pictures of these items onto each board so people new to your school (or potential students) can get a feel for the environment and what you offer.

    Also, consider including a board for newsletters and messages—you can pin this type of content simply by creating a PDF image of your newsletters and uploading the content to Pinterest.

  2. Create pinboards that are beneficial for families. Including pinboards, like Healthy Lunch Options, Homework Help, Local Attractions, Learning with Technology, and Keep Your Kids Organized, can all provide beneficial information to parents that help strengthen the home-school connection.

    Parents will love that they can get the information on your Pinterest page versus spending time finding pins on their own. Check out Region 9 Education Cooperative’s Pinterest account for some great examples.

  3. Change up the boards periodically with seasonal boards. The way to increase engagement on your Pinterest page is to keep it fresh with content. Stagnant boards are like stagnant bodies of water: they never attract people, only flies.

    For each season, think about what types of information would be helpful for families and children. In winter, create boards about snow activities, DIY holiday projects and crafts, or indoor games and activities.

    For summer, boards that highlight ways kids can keep skills sharp, fun outdoor games and activities, and recipes and meals to grill are all great ways to keep families visiting your Pinterest page.

  4. Change out the cover image on your boards periodically. This makes the board feel “new” and will encourage people to click through to it and see your pins. 

  5. Increase engagement with games and contests. One way to get parents and students to visit your Pinterest page frequently is to occasionally make a game out of it.

    For example, hide a picture of your school mascot on one of your Pinterest boards, and the first 100 people to find it get entered into a drawing for a prize.

    To start the school year off right, post a list of scavenger hunt items on your school’s website, and have them find those images (or answers to questions) on your school’s Pinterest board. Then offer a coupon of some sort (a great way to support local businesses) for people who submit their completed scavenger hunt form. 
A picture is worth a thousand words

It’s a fact: people want to consume visual content. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, Pinterest allows you to have millions at your disposal—all without writing much of anything. 

By harnessing the power of visual content on Pinterest, you can strengthen your school’s brand, provide helpful information to parents, encourage parent and community engagement, and help drive traffic back to your school website. All for free. 

Not on Pinterest yet? We can help. Call us or visit our website or request a quote for more information on our social media offerings.

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How to Use Senior Quotes on Your School Website
How to use senior quotes

All school districts are looking for ways to make their school websites more relevant. They are designed to be the go-to resource for parents and community members as well as to serve as the primary marketing tool for your school.

So, let's discuss some fun and unusual ways to increase your website traffic while improving the effectiveness of your school communication and possibly your school enrollment.

Beyond yearbook quotes

Beyond yearbook quotes

Many high schools include a section for senior quotes within the pages of their yearbooks. Those funny yearbook quotes are enjoyed by students and parents. Some senior quotes are profound, others considerably less so and, in retrospect, students regret them 20 years later.

However, an exceptional senior quote can serve multiple purposes, including for school marketing purposes. Quotes that highlight school spirit, individual student growth, teacher appreciation, successful programs, and educational enthusiasm are tremendous examples to prospective parents looking for the ideal school for their own students.

Not only are quotes from graduates considered trustworthy, delivered by reliable sources who provide sincere, often heartfelt evidence for the best your school provides, but these quotes are the kind of marketing you can't pay for, so don't overlook them.

Make good use of those senior quotes each year by repurposing them in your school marketing, to strengthen your school brand, and to improve your online communications.

But first, help students come up with great senior quotes that you'll be proud to use and with which they'll be able to impress their peers.

encourage inspired yearbook quotes

Encourage inspired yearbook quotes

Senior quotations are a popular way to have them summarize their academic career (so far), thank teachers or peers, and express their individuality. However, this can be a stressful experience for students.

I remember feeling quite overwhelmed about it, knowing it would be in my yearbook forever and I certainly didn't feel I had anything inspirational to share.

But, school leaders can provide inspiration, ideas, and examples to those seniors to help eliminate this pressure (while possibly encouraging some higher-quality quotes in the process).

Here are a few examples to share with seniors that might help. Create a list of possible ideas to get them thinking about what has influenced them so far in their educational experience or made their school experience memorable. Include topics that are smart, inspiring, or funny.

Possible topics:

  • Thank your parents
  • Honor your friends
  • Share a favorite song lyric or line from a poem that reflects your personality or values
  • Give a shout out to a teacher
  • Share some humor
  • Inspire someone
  • Thank someone who has inspired you

Consider providing links to sites and articles with memorable quotes used by others. As long as students give credit to whomever they are quoting, that is a perfectly acceptable option.

Encourage students to be themselves and be sincere. Remind your students that choosing a memorable quote or catchphrase can leave a memorable impression.

Create a few lists for the students to read and get ideas from. Here are a few of my favorites that I found online with a quick search.

Inspirational quotes

Inspirational quotes:

  • How can I sum up my amazing time here in such a short space?
  • When the last bell rings, I might actually miss this place!
  • If you're reading this, future me, put down this book and do something productive.
  • Dear future self, 'Always remember who got you where you are today.'
  • All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.
  • Thanks for all the memories. I've had the time of my life. I'll miss you all.
  • I’ve learned from the bad times and was humbled by the good. Thank you for all of the great life lessons.
  • Thank you, teachers, for never giving up on me.
  • Your future is only as good as the work you put into it.
  • Futures don’t make themselves; you have to create them.
  • Graduation is the first step of the next chapter of your life.
  • Yesterday is what brought you to today.

Humorous quotes:

  • "Remember to always be yourself, unless you suck. Then pretend to be someone else."
  • "I want to thank Google, Wikipedia, and to whoever invented copy and paste. Thank you."
  • "100 character limit for our senior quote? That seems unfair. We refuse to be constrained by these ru."
  • “See kids? I told you I was sexy in high school.”
  • “When life shuts the door, open it back up. That’s how doors work.”
  • “Master has given Megan a high school diploma, Megan is freeeee!” -Megan
senior quotes

How can you use senior quotes on your website?

We have a few suggestions for how to use some of your best senior quotes, so see what works for you:


  • Create a senior quote page on your high school website.
  • Link to the senior quote page from the enrollment page of your district-level website.
  • Write a new article for your high school website and your district website describing the graduation class or the upcoming graduation festivities, and link it to the senior quote page.
  • Write multiple social media posts about graduation day, the graduates, and scholarships awarded, and include links to the senior quotes page.
  • When you find an exceptional yearbook quote that discusses one of your school's strengths, use it as "proof" to blog about and add it to your enrollment area on your school website.
  • To include more students than just seniors, put “What Do You Think?” forms in high visibility areas of the school (or hand them out in person) with questions that let students give their opinions on various topics of interest. For example, “What do you think about the new ball field?” “What is your favorite cafeteria food?” “Where is your favorite place to shop here in town?” Include student quotes with their name and grade (and possibly their photo) throughout the website or dedicate a page to it titled "What Students Think."
Marketing done right

Marketing...done well

Now that we've given you lots of examples and ways to use quotes, we want to be sure you understand why this matters. It begins with marketing. And not with the sleezy "trying to sell you something you don't need or want" type of marketing either. I'm talking about how using quotes, like reviews or testimonials, can provide a myriad of marketing benefits. Let's discuss a few of those now.

Branding

Your school has a brand, or at least it aspires to a particular brand image. But, ideally, the brand you aspire to should actually represent what you are and what you deliver.

So, if your school aspires for students that achieve inclusivity, what evidence for that can you provide to show evidence of achieving that brand goal?

If your school produces students who are prepared for college success, does your website and social media demonstrate that proof?

Maybe your school's goal is to prepare students to be well-rounded, contributing members of society (as, I assume, is the goal of all schools), then you'll provide examples of that every chance you get.

That is what branding is all about. You are living up to your desired goals and providing evidence of just that. You can use some of these student quotes as evidence that supports your branding goals. Use quotes that support your brand as we've outlined earlier in this article.

Branding proof may be as simple as showing examples of student life or the values represented in student quotes that are encouraged by the education you provide. It may be the sense of humor your student demonstrates or the inclusivity they feel.

These senior quotes will help build trust, which will encourage enrollment.

Loyalty and trust

By providing proof, in the form of actual quotes and reviews from your students, your school will build trust and confidence that you deliver what you claim to offer. You will share evidence that you do indeed deliver, through your programs and the education your school offers, what you promise.

Loyalty is what will keep parents talking about and supporting your school to friends and neighbors. It is what creates referral marketing, which is the best kind of marketing there is.

Trust and loyalty are invaluable forms of marketing. The type of marketing you simply cannot buy. So nurture it.

testimonials

Testimonials and reviews

A student quote, whether it is a senior quote or a yearbook quote, is similar to a testimonial or a review. Because they are provided freely, without payment, they are often more trusted than any other form of advertisement around.

And, when we know the person providing the testimonial or review, their comments carry even more weight. We trust those we know. Especially when they have nothing to gain by sharing their opinion with us.

Customer Service

Another aspect of powerful marketing is the degree of customer service you provide. One aspect of outstanding customer service is recognizing and valuing students and their strengths and value. Imagine the degree of loyalty this provides to your existing parents when their students are publically recognized?

Make use of social media and website articles to recognize students and their achievements. This should include writing stories about awards, scholarships, athletic accomplishments, volunteer work or service-related work, and other areas of student progress and accomplishment.

Using student quotes as another way to reinforce your school's values, goals, and the successes related to those goals is just smart marketing and an ideal way to build trust and confidence.

tools

Use all the tools

Senior quotes are only one of the many ways to show off the fun, uniqueness, values, and successes your school has to offer. We hope you will look at this common high school tradition a bit differently moving forward and use these ideas in your public relations and marketing efforts.

Also, don't forget to apply many of these same methods to testimonials and reviews. We've provided a few more articles on each of these important tools as well, so check out:

Oh, and don't forget that if you need help with your website or social media, we've got you covered, so reach out to us at School Webmasters and request a quote or call Jim at 888.750.4556. 

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Use and Misuse of School Announcements on Your School Website

Every school in America depends on school announcements to communicate with its teachers, parents, and students. Many schools disperse these important messages using daily reminders broadcast to the whole school via a P.A. system or weekly printed reports sent home in Friday folders. Others have opted for higher-tech email blasts or student-led, closed-circuit television "news shows" to share morning announcements and communicate upcoming events. Regardless of how a school chooses to communicate, their goal remains two-fold: to keep families informed and to create community.

The same should be said of announcements housed on your school website.

Yet, as a parent of school-aged children (and website copywriter at School Webmasters), I encounter many school websites that don't optimize the announcement section and/or news page of their sites. (And occasionally find a school that doesn't have one at all.) What a missed opportunity! For minimal (and in many cases, no) additional cost, and only a few extra minutes a month, schools could be boosting the effectiveness of their school-to-home communication using a tool they already own.

A Missed Opportunity

In education, communication between home and school has always been a challenge. But one of the benefits of modern technology is its ability to connect people with ideas and information regardless of time or distance. That's the purpose of your school website and why each section of that site should be optimized.

School website

A school website is the public face of your school. That sounds a little impersonal. But it doesn't have to be. With good copywriting (a.k.a storytelling), your school's personality—all the things that make you special (your "brand")—can shine any time of day or night. A school website is the foundation of your school brand. It represents everything your school is and, like your school, should be a community resource.

If you've been reading our blog for any length of time, you know that a good school website is:

  • up-to-date;
  • friendly in tone;
  • easy to navigate; and
  • full of useful, discoverable information.
  • (Not to mention responsive and ADA compliant*.)

*If you're not sure what it means to have a "responsive" website or what it takes to make your website "ADA compliant," we've got you covered! Simply follow the links to read more about these important website features. And if you still need help, let us know. We'd love to share our expertise.

Expectation Vs. Reality

The announcement section of your school site should be all those things as well. But for many schools, even those with good websites, this section gets neglected.

I understand. You're busy. It takes time to maintain an online list of upcoming events—and at school, there's always something upcoming! It takes time to write messages inviting parents to join booster club or schedule a conference. It takes time to post congratulations on classroom achievements or a team victory. When you're doing your best to keep the school registration page updated each year and your lunch menu current, how can you possibly manage daily announcements?

You can't. But, no one's asking you to either.

Overwhelming your news page with a daily bulletin is a misuse of that space. (Not to mention a sure-fire way to make your office staff hate you.) Instead, use this online platform to help families feel welcomed and included in your school community. Provide them with the information they need and the resources they want.

Top 5 School Website Announcement Mistakes

Top 5 website mistakes

Most announcement mistakes fall under the same five categories. And while they may require a little planning to fix, in general, these mistakes are easily addressed by keeping the cardinal rules of website design in mind (see "What makes a good website?" above). The top five mistakes I see schools make on their news pages and/or announcement sections are:

  1. Outdated Information. When people visit your school website, what do they find? A clean, friendly platform that's up-to-date and easy to navigate? That level of professionalism inspires trust. It lets a family know that your school values their time and prioritizes their needs over the school's ease. Outdated information does the exact opposite. Your school news page should be the most oft-updated page on your site.
  2. Buried/Hard-to-Find Information. People visiting your school website to learn about an upcoming event or celebrate a students' winning touchdown, want that information to be easily accessible. Information housed on a blind page without multiple, logical access points or announcements buried under a series of link clicks, frustrates your readership. All school announcements should be housed in one place—on your school news page. You're welcome to link to other pages of interest in those announcements, or even include a quick blurb on your homepage that links back to the full story, but don't make site visitors guess at where to find the information they need.
  3. Information. Overwhelm Daily announcements, classroom-specific messages, and the weather report (unless you're talking about the school's winter/emergency weather response) do not belong on your school news page. This type of information, while relevant to some, clutters your announcement feed and overwhelms those visitors looking for information about the bake sale next Tuesday. Eventually, those overwhelmed readers will become frustrated callers taking up the valuable time of your office staff.
  4. Targeting the Wrong Audience. Announcements on your school site are predominately read by parents and invested community members. Those readers are not interested in the math word of the day or who won the "cleanest classroom" award, so don't recycle morning announcements for students on your school site. Instead, use your news page to provide your targeted reader with the information and resources they need to support teachers and students.
  5. All Business—No Play. While it's true that families in your community want to access relevant information quickly and easily, don't be afraid to have a little fun in your announcement space. School isn't just about test scores and literature papers. It's also about discovery, connection, and growth. Make sure your school announcements highlight those themes as well. Celebrate the student council representatives who are spending their Saturday morning collecting donations for a local food pantry and invite other high school students to get involved. Post about the upcoming Teacher of the Year nominations or the science class' successful rocket project. Use your online platform to share announcements but also to tell your school's story.
tools for success

Tools for Success

"Okay, I get it," I hear you say. "We're not using our news page as well as we could be. What now?"

Or: "Yep, my school has definitely committed one of the top five announcement mistakes. How do we fix it?"

Or maybe: "I hear what you're saying, but my teachers and staff are overloaded. How can I, as principal (or district web manager or person in charge of parent-and-family communication) ask more of my team?"

I'll get to that last question later, but as they say, "The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one." Since you're still reading this article, I assume you are ready to begin the process of optimizing the way your school presents announcements to the public. So, first things first.

Make a Plan

All good, consistent communication strategies (of which, your school website and announcements are a part) require planning. Just like you wouldn't take a road trip without a destination and pitstops in mind, so you shouldn't attempt to alter the way you handle announcements without considering what you wish to achieve or the steps you'll take to get there.

But optimizing your school announcements is only one part of an effective communication strategy for schools. If you've not already developed a plan to improve communication between home and school (or believe it's time to reevaluate the effectiveness of your current plan), check out this article about the purpose and attributes of a good communication plan. Then download a free sample communications plan from our PR4Schools initiative.

One Step at a Time

All education professionals understand the importance of goal setting. We also understand the power of writing our goals down (lesson plans and IEPs, anyone?). We’ve read countless books and studies on the research behind that phenomena. But did you know that research now suggests goal setting works best when a person focuses on only one goal at a time? A person with one goal often accomplishes that goal ahead of schedule, fueling a motivation to accomplish more. While multi-goal people, who must spread their time and energy across goals, lose effectiveness. They become frustrated and quickly lose motivation (Brown, 2020).

What does this have to do with announcements? Even if you recognize your need to fix multiple mistakes with your school announcements, focus on one fix at a time. First, commit to cleaning up your news page. Delete all expired announcements and develop a schedule to keep it updated. Then focus on reorganizing your information so it is easy to access. Next, streamline your announcements to target the appropriate audience. And remember to have fun.

Learn from the Best

Remember, an excellent news page does more than just give your school a place to house announcements. It also provides a platform for you to share school stories.

Check out these client examples for inspiration.

Each of these examples, though different in size and scope, are up-to-date and easy to navigate. They know their audience and streamline content to target that audience. And they do an excellent job of balancing the business of education with the heart of education. That's your goal.

Seek help

Seek Help

In this age of school choice, parents have access to a multitude of educational opportunities. From charter schools to homeschooling, private schools to remote learning opportunities, schools must now compete for students and student dollars. That means, as a principal or school administrator, you have to do more than provide information. You have to think like a CEO and learn to effectively market your school(s).

If that feels beyond your abilities, School Webmasters would love to help. With an extensive background in public relations and marketing communications, founder Bonnie Leedy and her team of experts create and manage school websites and strategic communications services for schools nationwide. We invite you to learn more about what we do and how we can serve you. Then request a quote. You may be surprised at how affordable our services are.

Winning Announcements

It's not hard to create winning announcements for your schools' site. You just have to consider your "customer." School customers are parents, students, teachers (both those already employed in your district and those considering joining your team), and community members involved in your school. Some come to your website looking for answers. Others come seeking proof of how your school can meet their families’ needs.

Whom do you target? Both—with a mix of announcement types.

But just as you wouldn't share testing dates over a student-led morning news show expecting every student to take that information home to their parents, so you shouldn't depend on the announcement section of your school website to tell junior high students to wear fun socks on Tuesday of Spirit Week. Junior high students are not your website's main reader. So remember your audience. What kind of announcements do they require? What do they want? Support their needs and they will support your schools.

Examples of Announcements on Your School Website

Announcements for Answer Seekers

What type of information are answer seekers looking for in announcements? Here are a few examples. (Feel free to use these as a springboard for writing your own announcements.)

  • First day of school
  • Testing dates and ways to prepare your student for testing
  • How to schedule a parent-teacher conference
  • Summer school information
  • Upcoming fundraisers
  • How to access student grades

Announcements for Proof Seekers

Prove your school has what a proof seeker needs for their family with announcements like these.

  • Celebrate high student math scores
  • Successful class projects
  • Results of high school band competitions
  • Teacher awards and honors
  • Congratulations on sports teams wins
  • Committee interest meetings
  • New course offerings
Best practices

Best Practices

Outdated Information

If your school news page is frequently bogged down with outdated announcements, set a monthly appointment to delete old messages and update your page with new information. If you don't have new information to include, link to a helpful family resource or event in the area.

Buried/Hard-to-find Information

How do you keep an important announcement from the school nurse or principal from getting lost on your newsfeed? First, keep only current information posted on your site, and organize it by date with time-sensitive announcements at the top. Next, remember that not every "new" thing at your school belongs on the news page. Information that will not change throughout the year but still needs to be accessible (like health protocols from the school nurse) should be housed in a more permanent location. You can make an announcement to draw people's attention to that new information, but it's not necessary to keep that announcement on your news page all year.

Information Overwhelm

How do you know what announcements to include on your schools' site when you administrate multiple grade levels? Curate your content to a specific audience and keep it organized. If possible, add separate sections to your schools' news page for each level. If there is still too much information to manage, consider adding teacher pages (or team pages like ELA, Art, First Grade, etc.) to your school website. While it may cost to develop these pages, once created, teachers assume all management responsibility. Teacher pages are often used to share course-specific information, publish student work, and announce special events that affect that class.

Targeting the Wrong Audience

Consider who uses your website. High school parents aren't interested in what the elementary teachers are doing for field day. Neither are students reading your district's updated education plan. So don't recycle morning announcements for students on your schools' news page. Though it sounds like more work, it's actually easier to target the right audience with fresh content.

All Business—No Play

Use your online platform to share announcements, but don't forget to tell your school's stories. Showcase volunteers. Celebrate student achievements. Interview excited teachers. Share your passion for education and get your team involved collecting inspiring stories. You can even ask student council representatives for help.

Follow these simple tips and soon your news page will be in tip-top shape.

1 Brown, D. "Why you should double down on one goal." Inc.com. May 19, 2020. Retrieved: March 28,2022. 


Public Relations for Schools
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How to Create an Effective Age-Specific School Website and Why It Matters
age-level websites for schools

Designing an effective school website for your target audience, parents and students, can be confusing and even stressful. So, let's explore some of the points one should consider in order to find the information that will lead to the website that parents and students will visit often.

Know your target audience

First, who is your target audience? And does that audience change from grade level to grade level? And even if it does, how important is it, really, to design a website specific to that audience?

Elementary Schools

Elementary Schools

Elementary schools, with students from kindergarten to sixth grade, have a varied audience. Kindergarten students may not be logging on to your school website from their home computer, but their parents will visit the website frequently—if you've included the information they're seeking. And if you've made the information easy to find. And if you've kept that information current and accurate.

And by the time that child is in the third through the fifth-grade year, he, along with his parents, will search for information on the school website. Kids that age will use the website to search

  • what's for lunch; and
  • to find links to the teacher's website or helpful education websites.

Middle Schools

Now you must take into account that your audience includes computer savvy kids and their parents using your school website to find what they need almost daily.

They still want to find information such as links to the lunch menu and classroom websites, but now, they also want to find out when the upcoming dance, track meet, or special student activity will take place. In this very social climate, also want to see photos of themselves and their friends (and for parents, their own middle school kids and their friends' middle school kids) enjoying a great experience as they grow and learn at your school.

There is no clearcut data that says this year is when a child begins to take their education seriously, but experience tells us that as they move toward becoming more independent, responsible educators, such as you, can add to their independent development by providing the right tools that will allow them to build on their growth.

Giving middle school students an age-specific online home to help further their education is a great start. More about the data later.

High schools

High Schools

During the high school years, your main audience is the students themselves. Many parents are still actively involved in school activities throughout the year, but by this time, many parents should have backed away from diligently monitoring their child's education and should be visiting the school site less often.

High school students search the school website to find the answers to millions of questions. Yes, they may still want to find that lunch menu, but now they want to find

  • the activities calendar;
  • the athletics schedules;
  • teacher and classroom website information;
  • staff contact information;
  • graduation requirements;
  • college application information;
  • NCAA sports information;
  • what clubs are available and when they meet; and
  • the list goes on.

Be sure to add lots of great photos. They still want to see pictures of themselves and their friends having fun as they pursue the all-important high school education.

And one more thing: Be sure your search bar is easy to find and functioning well on your website. Parents and students will use it regularly to find the information they're looking for.

What does the data tell us?

Many studies have been conducted, and the data clearly shows that there is a correlation between parent involvement and student success, both academically and socially (see Parent Involvement and Children's Academic and Social Development in Elementary School). Most of the studies involve data regarding parental participation in things such as parent-teacher meetings, helping with homework, and attending school events.

Reason infers that the best way for parents to find out what's happening and to stay current so they can be appropriately involved in their child's education is by gearing your school website toward their needs.

What else does the data show?

The data showing the impact of parent involvement in the later years of school is sorely lacking since it has received much less attention. But do we really need to spend millions of dollars to find out that it makes a difference then too? Of course, it makes a difference. However, the data does clearly show that too much involvement tends to cross the line into "helicopter parenting."

So, let's talk about that for a moment, only because it's such an interesting topic.

helicopter parents

Who are the helicopter parents?

Helicopter parents in the elementary school years

The helicopter parents of elementary school students may go to great lengths to make sure their child gets into a certain school or gets a certain teacher. This parent may not only supervise the child's homework but may complete their school work and projects for them.

Helicopter parents in the middle school years

The helicopter parents of middle school students might select their child's activities or their best friend for them. Since they believe they know what's best for their child, they will not take into account what their child may prefer.

Helicopter parents in the high school years

Helicopter parents of high school students might take on the college or university search, themselves, to find the best school for their child instead of merely supervising the decision or leaving it up to their child. Or they may carefully watch over their child's shoulder when the student applies to colleges. These parents will contact school authorities such as teachers, principals, deans, or university presidents to request extensions of assignments or to find out why the student didn't get accepted to his dream school.

What does the data say about helicopter parents?

What does the data say about helicopter parents? What are the pros and cons of this style of parenting?

For a long time, we have accepted the idea that when parents participate and are involved in their child's education, at home and at school, it is a good thing. Parent involvement is critical to a student's academic success and social and emotional development. The data tells us that parents who are involved foster kids with positive attitudes at school and at home. Active parenting reduces absenteeism and drop-out rates and enhances academic achievement.

Many studies have produced data that indicates overprotective parents can have negative impacts. A child whose parents involve themselves at developmentally inappropriate levels has been found to have more mental health problems. The data also shows that helicopter parenting can account for the millions of adolescents and young adults who are particularly affected with anxiety, depression, substance abuse issues, fear of failure, low self-esteem, and poor coping skills with day-to-day issues.

What does the information say about developmentally healthy parenting?

Watch your child soar and become healthy and happy by allowing them to appropriately experience the difficulties and struggles of everyday life. You may want to do your own search to gain more information about healthy parenting skills during the various stages of life your child experiences.

Let's building on that

Let's build on that

But I digress. This article is about why and how to build an effective age-specific school website. With everything you've read so far, think about the ways your school and your school website can successfully aid in the education (and the appropriate development) of every child who attends your school.

So, think about your school. What does your target audience look like? Got it? Good.

Now what?

With your target audience identified, how do schools build websites that will effectively reach it? How can schools effectively support the millions of students and parents at school and at home who need help navigating through the years they spend diligently seeking a solid education?

Let's make a list of a few things that must be easy to access as students and parents visit your age-specific website.

Elementary School Websites

  • The school calendar
  • School news and announcements for upcoming events
  • The lunch menu
  • Staff contact and classroom website information
  • Photos of your school, your students, and school activities
  • A quick links section for specific parent information (be sure to include the parental rights information)

Your colors, logo, and design will likely be on the younger or more "whimsical" side, as you gear your website to your younger audience.

Middle School Websites

  • The school calendar
  • School news and announcements for upcoming events
  • The lunch menu
  • Staff contact and classroom website information
  • Photos of your school, your students, and school activities
  • A quick links section for specific parent information (be sure to include the parental rights information)

As you think about your colors and your logo, you'll want to build a site that appeals to a pre-teen child. This child is growing up but still enjoys the fun and security of being young. Your website design can show a level of maturity without being too mature for their taste.

High School Websites

  • The school calendars, including activities, sports, clubs, test dates, etc.
  • School news and announcements for upcoming events
  • The lunch menu
  • Staff contact and classroom website information, which includes class assignments and deadlines
  • College and career counseling information
  • Sports, activities, and clubs information
  • Photos of your school, your students, and school activities
  • A quick links section for specific parent information (be sure to include the parental rights information)

You'll want your colors, logo, and design to appeal to your teenage audience. Make it cool; make it fun; not childish but not too sophisticated (unless that's your target audience, of course).

In conclusion

One way schools can add value to millions of homes worldwide is by gearing their websites toward their target audience to support them in the various stages of their lives. When schools select an age-specific website design with age-appropriate content, links, and photos, they support the rights we all value to learn in a safe and appropriate environment.

And just watch your school reap the rewards when you support parent and student needs at home with your school website.

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13 Ways to Create an Effective School Website from a Parent's Perspective
school website from parents perspective

You know what makes your school great. You know your school's struggles. You know what you want your parents and prospective parents to know. But are you sure you know what they want and they need from your school website?

Let's take a look at your school website from a parent's perspective. Whether current parents or prospective parents, what are some things the best school websites will always include? Let's explore by focusing on what parents need.

1. Intuitive navigation

Your school's website can be extremely helpful with up-to-date site content, but if the information is too difficult to find, you might as well forget about it.

Current students and parents simply won't use the website you're working so hard to keep updated with current information, and the frustration prospective parents will experience will spill over into their feelings about your school as a whole.

Be sure your website has simple navigation with an intuitive interface.

quick links

2. Parent quick links section

Parents are on the go and in a hurry. Few will seldom sit calmly to browse through your beautifully curated website content. What they want is an uncluttered design with easy-to-locate information.

So, from the parent handbook to the lunch menu to quick access to the parent portal, be sure to incorporate a parent quick link section in your school website design. Easy access from every page of your website is ideal, but if that isn't possible, be sure it's this section is on the Home page of your site.

Make sure that any other frequently used portal that parents access, like your student information system or the learning management system is linked to from the parent's area of the website as well.

school calendar

3. Synchronize the school calendar with their personal calendars

From events to homework assignments, parents with busy schedules want and need an easy way to keep up with their kids. Being able to synchronize the school website calendar with their personal calendars on their phones and computers makes it possible.

Parent engagement is a win-win-win for you, for them, and for the kids; an interactive calendar on your school's website can make it happen.

To learn more about effective calendars to help parents engage, check out Using Online Calendars to Promote Your School.

4. Useful teacher/staff directory

A staff directory with teacher and staff names is good, but including contact information is essential. Your school's website must include a way for students and parents to email staff members and make phone calls if they desire.

Do your teachers have class websites? Be sure to include the links to them. And it's especially nice when the directory includes staff photos. Prospective parents and current parents love to put a face with the name.

Consider leaving the photos off of the mobile-friendly web design, though, to save on data usage.

accolades

5. Accolades

Parents want to be proud of the school their kids attend. They want to feel good about the people their children spend time with while they're away from home. A school website that includes kudos and accolades for students, teachers, school staff members, and parent volunteers feels great.

Current students' parents feel good about where their children spend their time during the day, and prospective students' parents envision their happy family at your school.

6. Photos and videos

Visually appealing photos and videos of your school—your staff and your students—create a personal connection. Use photos and share videos of real students, staff, and school activities to highlight the amazing things going on at your school and the happy, satisfied families who attend.

Post photos of the healthy and happy parent-teacher interactions and relationships. Consider posting a "day-in-the-life" at your school video to showcase your strengths and increase your credibility on your site.

7. News

A lot of great things are happening at your school, but you are the only ones who will toot your horn. You have to be the ones to show the tremendous efforts your teachers, staff, and students are putting forth to make your school great. Promote extracurricular activities and upcoming events.

Tell your stories and share your photos on a friendly, fun, and effective News page. Show student work, children's learning, school spirit activities, engaged parents, and happy school administrators, parents, and students—and watch the effects.

As you increase this end of your school communication, you'll reap the benefits of school pride and more engaged students and parents.

social media links

8. Social page links

If you're not on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, it's time to get with it. Including links to your social pages from your website and vice versa is a must. You'll not only create happy students and parents, but you'll also increase traffic and search engine optimization in the process.

Use your school website to inform, to praise, and even to get ahead of potential problems. An active social media presence can really help you stand out from the other schools in your area.

Looking for more tips about effective school social media management? You'll enjoy "5 Steps to Craft the Perfect Social Media Post."

9. Contact information

You might not be surprised to find out that several other schools have the same name you do, but it may surprise you to know that many school websites make it quite difficult to figure out where they're located.

Be careful not to make this oversight simply because, to you, it's obvious. Make it easy to find your school's contact phone numbers and your physical and mailing addresses.

10. Application/Enrollment process

A parents' perspective of a school website will differ only slightly if they do not already have a child at your school. Current parents may not care if your website has easy access to the enrollment process or application forms, but it's imperative for new parents to be able to find and use your application forms quickly and easily.

Your school's site should make the process easy to find and simple to understand.

tuition rates

11. Tuition rates

Prospective parents want to know what the bottom line is. Be careful not to assume everyone knows who you are. If yours is a free public school, say it. If it is a charter school, say it. If it's a private school with associated tuition costs, be sure to include the relevant information on an easy-to-access page of your website.

Many schools will include the information for parents along with the registration forms. Others will add a button to the enrollment page to help parents get there quickly and easily.

12. School's mission & history

Who are you? How did you evolve into what you are today? What is your school's mission? What are your school colors? What is your philosophy regarding education?

A page on your website that tells your target audience why you would be the best choice to help their child succeed is a must for all parents.

13. Statistics

Showcase your school with numbers. Anything you can quantify, from average standardized test scores to college acceptance rates, can help your school stand out.

Be sure to accentuate the positive on your school's website. Maybe it means showing improvements from the previous year. Maybe it's your athletics or music program or extracurricular activities.

Whatever it is, show that you're in the education business and you're there to help their child succeed.

Let's Do It!

Your website is your face to the public. An intuitive site that showcases your school's strengths via an effective web design will help attract potential families and keep current ones.

Knowing what to include in your website and how to create an attractive and intuitive design that helps you stand out from the competition takes practice over time. And most schools don't have a professional website builder in their back pocket. So, if it seems a bit overwhelming and you're not sure where to begin, let School Webmasters help.

With nearly 20 years of experience designing and building school websites, we understand your needs. We know how to create solutions to your challenges.

Check out our portfolio and the testimonials from hundreds of satisfied customers, and let us help you succeed with your school communication efforts in today's competitive school climate.

Looking for more tips for creating a school website that will meet the needs of both prospective and new parents? Check out these articles:

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What Every Administrator Should Know about School Marketing
what school administrators should know

For the past 19 years, I’ve watched the gradual change in K–12 education. It is not just how U.S. schools educate students but the parents' choices in how their children are educated and by whom. The Covid-19 pandemic brought about even more changes that will continue well beyond the life of that particular virus.

Parents are far more aware of their choices, which means schools, whether public or private, have to earn most of the students who enroll. It means that schools need to market themselves to parents and future students.

But marketing is more competitive than it used to be. In the early 1900s there was one radio station, and now there are close to 15,000. In 1945 there were 12 TV stations, and now there are 1,700. A few years back we were bombarded with 3,000 messages per day, and now that number is in excess of 1,500 every second. 

This applies to your school as well. There used to be one school in the neighborhood, and only those few families who could afford to send children to a boarding school had any choice about where to send their children.

Now, there are myriad choices, and income or location are not the only deciding factors. School marketing, done right, is a multi-prong approach, and putting together a comprehensive marketing strategy is necessary.

Inbound marketing funnel

Getting noticed requires a school marketing plan

How do you get your message heard amid this bombardment of information trying to grab our attention? You need to develop and implement a marketing strategy to be heard and found.

To counteract the avalanche of ads targeting us, we've learned to block ads, phone calls, and emails. Most of us block ads on our computers, use do-not-call registries on our phones, and record our favorite shows just so we can skip commercials.

I’m not sure how much longer ad agencies are going to be in business since the revenue generated for all these companies paying outrageous amounts of money to create and run these ads can’t be providing the kinds of return on investment that makes it all worthwhile.

But, according to marketing guru Jeff Bullas, inbound marketing generates 54% more leads than advertising, and the cost is 62% lower cost, generating 3x the number of leads.

What is inbound marketing? It is about building trust—showing the value in your school's expertise through a school marketing plan. The goal is to bring students (or their parents) to you instead of chasing them around or just wringing your hands in despair with continued declining enrollment.

What grade does your school get?

Where does your school excel?

First, you must recognize what parents are looking for in programs and strengths that match your school's expertise. Determine what areas you would like to market to so you can concentrate your content and keywords on those areas. Start small and only pick a few, to begin with. The following are typical areas of parent interest:

  • Preschool
  • All-day kindergarten
  • Athletic options
  • Curriculum
  • Teacher experience/skills/training
  • Scholarships
  • Technology
  • STEM / STEAM
  • Religious Ed
  • At-risk programs
  • Transportation
  • After-school programs
  • Before-school programs
  • Cost
  • Proximity to home
  • Size
  • Administration
  • Parent involvement
  • Special education
  • Character education
  • Safety

Once you've selected the areas of interest for your target audience, you can then begin to write a more formalized plan that will include inbound digital marketing, website content marketing, and keyword emphasis that will improve your website search engine optimization.

Create a school marketing plan

You can develop your school marketing plans by using a formalized template, a spreadsheet, or just a document that outlines your goals and the strategies you want to use. Include realistic deadlines for each step, make assignments if other staff is involved, and assure that every step focuses on your inbound goals, which should be tied to your school’s mission. For a step-by-step worksheet to develop your plan, use our School Inbound Marketing Template.

We recommend:

Start by optimizing your school websites. 

If your school website is poorly designed (unintuitive, out-of-date, not mobile-friendly, not website accessible), then begin there. Be sure you have added online reviews, make timely updates, and link to your social media accounts from your school website.

Research your keyword phrases. 

There are typically a few keyword phrases (common search terms) that are used to drive people to find your website and your particular educational programs. Knowing your priorities and researching the most effective keywords and phrases will help you produce content that will increase your site traffic and attract the ideal prospects.

In order to be placed at the top of search results, the search engine must rank your news or page as relevant to the search. If you can't get ranked in the first page results, you are unlikely to be found at all. Learn more at Making SEO Part of Your School Marketing.

Review and rewrite your website content 

Your school website will be your primary resource in nearly every aspect of inbound marketing strategies. Each page of your school’s website is an opportunity to write useful and informative content (as well as improve your SEO).

Use keywords throughout your website to highlight the programs and strengths to which you want to attract prospective parents and prospective students. The goal is to draw those ideal website visitors.

Build branded social media channels 

If these channels are set up already, but have not been used consistently, consider a refresh to include images, content, and posts focused on your keywords and selected goals. Schedule posts, link to informative content, be engaging, and think strategically. Your social media platforms are an important aspect of your marketing channels.

start a blog

Start a blog

This is one of the most effective ways to add valuable marketing content to your website and draw potential customers to you. It is also one of the best ways to boost your SEO rankings on a regular schedule. Blogs are also an excellent way to tell your school’s stories in a personal and engaging way.

Oh, and don’t forget to include a call to action (CTA) on each blog post as well, since it is highly likely that your school gets found from one of those captivating blog posts.

Develop content to share

This can be time-consuming, but having at least one useful download that will encourage prospects to share their contact information with you will make it all worthwhile.

If you are focused on just one targeted persona, your content will aim for their priorities and needs. If you have multiple personas, you will develop content targeting each persona’s unique interests. You should tie each piece of content to the overall goals of your school. Learn more about persona development by using our School Inbound Marketing Template.

Generate an email nurturing campaign

Your email campaign should be segmented by the targeted audience and their needs. You will eventually produce relevant content for each targeted persona’s interests and needs.

For example, if you were a private Christian school, you might create a quiz called, “Is a Christian school right for your child?” Then offer a video showing a “day in the life…” where visitors can see what a day in your school might include so they can envision their child fitting in. Finally, provide an eBook about “what to look for in a Christ-centered, K–12 curriculum,” that includes a sample course of study highlighting your well-rounded, comprehensive, and challenging curriculum.

This inbound marketing approach works for public schools, independent schools, and vocational schools, with downloads written for their targeted persona interests. A local public school might start with a campaign targeting preschool parents to increase kindergarten enrollment.

Take notice

School administrators: take notice!

Unfortunately, many public school administrators often do nothing to address their declining enrollment until it affects the programs and classes they can offer or they can’t hire quality staff to teach the classes they must offer.

Because public education is funded through taxes, like any bureaucracy, those in the trenches don’t feel personally responsible for maintaining the requisite income to keep things moving. It’s not their job, and they are not trained to market to parents. They just hope that the federal or state government will increase their per-student funding.

However, at some point, school administrators MUST understand their roles as CEOs in their schools, which includes enrolling students and keeping them. And that, my friends, mean marketing to parents.

Marketing includes keeping current students happy with the services they and their children are receiving, providing excellent customer service to parents, and helping them to feel like valued members of the educational team. Need some help with your school customer service? 

And, how do effective school administrators succeed with goals to improve marketing, increase enrollment, and improve branding and reputation? The same way all businesses do it. They put together a marketing plan that helps them accomplish their goals.

It doesn't have to be complex, and we recommend that you select just one area to focus on at a time. Create content that will provide parents with the information they are seeking and then use social media marketing and your marketing plan to stay in touch.

Use free content, blog articles, and social media highlights to provide proof of your school's value. Private schools are prime examples of effective public relations. Public school districts would be wise to follow the examples of a private school marketing plan and win those parents' trust and confidence.

School communications and public relations go hand in hand. By targeting your school community with proven marketing strategies and using SEO to increase your website traffic, both charter schools and public schools will benefit from improved public relations and school communications.

For more information on school marketing:

Inbound marketing for school (Part 1)

Inbound marketing for schools (Part 2)

51 way to market your school

Successful school marketing

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Using Online School Calendars to Promote Your School

We all live by our calendars these days. That includes the parents of your students. So, what can you do to make these parents' lives easier and keep them involved with their child's education at the same time? Yep, you guessed it. Create and manage an effective school calendar!

Unfortunately, that is easier said than done. The effectiveness of your school website calendar depends on how easy it is to access, whether the information is current and reliable, and how simple it is to integrate with their own calendar events and schedules and sync with their phones and devices.

Your school calendar can be the most valuable tool to connect with parents, so give your school calendars the attention they warrant.

Start with the basics

Some recommended basic requirements

There are a few calendar features we recommend for both private and public calendars (the online kind):

  • A calendar that works on all devices, meaning it is mobile-friendly with an intuitive menu structure
  • A calendar that automatically loads the current month, with the capability to browse to future and past months
  • A calendar view that lets you show the events in either month or week format
  • A calendar that lets you add categories or groups (to customize the calendar view for user interest)

Keep that calendar current

The first priority is your calendar content. It must be current. It must be consistent. It must be reliable. Parents need to be able to count on the school to provide them with a resource for all the events and activities that affect their children's lives and education. 

This pretty much rules out the old-school PDF calendars that would be out of date before parents could get them printed from the school website. It might be helpful to provide a PDF version for download (assuming it is kept current), but it should not be the only version available.

It must be an online calendar that can be updated on the fly and as frequently as necessary. 

Keeping your school calendar updated

Calendar update tips

Here are some tips for keeping those school website calendars current, regardless of the calendar software your school uses:

  • Include all annual recurring school events, school holidays, term dates, testing dates, early release days, governing board meetings, parent/teacher conferences, etc.
  • Continue to update your school calendar data as the year progresses with sporting schedules (which will vary by season and team), drama performances, music concerts, fundraisers, assemblies, school field trips, etc.
  • Link to other schedules for convenient access to lunch menus, sports team schedules, club meeting schedules, etc.
  • Link to pages and forms on your school website that provide parents with information and sign-up forms as parent volunteers, parent/teacher meetings, etc.
  • Use your school calendar to coordinate social media posts through the various social media channels. Regularity and consistency will reinforce your reputation for up-to-date information across all channels, from social media platforms to the school websites and calendars.
  • Follow-up those important events with a news article about it, adding photos of the activity, outcomes, successes, and the educational purpose for the event. Don't miss these great public relations opportunities!
  • Link to your calendar events from your social media posts and vice versa to provide more detailed information and generate interest in upcoming events.

Regularly updated content keeps parents engaged. You develop trust and provide consistent transparency when your school website is a reliable resource of information. The school website calendar is a primary resource in making that happen.

Reach out to your staff, on a regularly scheduled basis, to ask for ongoing input for the various grade levels, extra-curricular activities, clubs, and events. Each staff member will have a different perspective and can add information that might otherwise be overlooked unless encouraged to submit to the website and calendar.

Remove outdated information

It should go without saying, but we're saying it anyway: you need to remove that out-of-date information. There is nothing that screams you are not paying attention or aren't all that interested in your parents' needs as leaving old information on your website and the calendar. 

Many website software platforms provide the option of automatically removing information from the website when the event expires. If your platform doesn't allow this, then be sure you set up reminders on your personal calendar to remove dated information manually. 

Old information not only gives parents bad information, but it may also provide them with the wrong impression of your school, your priorities, and its management.

Most calendar software will dim or change colors for past events, so there is no need to remove those from your calendar. This is actually useful for archiving events and keeping records of some of the amazing things happening during the year.

Easy access

Make school calendar access easy 

One goal for your school website is to make everyone's life easier. That means helping parents coordinate their lives with their children's schedules. By doing this you will improve communication and parent engagement—possibly helping them be better parents as well.

Let's begin by making your school calendar easy to access. What does that look like?

Responsive design

I don't know about the rest of you, but I have become completely dependent upon my personal calendar. If something doesn't make it there, it doesn't happen. This is true of today's parents and with multiple children in various schools—their schedules can become quite challenging. 

No parent wants to miss that class concert where his or her child has a one-line solo for which they've been preparing for a month. Your school calendar is critical for engaged parents.

So, start with making it easy to get to from their phones and other devices, which requires your calendars to be a mobile-friendly, responsive design. A responsive design simply means that regardless of the device your school website or calendar is viewed on, the site will adapt to the device's size and layout. 

Your site users shouldn't be required to zoom in or out to get to the information they are seeking. Not only must your website be responsive, but your calendars must be near the top of your responsive layout so they can find them with minimal scrolling.

One worthy goal is to make sure parents can get the information they need within three clicks. Your school community expects to find the information they seek quickly. A fast-loading website with intuitive navigation will make that possible.

Integration with personal calendars

Since we all depend upon our online calendar for keeping us sane or at least to appear sane (and organized), being able to integrate the school calendar with our personal calendar has many benefits. Parents should be able to add selected school events on your online school calendar to their personal calendar. 

There are a variety of ways to add a calendar or selected events to your own calendar, but one of the more common ways is through an iCal file. The calendar software we use here at School Webmasters provides just such a link right on the school calendar itself.

Create customized views

Customized views

Different parents will have different calendar interests depending on what ages and grade levels their students are in and what activities they are involved with. While a district's master calendar is often massive, a school calendar that lets parents customize the version they view can exclude everything except what they care about. Then it becomes a useful, in fact, an invaluable tool.

For example, the calendar we use for a majority of our schools lets users select checkboxes that provide them with a color-coded, customized calendar view where only the events they are interested in are displayed. 

The parent of a third-grader may not care about the high school football schedule, but as their children matriculate through the school system, they also need to be able to adjust the calendar view for their changing needs.

Even if the calendar software you're using is an embedded Google Calendar, you can copy and paste this into another calendar, which will automatically grab the data. 

I personally use Google calendar for my personal and my corporate schedules, and integrating events is a snap (okay, it is actually a click or two).

This is a thoughtful way to make the lives of your parents (and students and staff) a bit easier. They'll thank you for it. Well, maybe they'll only think their thanks, but you'll know in your heart you've done the right thing to improve your user experience and your website usage.

Create reminders

Reminders for important events

Some calendar software programs will also let site users set up email reminders for specific events. This calendar tool could be used for a single activity or event and is user-friendly to ensure they are kept in the loop. Other visitors, like grandparents and community members, would find this extremely helpful.

Making communication easy for your target audience and helping them stay current with what is happening at your schools is just good public relations and outstanding marketing. 

Sharing important information is one of the main roles of good communication, and when you publish and promote what is happening at your schools, you are achieving that goal.

Make your school calendar a priority

Is your school calendar a priority?

If not, it should be. It's as simple as 1,2,3:

  1. Create a master calendar (from all schools, clubs, activities, sports, fundraising events, etc.) including the recurring and those added-throughout-the-year events).
  2. Post everything you have on your school's calendar online and integrate them into your social media calendar. If you have a marketing team, give this task to them so they can coordinate these events with social media posts. If School Webmasters manages your website, we'll do all of this for you, including your social media. We'll also highlight important events on your news page and add those ever-popular home page teasers.
  3. Send out monthly staff reminders to continue to gather additional calendar events and activities to keep that calendar up to date.

We hope you'll take what we've shared here and apply it to your school website and to your school calendars. 

However, if you currently can't or don't have the resources (either the technology or human resources), we hope you'll give us a call here at School Webmasters and let us help you do it right. 

Whether it is school web design and hosting, website management, or a bit of public relations help, we've got you covered. Oh, and yes, we take care of those ever-important school calendar best practices as well!

For more tips on school website best practices, check out these blog articles:

Website redesigns done right

What makes the best school websites (Part 1)

What makes the best school websites (Part 2)

What was your website hired to do?

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How to write a caption
A picture is worth a thousand words

Well, according to Merriam-Webster, a caption is “the explanatory comment or designation accompanying a pictorial illustration usually as an underline or overline.” So, translated into something that makes sense to the rest of us, it is the text that shows up under an image on websites, magazines and newspapers, and social media posts. 

We've all heard that a picture is worth a thousand words, but a photo caption puts the image in context with the article as a whole. A caption explains the photo. An effective photo caption draws your readers in and helps to tell the story you hope to convey, whether it is a web page, a news article, or a social media post. 

An exceptionally outstanding caption can even change the mood of the image and turn an average picture into an iconic photograph like the one most of us recognize instantly that captures an important day in history called VJ day, Victory over Japan, August 15, 1945. Another heart-stopping example is this one with the simple caption, The vulture and the little girl, that brings tears to my eyes every time I see it.

What makes a good caption?

A caption can be just a few words or as long as several sentences, and it typically provides information about the image and its connection to the article or post.

It is important to remember that photo captions are the most read text in a publication (only headlines have a higher readership than captions). So, when we want our readers to be engaged and informed, our use of captions matters. 

Often people will only scan the pictures and not read the story to which it is attached, so captions can help provide information without simply repeating the content in the article or social media post.

A good caption will describe something that isn't obvious. If a photo caption only describes what is evident in the photo, it is a bit useless. If you don't provide any additional information, you are doing a disservice to your readers. 

A good caption will describe details that are not obvious, like the location, the backstory, or the specific event taking place in the photograph. Let your caption intrigue your readers to investigate the story further.

For example, if Becky is holding the spelling bee trophy, instead of a caption that reads, "Becky holds her award," say something they can't see. Describe the honor, how competitive it was, and what it says about the focus of your school, your curriculum, and student success. 

Good captions will not repeat aspects of the story, but the caption and story will complement each other and not be repetitive. 

We're all aware of other types of captions, like closed captioning on movies and video that displays the text or a translation of the audio. But today we’ll only cover photo captions, as those are the most commonly used on your school website and on your school social media. However, using closed captioning for all school videos is an accessibility requirement, so be sure to include those as well.

Let your photos lead the way

Let your photos lead the way.

The best publications actually have full-time folks on staff whose job is to write captions for pictures and images in their magazines and newspapers. 

According to David Brindley with National Geographic, these staffers will often interview the photographers and even talk to the people in the photos to gather accurate information and do their jobs well. They will gather information by digging for background or talking to an expert who can lend more information. They will ask for the context of those involved, like what happened right before or right after the picture was captured. Sometimes they use quotes by these experts in their captions. 

Even when you are using a stock photo, make good use of a caption. Let it be a bit of a teaser for the story or post, or use it as a call to action.

Of course, standards of accuracy, clarity, completeness, and good writing are as high for captions as the rest of your writing. But with captions, let them be to the point and as concise as keeping your readers' interest allows.

Tips you need to know

Tips for writing photo captions that will enhance your content

There are many tried and true tips for creating effective and engaging captions for your content, so let's begin with those:

Start by checking your facts. 

This includes assuring that photo details are accurate, like correctly identifying the people in your picture. It includes accurate credit lines and photo details.

Use conversational language. 

Write your caption as if you are speaking to a friend. This may also mean avoiding cliches.

Use the present tense. 

Present tense adds immediacy and impact and draws in your reader. It's a bit like the reason we avoid passive voice; it puts us closer to our readers' perspective. Present tense puts your reader there in the here and now. Don't distance them from the action.

Use humor when appropriate. 

Don't try for funny captions if the picture is not, but when it is, use humor to highlight your picture and bring a smile to your reader.

Add new information. 

Instead of stating the obvious by restating what is in the image, add context that might not be immediately evident. This may require a bit of research and finding out what happened prior to or after the photos were taken to add information and interest.

Let interest determine the length. 

Typically, one to three sentences, in active voice, is recommended to keep your readers' interest. However, don't be afraid to add a longer caption when more information will help your readers understand the story or situation and provide more interest.

A few years ago, one study found that readers spent 30% more time on longer and well-developed captions than on short or incomplete captions (which received little attention). So, if well done, take the opportunity to pique your readers' interest in your story by taking the time to write a compelling photo caption. 

Use quotes when possible. 

A quote can very effectively capture interest. So, when it works, use them.

Include descriptions. 

Good descriptions not only help clarify and avoid misunderstandings, but they make the image more engaging. 

For example, "the red-headed girl on the left...," or "the sprinter in the far left lane...," can help focus the reader's interest and get them to see what you want them to notice.

Use dates for historic photos. 

When an image is historic in nature, be sure to include the date it was taken. For example, "Our school's first Superintendent, Dr. David Willcox, 1989."

Don't judge me

Avoid judgments

This may require a bit of research on your part (or at least a conversation with the photographer) but avoid making a judgment based only on your observation. 

For example, a "disappointed fan..." might actually not be unhappy at all but just not very photogenic. Don't make assumptions.

Avoid starting captions with certain words.

Try to avoid starting your captions with the articles 'a,' 'an,' or 'the.' They simply aren't necessary and take up valuable captioning room. 

For example, instead of saying, "The high school jazz orchestra takes 2nd in competition," say "High school jazz orchestra takes 2nd in competition."

social media captions

Social media and captions

There is no place more photos are shared daily than on social media. On Instagram alone, 95 million photos are shared daily. To take advantage of all your school social media posts, and in particular, to create a good Instagram caption, take advantage of some of these same tips we've mentioned previously. In particular, for social media, add these tricks:

  • Put important information first. Since you only have 2,200 characters on Instagram, your captions are cut off after a few lines.
  • Include a call to action. Asking your readers to "double-tap (like)," "tag a friend," or "click on the link in bio," allows for interaction and engagement—a call to action or CTA. Just remember to ask! Those clickable links are valuable in social media posts.
  • Use hashtags and emojis wisely. The hashtag and emoji can be used to leverage engagement if used wisely, but don't get carried away and overdo it. Many social media experts recommend no more than two hashtags per post. And, be sure your hashtags are relevant to your post. Keep your captions clean and don't clutter them with too many emojis and/or hashtags. But, don't be afraid to use a branded hashtag either.

Ask yourself these questions about photo captions

Ask yourself...

Need some ideas to take your photo caption to the next level? Try these questions when you are stuck for caption ideas—and see what ideas they inspire:

  • Why should someone care about this photo/image?
  • Are there some interesting details in this image that I want my readers to notice?
  • What is the backstory of this photo?
  • What can't the reader/viewer see in this photo?
  • Does this image/photo support our school culture and brand personality?
  • What happened before or after this photo was taken?
  • Will this caption copy encourage engagement with my readers?

Practice makes perfect, or at least better

While you are applying captioning tips to create effective photo captions, you may want to consider using a simple caption-writing formula to get you started. A successful formula will also save time. One common formula is [proper noun location] [verb] [direct object] during [proper event name] at [proper noun location] in [city] on [day of week], [month] [date], [year]. [Why or how.]

An example using this formula might look like this: "Varsity basketball players (noun) battle (present-tense verb) rivals (direct object) at Arizona Regionals (proper noun location) in Phoenix (city) on Friday (day of the week), February 25th, 2022 (month, date, year)."

The more you practice writing captions, the more engagement you will create. It will be worth the time you spend. Just remind yourself that many readers will only look at your photos and read the captions. 

Take the time to create several versions and experiment with a few different approaches before you pick what works best. What are your readers taking away from our post or article if that is all they see? Make those photo captions count. 

trust

Be trustworthy

Finally, and this is quite important but unfortunately becoming increasingly more rare in the world of journalism, we must remember that what we print will be considered fact (or should be). 

Our readers should be able to trust what we write—that what is in the post, the page, or the article is honest. They will assume we've done our fact-checking and that what we are telling them in our caption and in our content is accurate. So, do it right. Do the research, Ask the right questions. Be accurate. Be trustworthy.

This is particularly true of a school. Parents expect your content to be accurate and error-free. You're educators, after all, so what else would they expect from those who educate our nation's children? 

However, you must earn that confidence in your trustworthiness, and that includes what you publish on your school website and your social media. 

Be accurate. Check your spelling and grammar. That includes your photo captions since those are more likely to be read than the rest of your content!

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How to write website headlines your readers will love
website headlines your readers will love

Your school website’s purpose is to inform existing parents and to attract prospective parents. You can’t do that without attracting readers, which means writing a compelling headline that will grab the attention of those desired readers.

Where are headlines important?

They are critical on your school website for starters. They tell the site visitor where they are within your site. They tell your reader the value they can expect from the page. They provide search engine optimization (SEO) to attract prospective parents and staff to your school website.

Writing headlines also matters for blog posts and social media posts. They can entice readers to keep reading, to gather information, to learn more about what you have to offer, and to drive more traffic to your website and your school.

Why should I care about website headlines?

Why should your school care about headlines?

A headline isn’t just a title, but it is your window of opportunity to connect with readers. Your readers matter for a variety of reasons. Learn how to solve some of your challenges through powerful headlines.

How to attract readers.

Your headline tells readers what your article or page is about. If it sounds interesting and relevant, they are likely to keep reading (and get the information you want them to have). On average, readers will read 80% of headlines, but only 20% will actually read the article.

So, time spent writing an effective headline is well worth your time. In fact, you should spend as much time creating an effective headline as you do writing the article.

How to create a need for knowledge.

Your headline answers a question. What is the article about? What problem does it solve? What will you learn?

Of course, it goes without saying that your headline should keep whatever promise it makes and deliver the information it guarantees, but if you want readers to read it, let them know why they need the information your article provides.

How headlines can help build trusting relationships

How to build a trusting relationship.

When your headline attracts your readers, they are more likely to return to your site and read your website and social media content. When they become readers who trust your content, they are more likely to trust you and to share your content with others. This is what builds trust and a regular, loyal readership.

Isn’t that what we all want in our schools—parents who trust us to educate their children with transparency and integrity? Especially given today’s mistrust in public education, we need to earn back those trusting relationships. 

Your headline is the gateway to building those relationships and to attracting those readers.

Why write headlines that are SEO friendly?

Your headline is the first thing your audience will see after they enter the keywords in their search engines. The higher ranked your content, the more often your website will be listed in the search results.

So, include a target keyword wisely in each heading and subheading. Using keywords as you are writing headlines will determine where you rank. The higher you rank, the more traffic you’ll get, and the easier it will be to find you.

When it comes to attracting prospective parents and students, this matters. Increasing enrollment can’t happen if your school isn’t found.

Why convey information succinctly?

Your headlines tell the reader what they can expect your article to share with them; what information they will learn and if that information will be enticing enough to keep reading.

Your article or social media post might have great quality content, but the headline captures the attention and keeps people reading. If they don’t read it, they don’t get the information you want to share or build the relationships you are striving for.

Tips and tricks

Headline writing tips

So, now that we understand a bit more about the value and need to write great headlines (and all of this applies to captions as well), let’s get a grasp on the best practices for writing them. 

Here is a helpful headline writing checklist to guide you. Simply ask yourself these questions about your headlines:

  • Did you create headlines that will create curiosity?

  • Can you use numbers or lists in your headlines to create higher click-throughs?

  • Can you add a subheading that can provide more clarity and interest?

  • Have you included targeted keywords in your headlines and subheads?

  • Are your headlines clear and to the point—avoiding vague language?

  • Have you highlighted the benefits for reading your article?

  • Does your headline grab the attention of your readers?

  • Does your headline provide something useful and include a sense of urgency?

  • Are you using interesting adjectives in your headlines?

  • Have you used rationales to make your point? (Examples: reasons, lessons, ideas, ways)

  • Can you include words like what, why, when, or how when you write headlines?

  • Can your title ask a question, and does your article or page contain the answer?

Writing headlines that call for attention

You want your prospective reader to read the first sentence. To accomplish that, each article must create attention. Those reading your school website are often parents whose attention is competing with thousands of advertisements and headlines designed to grab their attention. Does your headline compete effectively?

To make it more challenging, studies show that our attention span decreases every year. Our average attention span duration is said to be only 8 to 12 seconds. For your school website and social media to grab your readers' attention is to provide a great headline and attention-grabbing sub-heads to keep them reading.

Don’t be afraid to use formulas

While crafting a headline is an art, science is also involved. So, take advantage of the methodology that is proven to create effective headlines, and use that knowledge to your advantage. 

There are headline writing formulas you can use that have been tested for high click-through rates. Just do a search for headline formulas to find examples you can tweak for your own use.

Check out these ideas, and then create your own and test them to find the ones that work best for your target audience and your school. Here are a few links to get you started:

Copyhackers headline collection

Copyblogger headline formulas

Buffer headline formulas

Examples of powerful headlines

What are some examples of powerful headlines?

Headlines serve all the purposes we've discussed previously, but maybe some examples are in order to get you started. Here are some successful formats that are often used with great success:

Example: “How to [mundane task] that [rewarding benefit]. 

    "How to find the right school that assures your student gets into the college of his or her choice."

Example: "The Secret of [achieving a benefit or goal]"

    "The secret to preparing your child for kindergarten success"

Example: "Why" headlines (asking a question that gets answered in your post or article)

    "Why choose Bayshore Academy for your high school student"

Example: "Give us [short period of time] and we'll give you [blank]

    "Give ABC School District 30 minutes for a tour, and we'll show you how your student succeeds here."

Example: "Do You Recognize the [number] Early Warning Signs of [blank]?

    "Do you recognize the 3 early warning signs of student depression?"

Write for human beings, not search engines

While it is important to include target keywords in your headlines to encourage SEO friendly headlines and to be found online, be sure your headlines and articles are tailored toward your customers. That includes understanding your target audience and their needs.

Design your website to answer the questions most commonly sought by your readers. Make the navigational structure intuitive so that priority content is easy to find. 

By keeping your readers' needs your top priority, and with Google and other search engine algorithms and machine learning evolving rapidly, the importance of writing for real people will get you the readers you need and want.

However, writing for humans does not prevent you from accomplishing both goals. You can also write seo friendly headlines and use your articles for content marketing at the same time. Content marketing strategy is what will help you increase enrollment and keep your current parents satisified and trusting. Your headline's success can improve your marketing success.

It takes practice

A good headline is an art, and those who do it well get paid accordingly for a reason. The headline not only introduces the great content that follows; it does so by making it irresistible to avoid reading it. Be deliberate and careful in writing headlines so you are found and read.

Write multiple headlines and experiment with what might be the most engaging for your readers.

Create a swipe file (which is basically just a list of examples of effective titles you’ve found interesting and compelled to read, and make this list your own). You can then refer back to this list whenever you are at a loss for a strong and engaging headline. 

Consider writing 5–10 titles using different styles, and select the one that works best for the audience you are targeting. 

If possible, test the effectiveness of your headline by checking the analytics (or traffic) to your article/page/blog/social media post, and then switch it out and see if the traffic increases or decreases.

Your school website content is there to serve a purpose. It might be to attract new students (and the parents who enroll them). It might be to inform, entertain, or enthuse your existing parents. It might be to recruit high-quality staff. But if your content isn’t read, it fails.

If your headlines and captions don’t entice readers and your website doesn’t come up in their search engines results, readers won’t find it or you. 

Exceptional School Websites eBook
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Why You Don't Need an App for That
There's an app for that

Yes, we know. Apps are all the rage, at least according to the salespeople say that your school needs one. Well, we’re here to tell you that it’s not necessarily the case and the extra expense and management might not bring you the promised advantages. Beware the slick sales pitch and take a look at your website before jumping into the app jungle.

What about the website?

Before considering an app, take a look at your website. Since your website is your face to the public (an app is only available to existing parents), your efforts here should be your highest priority. So, what are the advantages of a user- and mobile-friendly website, when done right?

24/7 availability

Always Available 

Parents don’t need to download anything onto their phone; they can reach it from any browser or device. If they want to, they can save a shortcut to their phone for quick access. Unlike apps, whose typical engagement (how many parents actually download the app) is only 10%-20%, your website is always available to everyone.

Mobile-friendly 

This is key. If your website is truly mobile-friendly and responsive to the size of whatever device your site visitors are using, it can accomplish everything an app claims to provide (and more). Unfortunately, most school websites are not very intuitive, so the mobile version doesn’t meet the needs of your site users. Analyze what pages are most used, and make sure that information is front and center on your mobile-friendly website.

Be Accessible 

Making sure your website is accessible to those with disabilities matters. Not only is it the law, but it is also the right thing to do. We’ve spent quite a bit of time looking at some of our competitors' websites (those who claim to offer an app to do it all), and not only is the website provided difficult to navigate and unintuitive, but they are NOT compliant or accessible. So, no matter which system you select, it must be accessible, and other website vendors leave that responsibility up to you.

Seamless Integration

One of the main reasons you might be told you need an app is to have a location (easily accessible from a single location) to the various types of information a parent wants. An existing parent might want to check on their child’s grades or homework, the current lunch menu, or the calendar of upcoming events. A prospective parent wants easy access to what your school has to offer their child and some “proof” that you can deliver (in the form of reviews or testimonials from parents and students) and a simple enrollment process (or school tour). However, your school website can provide all of that through well-designed landing pages that are also reflected on the mobile version for their phones. To make it all a one-touch process, provide parents with simple download instructions to add a shortcut to their phones for your school website. That shortcut should be to a landing page with the most requested information parents need.

Marketing Your School

Your school website should cater to two types of visitors—the current parent and the prospective parent. If you are focused on an app, you are ignoring those prospective parents since they won’t be using that app. Your school website, if well planned, will address the needs of both.

app store

What about an app?

We get this question a lot less these days, but it still comes up from time to time, so I thought it would be best to explain why your school doesn’t need an app if you have a nice, responsive design and a way to create a shortcut on your phone’s home screen.

Apps are awesome. Well, the apps that are awesome are awesome. Some of them are really lame or worse, like when they are viruses or spyware.  Most people only download an app if they know who is publishing it and really think it is going to be something awesome that will make their lives easier. An app uses your phone’s hardware, like the microphone, camera, compass, flashlight, GPS receiver, etc, and combines that with downloadable software to give you really helpful stuff, like maps that tell you where you are on them. This allows you to do things that you can’t do with just a website. 

The public-facing website at your school doesn’t really have much use for that hardware, at least that we have found. Most parents just need a place to get reliable information when they need it. This isn’t going to be a social media feed or an app that doesn’t have all of the information in it, but this is a perfect job for a nice, responsive (mobile-friendly) website. Websites are intuitive; they don’t need to be downloaded or updated by the end-user, and it is easy to help parents get a shortcut. So focus on your school website first. 

Here is a video that we provide to our clients to help their parents add an icon to their phone or device home page for one-click access to their mobile-friendly school websites (for both Androids and iPhones.)

customers needs

Focus on your customer’s needs

You’re a school, so your customers are parents. It is parents who will decide where to send their children to school. So customer satisfaction will depend upon meeting their communication needs. You’ll need to look at things from your parents’ perspective and not based on a slick sales pitch promising easy, fool-proof solutions that only benefit you (the client) and not the end-users (parents). 

customers needs

The key to success for your users (and your schools’ customer service success) is to effectively manage your school website. Here is a summary of our website management recommendations:

Gather data from your customers.

What needs do they expect you to meet? What do they value most? What challenges does your school solve for them? Use surveys and group input to get these answers.

Establish your annual communication goals.

Tie your goals to your school mission.

Evaluate your current website. 

Is the navigation intuitive? Is your website mobile-friendly? Is it current? Is the content tone friendly and inviting? Is it informative and engaging?

Analyze your mobile-friendly navigation.

Are the most frequently requested pages available first? Do you have a landing page with easy access to sites or pages parents frequent most? Is the mobile view fast loading?

Develop update processes.

Involve staff by assigning topics and deadlines for news articles, success stories, staff or teacher spotlights, events—and all news should include an explanation for the “why behind the what.”

Schedule frequent website updates.

Schedule daily or weekly content updates to keep the website current, accurate, and engaging. Maintain a friendly, consistent tone.

Coordinate social media posts with website content.

Integrate your social media channels with articles and news on your website to drive customers to the more detailed, informative, and inviting website information.

Schedule regular website checks.

Look for and fix broken links, layout errors, outdated content, website accessibility compliance, spelling and grammar errors, etc.

Recognize, reward, and repeat.

Find good examples of staff who are providing engaging articles and stories or keeping the website and social media content current. Recognize these examples and honor them publicly. This will encourage more of the same!

All your website management (and parent satisfaction) is tied to good communication. Your website is the most valuable resource available for improving customer service, marketing, public relations, reputation management, and parent engagement. Put it to good use, and then enjoy the many rewards that strategic communication brings! You’ve already got everything you need at your fingertips. The key is effective school website management.

If your school needs website management services, please remember that School Webmasters specializes in just that—and we have for 19 years! Let us help you manage your school website and social media (whether on our system or yours). Contact us today and find out more, or request a quote and we’ll contact you!

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