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School customer service matters...especially those initial interactions
2021-10-12
Happy employees

Okay, you are a school administrator and schools are serious business, right? Professional and no-nonsense? Well, I agree with the professional part, but I think some schools (whether it is established by the school culture, the HR department hiring policies, or maybe the school leader) may want to consider factoring a little joy into the mix. It isn't an either/or proposition because professionalism and happiness are not mutually exclusive.

Whose face greets the public in your front offices? Do they recognize the importance of their role (regardless of their job description or skill sets)? From a public relations perspective, your front desk personnel may be as important as nearly every other position in your school. As the first person a parent, student, community member, or new staff member meets when they arrive at your school, your receptionist or assistant sets the tone.

Is it a happy, welcoming, sincere, and helpful impression? Your front desk staff sets the tone for whatever happens next—whether greeting a new student who is a bit apprehensive about his or her new school, a parent coming in to address a concern, or a staff member who needs to meet with you, your office staff's attitude can create a positive environment that will influence the whole experience.

How do you feel when you enter an office and the receptionist stands to greet you with a smile, obviously happy to assist you? What a difference from the "I'm way too busy to be bothered with you, no eye-contact, grumbled and impatient 'Yes?'" that may greet you instead?

Hire happy people

Hopefully you are already encouraging your staff to smile and be welcoming, and that is definitely a good idea, but studies show that most of us know the difference between a sincere smile and a social smile. So, it might be easier to just hire happy people in the first place. 

Author Dan Hill is an expert in facial coding. In his book About Face, he cites studies that show that our “expected social behavior” smile is different from the one that is actually joyful. While the book is about advertising, there is a lot to be learned about the tie between our primal responses and the overall feeling we come away with (in marketing or customer service).

Our brain is capable of telling the difference, and feeling joy is a pretty hard thing to fake. Our brain knows the difference. When we smile socially, we use fewer muscles (primarily facial muscles) than when we engage a real smile. In another test, restaurant patrons who felt that servers displayed true smiles were far more satisfied with the service they received. Evidently, our brains recognize sincerity.

read face expressions

Few of us would argue with any of this since most of us know it intuitively. I can still remember the stern line of my mother’s mouth when I was in trouble, but I learned quickly that there was often a smile that reached her eyes and betrayed her—a dead give-away that I wasn’t really in that much trouble after all!

We, as humans, are primarily emotional decision-makers, which means our emotions will have an impact on what impressions we form about any given experience. First meetings of your publics—with your front office, your staff, and you—will be influenced by their emotional interpretations.

So, the moral of the story? Be aware that if during the hiring process your candidate doesn’t demonstrate positive, sincere emotions, it isn’t likely they will do so during a customer service situation either. It is certainly something to consider when it comes to staffing those publicly visible roles. Consider including an evaluation of the emotions candidates project during an interview in an effort to hire happy people. And, take it from a savvy kid, look for those smiling eyes!

make things happen

Implementing improvements

One of my admin team and I took a business "road trip" a few years ago. We visited several states and many school offices—from the very large district to the tiniest rural school. It was a very enlightening process. There were schools we immediately "liked," and when we left we took with us a positive, professional impression. A few appalled us by their unprofessional treatment or downright rudeness. [Hint: a higher percentage of private schools got an A+ rating than public schools—which means public schools, worried about losing students to charters, private schools, or homeschooling, may need to look only as far as their front office to stop the bleeding.]

Coming from a public relations background, I wish the administrators of those schools would realize what small steps it would take to correct the poor first impressions of the negative school and hope they rewarded the positive, respectful, and pleasant behavior of their staff in the positive offices. Not sure where your school might fall?

  • Set expectations for your staff. If they know you value a welcoming, smiling, helpful response to each visitor in your office, most staff will try to rise to those expectations.
  • Test your school's typical front office experience by having someone unknown to your staff stop by the office to observe the experience through objective eyes. What you see as an administrator isn't necessarily what total strangers experience. (Okay, it sounds a bit like spying, but I'd rather call it objective analysis.)
  • Reward desired behavior. This doesn't have to be with pay raises or promotions but can be as simple as a positive evaluation that specifically identifies the behaviors you are striving to instill. It could be recognition through an internal process like an award on the intranet so they are recognized by their peers or even a positive news article on the public-facing website. (Remember to add a photo of this person's smiling face in the article.)
First class service
How Successful Schools Market Themselves eBook
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School Website Management Done Right
2021-09-28
Do the right thing in school website management

Many school leaders struggle with how best to manage their school’s website(s). Often they decide to go with the status quo—what they are accustomed to is good enough. At least until parents or the governing board complains that it isn’t as effective or informative as it should be, or maybe it is a flat-out embarrassment. Then it becomes a top priority if for no other reason than to eliminate complaints. 

So, if one of those scenarios describes your situation, or if you want to avoid the drama and set up strategies to provide a website that continually serves your parents and community well, let’s look at what constitutes best practices in school website management.

Budgeting for website management

While most school website development focuses on the initial design, including the costs involved, the real value of your site is in its ongoing content and management. Businesses, especially those that depend on their websites to attract customers and build brand recognition, budget at least 50% of the initial design costs to keep their sites current, intuitive, and effective. 

budgeting for website management

If the focus is on developing an attractive site and not those real-time updates that keep your site up to date, you’ll waste your investment. In addition to adding daily and weekly information to the school website (an imperative if you hope to keep parents and students informed and engaged), there is additional maintenance required to reorganize and revise older pages, avoid link rot, and keep the navigation intuitive.

Another common management issue involves the need for new graphics, icons, and structural and CSS layouts. When schools have multiple folks designing these graphic elements, or if you outsource them to various contractors when you don’t have a graphic designer on staff, the site’s look and feel will soon become inconsistent and unprofessional.

School website content is unique

Understanding the purpose of your school website is critical. That seems like a no-brainer, but we’re always surprised at how many school sites completely miss the mark on this one. 

school websites are unique

Website content and management for a school site is much different from that of a business or corporate site. A school site must be constantly updated with news, events, calendars, schedules, and success stories. Unlike a corporate website, which focuses on branding and the background and qualifications of corporate leaders, a school audience cares more about the interactions you provide to their students. Smart school website management includes keeping your audience’s needs in mind with each and every update, the tone of the writing, the graphics, and the ease of accessing the information they need.

Gathering information is a process

One of the most challenging aspects of managing a school website is creating a consistent, reliable source of information and, even better, a schedule. First, start with all the annual events and activities you know about in advance and schedule those on a topic calendar to schedule for posting on your website news pages and calendars. Be sure to make any assignments to your “subject matter experts” so they can provide details, content, and photos. Be sure to provide them the time frame that their content is due. 

gathering information

Next, recruit your staff to help with the info gathering process. They are in the trenches, and they see good news and successes every day. These are the people who can provide excellent news articles, human interest stories, and social media post topics for you to share. For some great examples check out, “How to turn your entire staff into a school news army.” To ensure a steady stream of content, here are some ideas:

  • Assign each teacher (by grade level or subject or both) a date they are to provide “story” or topic once per year. You might allow them to sign-up for a topic of their choosing. This way they will know what you expect in advance and can plan accordingly, and they will be on the lookout for the perfect story to share. Don’t forget to invite support staff to participate as well since sometimes the best stories come from bus drivers, janitors, and food service folks.
  • Make story submission convenient. This could be an online form they fill out (available to all staff through a secure intranet or Google form) or maybe even a publicly available form on your website where alumni can also participate.
  • Let your staff know what types of content you want, like photos, videos, and written details. If you have one content person who will receive your content and post to your site, make sure the staff knows who that person is.

Create a website update strategy

  • Make it simple for staff to submit news, information, photos, and event details for your various communication channels.
  • Check website content for quality control, which includes typos, grammar, tone-of-voice, and consistent styles. This will require the use of a style guide that anyone who touches the website must know and use.
  • Remove outdated content quickly. Your website should always be current.
  • Schedule regular checks to remove or fix broken links, and review the site layout in multiple browsers and devices.
  • Assure that all website updaters maintain website accessibility standards for each website update and for any document or video you link to from the website (PDFs, Word, Google Docs, videos, etc.).
  • Create detailed project plans for specific project goals or campaigns. For example, you might want to develop a comprehensive campaign for back-to-school events that integrate the website and social media that may require video, photos, stories, student interviews, or parent perspectives. Include details for each aspect of the activities, developing content for parent notification and invites, wording and images for social media posts, content to pitch to local media, assignments for the event—and all of this attached to due dates. Here is a simple project plan you are welcome to use as an example.

Maintain consistency

If you don’t want to annoy your site visitors, make sure that all the navigational interfaces remain consistent between pages on your site. When all elements look and function the same, your visitors will feel comfortable using your site rather than having to learn a new structure on every page. 

Consistency applies to other areas, as we’ve mentioned above, like using a single style guide so that grammar, punctuation, and tone are also consistent. This is important for branding purposes, but it also maintains the conversation between you and your site visitor that builds confidence that your values are sincere and your messaging transparent. 

The best way to ensure such consistency is to have a single department responsible for all school website updates. If this is not possible, ensure that you’ve provided detailed training for any and all who touch your website, including branding rules (colors, fonts, logo standards, tone) and a style guide (grammar and punctuation preferred standards). Oh, and of course, training for website accessibility compliance.

Maintain conventions

Most website visitors are accustomed to specific generic website layouts. While being unique is often a good thing as it helps you stand out, it doesn’t apply to taking your users away from what they are comfortable with when getting to the information they need quickly and efficiently. For example, some conventions worth sticking to are:

  • Navigation. Keep those navigation menus at the top of each page, and include contact information at the bottom of each page. Also, keep that navigational structure the same throughout your website.
  • Logo/Mascot. Make your logo or mascot at the top of your site a clickable link that will redirect to the home page from every page.
  • Search bar. Add a search bar at the top of the page, typically on the right-hand side.
  • Link color. Clickable links should be a different color from the rest of the text or should change colors when users hover over them so they are easily discernible.
success

Success is possible

Managing an effective and helpful website isn’t rocket science, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. However, the benefits of creating a strategy that provides consistent updates that keep your site information current and enticing will provide you with increased enrollment, improved customer service, and develop a reputation for trust and transparency. While parents who haven’t had access to a current and effective school website in the past may not realize what they are missing, you’ll save your school money and your staff time when you implement effective website strategies. You’ll have happier and more supportive parents, making your efforts well worth the time.

If this seems overwhelming, don’t forget that School Webmasters can have your back! We manage websites for hundreds of schools and support staff and administrators who are committed to excellence in both education as well as the customer service they deliver to their parents and students. If you need us, we’re only a phone call away (888) 750-4556. Talk to Jim or request more information and we’ll get right back to you.

For more information, check out these other articles on website management:

School Website Management: It may be time to get some help

10 School Website Management Tips You’ve Never Heard Before

DIY School Website Management

3 Steps to Expert School Website Management

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5 Steps to Craft the Perfect Social Media Post
2021-09-14
Let's get social

Managing your school’s social media can be a challenge. To make your posts engaging and effective is even more so. But, there are some basics you should know and use with school social media strategies. In this blog, you’ll learn five steps to get it right.

1. Know your platforms

What platforms are you interested in using for your school and/or organization? Facebook? Instagram? Twitter? Pinterest? You can utilize all of these to keep your audience informed wherever they may be! Some platforms we don’t recommend for schools and organizations such as TikTok and Snapchat, but whether you decide to use them is up to you.

school supplies post

Here’s a rundown of each platform and what they are used for:

Facebook: Facebook is a social networking site used for connecting and sharing online. On Facebook, you can share text and pictures. For a post, Facebook limits you to 63,206 characters. This is a good platform to share longer text. This is also the most widely used social media platform for sharing pictures, videos, and text.

Instagram: Instagram allows users to edit and upload photos and short videos through a mobile app. You can use it on a desktop as well, but it is not as user-friendly. Users can add a caption to each of their posts and use hashtags and location-based geotags to index these posts and make them searchable by other users within the app.

For a post caption, Instagram limits you to 2,200 characters. This is a stronger photo and video app. Captions should be shorter and to the point.


Twitter: Twitter’s primary purpose is to connect people and allow them to share their thoughts with a big audience. Twitter relies heavily on hashtags. Twitter has a limit of 280 characters per post. You can share photos, videos, and short text.

Pinterest: Pinterest is a visual discovery engine for finding ideas. When you discover “Pins” you love, save them to boards to keep your ideas organized and easy to find. Schools and organizations can create boards with their audiences in mind. Board ideas for schools include back-to-school readiness, holiday-specific boards, summer boredom busters, and more.

sample social media post

2. Know your audience

When are they online? What do they like to see? What is going to give them the most information without creating the dreaded “information overload”? You can even conduct a survey to find out what interests your audience and what they want to see on your social media platforms.

3. Timing is everything

It matters when you post too? It sure does! We recommend early morning (6 a.m.), midday (noon), and evening (6 p.m.) posts. Check your social media engagement to find out when your followers are online and active.

sample social media post

4. Grab their attention

Use a catchy caption, an eye-grabbing graphic, and maybe a fun hashtag too! See below for a few examples. 

You can use Canva to create free graphics. You can create, download, and upload for use on all social media posts.

social media post example

5. Short but sweet

You don’t want to write a novel (and you can’t on Twitter). Keep your word count low, especially on platforms that focus more on pictures or short captions.

All this information may be a little overwhelming for you. Maybe you just don’t even know where to begin, let alone, how you’ll keep it up. We get it! This is why we offer social media management services! We can do the hard work and heavy lifting for you! Interested in a quote? Contact us here.


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Website Redesigns Done Right
2021-08-24
Do it right button

Every few years, schools decide they need to update or redesign their website. Sometimes it is because there has been a change in administration and they want to put their own “stamp” on things. Sometimes it is because someone thinks they should update their school’s brand image. But the best reason is that you want to improve the experience your website visitors have when they visit your school’s online presence. If you don’t make that your primary goal then the effort will be a waste of time and money.

Your school website is your most important communications and marketing tool. It is also one of the most affordable ones. As far as employees go, it works 24/7 for far less than minimum wage and can provide outstanding and consistent customer service. It can make a positive and memorable first impression and save your staff time while they stay focused on their primary roles (educating students). But, the key here is that it can do all of this only if your website design and content is done right.

Doing the school website redesign right!

So, let’s talk about what an effective website (or redesign) should have.

#1 Navigation

This is often a bit of an afterthought and is sometimes determined by the software you’re using to create your website. Some CMS platforms have a defined structure that is impossible or difficult to change. Sometimes this is a good thing, as it keeps your navigation consistent, but often you end up becoming a bit of a Lemming and just mimic some developer's idea of what is intuitive. 

Finger pointing to indicate effective website navigation

Intuitive navigation means you need to use a bit of common sense and some analysis about what your site visitors look for most often. These important and popular bits of information should be easy to find and in a logical and consistent location. 

For example, if a prospective parent lands on your school’s homepage, can they find the enrollment information with one or two clicks of the mouse? If  a current parent lands there, can they quickly get to the district-wide calendar for those early-release days or school breaks so they can plan their lives around their child’s schedule? 

Do you know what pages site viewers visit most frequently? If you don’t, check your website analytics first before deciding on the navigational structure and content, and factor that into your plans. If you haven’t set up Google Analytics for your site(s), be sure to do that ASAP to start gathering data.

#2 Current, informative content

Keep in mind that anyone who visits your school website is there to get accurate, up-to-date information. Out of date and boring information is not only irritating, but it reflects poorly on your whole school. This is absolutely critical! Parents will become frustrated when they can’t find the information they need (from the device of their choice). 

Remember, like you, they are all drowning in an ocean of responsibilities for themselves and their kids. Your website is, or should be, their lifeline to quick, accurate help. If your school website is more of an anchor than a life preserver, a good website redesign can make you a hero. What is goodwill and parental support worth to your school? You’ll find out next time you need budget approval, a tax override, or a bond election!

accessibility and  usability

#3 Make it accessible

If you haven’t already complied with the website accessibility laws, use this opportunity to take care of that with your redesign. Be familiar with the WCAG 2.1 requirements, and audit your own website before the Office of Civil Rights does it for you. Be sure all of your attached documents are also remediated for accessibility (yes, all those posted governing board minutes and agendas, flyers, notices, videos, and more). Anyone who adds content to or updates your website must be trained on accessibility, and they must follow the guidelines. It means your website software platform must also be capable of assuring continued accessibility in navigation, layout, and responsiveness. This doesn’t mean an overlay work-around that forces disabled users to use a separate link to view your site either. Do it right because it is the right thing to do, and make and keep your school website ADA compliant.

#4 Meet your audience needs

These first three tips are designed to help you meet your audience's needs. So, now let’s take a look at specific or unique audience needs.

parents

  • Current parents: It is SO important to keep your existing parents engaged and supportive. That means your website must be convenient (responsive and mobile-friendly), informative (all frequently used information handy and current), and have lots of news highlighting all the great things happening at school and showing how their children are benefiting from it.
  • Prospective parents: The goal of marketing for a school website is to help prospective parents envision their child fitting in and reaching their potential at your school. Stories with examples of how this happens at your school are the most effective way to attract new students. Videos are even more effective.
  • Current students: For your current students, it is going to be all about the frequently visited information (lunch menus, calendars, sports schedules) and lots of great news stories. When they can see their friends, and themselves, highlighted in stories, activities, and successes, your website will be a VERY popular attraction (along with your social media sites that drive them to your website articles and photos).
  • Prospective students: Much like the strategy for prospective parents, the stories you tell on your school website will enthuse prospective students as well. You want them to feel excited about being a part of the new school and able to see themselves succeeding there.
  • Prospective staff: Like prospective parents, you need to have a website that helps prospective staff envision themselves as a part of your team. Share your values. Provide stories that represent the areas of which you are most proud, and that includes highlighting staff members who represent the best you have to offer. Encourage quality prospective staff to aspire to be one of these outstanding individuals.
  • Current staff: Make it a tradition to share the kudos about your staff on the public-facing website. Stories about the successes within your school, and how your staff makes those successes possible, will improve morale and speak volumes about the standards of achievement for which your staff will strive.
  • Community: For this audience, think about taxpayers (success stories show how their tax money is being put to good use and producing outstanding citizens), volunteers (you can always use some free help, so let potential volunteers know how much they can help and how they benefit when they make a difference in a student’s life), preschools (same needs as prospective students and parents), real estate agents (give them a landing page with all the pertinent stats they can use when selling prospects on the benefits of purchasing homes in your area—give them some bragging rights to talk about), churches (incorporate any information you have on character or value-driven instruction or service-oriented projects included in your curriculum).
  • Alumni: Make sure some of your testimonials include comments from successful alumni. This can be a very effective marketing tool, especially when alumni can share stories about how influential and caring teachers helped them reach their own potential.
  • Media: A good school website is a wonderful resource for the media to use. News stories that highlight your successes or articles explaining current issues your school is facing can be the go-to resource for your local education beat reporters. The only additional step is to let them know the information is there, which is as simple as sending your local reporters links to newsworthy articles. Then, watch the local media give you the type of coverage you hope to have. Just make an effort to make their job easier, and when you do, you’ll get more positive coverage.
cost and benefits

What should it cost?

Depending on your school and your budget, the cost will vary wildly. Some school website providers recommend budgeting 1–2 times annual student tuition for the website redesign (for public schools, this is the annual per-student funding amount). You can easily justify the expense by realizing that just one or two new students offsets the initial expense. And over the life of the student (12 years), it becomes a negligible expense, compared to the long-term revenue. An effective website can certainly increase enrollment decisions—if managed right. 

But what if you could do it for 1/2 of the cost? Is that worth checking out? We can’t speak for all other school website providers, of course, but we know what we can offer, and considering what you get, there is simply no value comparison. So, get a quote and make the comparison. Or, if you want, we can even give you a list of other school vendors to check out. There are lots of options out there, depending on your needs. 

School Webmasters’ specific claim to fame is that we don’t just provide you with software and turn the hard work over to your staff; we do the behind the scenes grunt work day in and day out, including all those daily updates (keeping your website accessible, current, and informative). We even provide updates to many of our competitors’ sites. But, we also do all the copywriting and make content recommendations for an intuitive and effective website to address all the tips we’ve given above. So, if you’re looking for a redesign that will take your school website to the next level, we hope you’ll contact School Webmasters and let us show you how we can make you shine.


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Marketing Your School with Strategic Communications
2021-08-10
strategic communications = effective school marketing

Okay, okay, we know it has been a tough year. What we need for this new school year is a restart, and we hope you’ll rise to the challenge by doing just that. While students return to full in-person learning and you scramble to help students who may have fallen behind catch up, this is a perfect time to institute some marketing strategies to increase your enrollment (and encourage any lost students to return to your school).

Now, mind you, this is not a single strategy that you can just knock off quickly. It requires some planning and processes. Luckily for you, we have a solution that will get you started and help carry you through to success in all the various aspects of effective school marketing.

School Webmasters has been serving K–12 schools with communications, public relations, and website management for 18 years, and we’ve taken much of our expertise and put it into a year-long marketing toolkit to help schools implement marketing even if they don’t have personnel trained in these areas. 

This calendar/workbook is packed with the right information to implement an effective marketing strategy for your school without any prior training. Whether you are a public relations pro or a newbie at marketing communications, this is the perfect solution for your school. Each week includes Marketing Monday, Training Tuesday, Website Wednesday, Throwdown Thursday, and Follow-up Friday for each of the 50 topics the calendar covers.

school marketing strategy street signs

School Marketing Strategies

So, what are some of the strategies that will help your school marketing efforts? Here are a few topics to whet your appetite and get you thinking about that restart for the school year:

#1: Your website. Using your school website to attract new students and keep the existing parents happy means keeping it current and interesting. It means having an area that provides information for prospective parents. It means using the right tone in your content and a consistent brand in your design. It means understanding your customers’ needs (both existing and prospective parents and students).

#2: Customer service. Have you ever thought of your school’s staff as service providers? You know, like those folks in businesses who fulfill customer needs? Wait. Isn’t that what you do? You provide services to students, their parents, and the community at large. How customer friendly is your school? Is excellent customer service a critical part of marketing your school? You bet it is—or at least, it should be.

#3: Starting the school year. We know you already have a checklist a mile long. But don’t forget that establishing and nurturing relationships with your primary stakeholders is vital to your success this year and to your marketing efforts. Create a basic communications calendar (sample provided in our marketing toolkit), set deadlines, and be consistent with your follow-through.

#4: Gear up your social media. If you haven’t set up or updated your social media pages, what are you waiting for? Have you added social media buttons to your website that link directly to your platforms? Have you scheduled out posts for upcoming events and activities during the year (which you will link to on the news page of your website)? Have you had your staff add a graphic signature to your staff emails with links to your school social pages?

#5: Improving personal communication skills. This effort will make all marketing efforts (and your interpersonal relationships) more successful. Whether unifying your staff, getting parents and students to help you achieve the school’s mission, or having a productive working relationship with your co-workers, communication skills can make or break you. The key elements of effective communication include listening, nonverbal communication, and emotional intelligence. We dedicate one day of the week to each to get you on the right track.

#6. Public relations and setting the tone. Public relations refers to your relationships with your key audiences (parents, students, staff, volunteers, community, tax payers, etc.). How can you help your staff set the tone for outstanding relationships while incorporating your school’s commitment to your missions and values?

#7. Saying thank you and encouraging others. A critical aspect of good communication and marketing is expressing gratitude. But did you know that saying thank you also influences how others perceive you and your school? Incorporating thank yous and showing appreciation and gratitude as part of your personal and your school’s culture will produce amazing results in marketing and in your life.

storytelling is the best marketing

#8. Storytelling. A story can be 22 times more memorable than facts alone. Building a positive brand for your school, improving its image and reputation, and creating effective communication channels will depend on your ability to use storytelling to communicate. Use stories to elicit actions like increasing enrollment, highlighting your schools differentiators, creating staff engagement, and strengthening your customer relationships.

#9. Using testimonials. Testimonials are free endorsements and are a great way to prove that your school climate is nurturing and effective. They provide firsthand account endorsements for your teachers, your curriculum, and your leadership abilities. Make gathering testimonials easy, and then use them effectively. We devote one week to learning how to use this valuable tool.

#10: Marketing to parents. Although much of your marketing focus is centered on enrollment, it is important to remember that once a student is enrolled, it cannot and should not be the end of your marketing efforts. You know, of course, that parents can be some of your strongest advocates. For many schools, parents are their strongest marketers (at least happy parents). But unhappy parents can be detrimental to your school’s reputation. That is why it is essential to continue outreach and communication to the parents of your currently enrolled students. Are you listening to them and addressing their needs and concerns? Make it a goal to be proactive and focused on your current parents, which includes involving and engaging them.

Get help here

Now, get to work!

These are only ten of the 50 topics we cover in the school marketing calendar/toolkit. We've packed it with 50 weeks of training, tips, and strategies. You can select what works best for your school needs or go day by day through each week in order. Either way, you'll make steady progress toward your marketing and communication goals. Plus, so you can begin immediately, we'll give you 30-day access to an electronic version of the calendar so you don't have to wait on the mail to get started!

In addition to this strategy-packed workbook, you’ll receive access to our secured companion website with hundreds of additional resources like survey forms, templates, checklists, project plans, resource links, example content, and spreadsheet samples for your immediate use. You will have everything you need to take your school marketing and public relations to the next level. 

Place your order today and you'll also receive a personal login to all of the companion resources on our members-only website. And, because you are a blog subscriber, you can enter the coupon code of “success” and get $100 off the purchase price. That means a year’s worth of school marketing strategies for $179 to use year after year!

Place your order today!

P.S. Don’t forget to use your discount code "success" and save $100!

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Internal Marketing: Critical School Communications Strategies
2021-07-27
happy school staff

Often when we consider our various target audiences, we don’t consider the one closest to us—teachers, staff, and administration. These important people are your “internal publics,” and marketing to them is one of the most important things you can do. 

Benefits of Internal Marketing

Whether or not you know it, your staff members can be some of your best school ambassadors to the community. Much of your school’s reputation is built on word of mouth—so what are your employees saying about your school?

effective school ambassadors

Here are just a few things that positive internal marketing can do for your school: 

  • Establish a strong school culture
  • Encourage teamwork and unity
  • Decrease workplace conflict and improve morale 
  • Increase motivation so that everyone carries out programs and policies effectively 
  • Bolster the satisfaction and retention of engaged and invested employees

When employees speak with pride about your school, it’s a powerful testimonial about your school environment. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting this important audience when formulating your marketing strategies—really, in the end, this is just good internal public relations.

If you’re thinking of “marketing” in terms of selling, think of marketing to your employees as essentially “selling” your company culture. Your goal should be to have employees who join and then stay with your school. 

Here are a few simple tips for ways to accomplish this: 

  • Clearly communicate your school’s mission, vision, and values.
  • Promote a positive work environment and school culture. 
  • Encourage employees to create and contribute to the environment.
  • Ask for feedback and input, and then show you value their opinions.
  • Institute accountability and ownership of responsibilities; this will result in better work production.
  • Recognize your employees’ need to feel valued and respected.
  • Provide validation, recognition, and praise for jobs well done.

Do these things, and your employees will be sold on your school! Some of these tips take a willingness to be open and flexible, and the desire to do things better in order to bring about improved results will benefit your school in the long run. Think about it: employees who understand the school’s goals and values, who feel valued, and who take pride in their work, will be your biggest fans and some of your most effective ambassadors. 

Set an objective to improve your public relations with your staff and teachers (that is, market better internally). We’ll give you some tips and ideas for projects to help you accomplish this goal.

Your school website

Your School Website

Take a moment to review your website. What does your website say about your staff? Do you have an “About Us” page that communicates your mission, vision, and goals? Are you highlighting your staff’s accomplishments and successes? Not only do these things increase employee morale and make people feel validated, but it also shows the community you care about your employees while allowing you to showcase your school’s accomplishments.  

Related to your school website is a school intranet. Make it part of your school communication strategy. In fact, if you don’t have a school intranet, we would like to suggest implementing one for your administration and staff. An intranet is an excellent conduit of communication; memos, staff news, and announcements can be stored centrally and accessed at any time. What’s more, an intranet is a great central place for your teachers to store, share, and collaborate. School Webmasters offers an intranet service; contact our office if you need more information.

school blog

A School Blog

What about your school blog? Ask a teacher or staff member if he/she would be interested in “guest posting” a topic or writing about an event or fundraiser in which they were particularly involved.

Are your employees following and sharing your school’s social media posts? Why not ask them to? At your next staff meeting, make a plea for your teachers and staff to engage with your social media. This small action has the potential to expand your general audience and raise your visibility in the community. 

Putting a Strategy in Place

Now that you know why internal marketing is important and have heard a few tips, let’s get down to specifics of improving morale and retention through internal marketing. 

Choose something (or several things) from the following list, and create a project around it—the effort you put into these internal relationships will greatly benefit your school in the long run. 

Consider starting an employee e-newsletter or article on the intranet. This can be as involved or as simple as you think will fit your needs. The basic goal is to communicate well and often with your staff about how the school is doing and what they can do to help. Feeling connected to the organization’s goals is one way to keep staff mentally and emotionally tied to your school. 

This can also be an opportunity to open up some two-way communication with your employees. Conduct “stay” interviews to find out why employees have remained with the school. Ask for feedback, find out their needs, and be ready to follow up on their input. 

Make sure you have the resources and training in place to empower your employees to realize their potential. Offering training shows your staff you are invested in them and their success; in turn they will be motivated and engaged. A few ideas for training include computers and technology, programs and software to make their jobs easier, mentoring programs, and outside seminars and classes.

Saying thank you

Showing your thanks

When an employee (or group or department) does a great job, extend your thanks. Send an email; mention their success in a staff or department meeting; post it on the bulletin board in the staff lounge, on the website, or through social media. By simply mentioning or tagging them publicly in a status update or tweet, your employee will feel recognized, and all of your followers will see you care about your employees and their contributions. Gratitude is a simple expression but has a powerful impact on how your employees feel about their school and their job. People who feel valued and appreciated are more positive, more productive, and more loyal.

it's worth the effort

It’s worth the effort

Half the battle is recognizing and acknowledging the need for internal marketing. If you make the effort to place your workforce as one of your primary audiences, your school will benefit from higher employee satisfaction and retention in addition to an improved community reputation. 

Good internal marketing may be difficult at the beginning, but once you have a plan and practices in place, good internal communication will become a habit; the work-place culture you’re striving for will be solidified. Sooner or later it won’t be something you have to work on; it will be intuitive and routine. Marketing is never just a one-man job. When your employees are positive, unified, and engaged, you make everyone a marketer for your school.

Need some help? School Webmasters can help you with your website, public relations, and other strategies. Just give us a call at 888.750.4556 and ask for Jim or request a quote and we’ll reach out to you.

For more helpful articles about customer service, check out these blogs.

For articles about marketing your school (both internally and externally), check out these blogs.

How Successful Schools Market Themselves eBook
694105
Are Parents Using Your School Website?
2021-07-13
parent and student looking at school website

Your school website is your public face. It’s how you introduce yourself to prospective families and how you communicate with families who already entrust you with their children every school day. With that in mind, you want your website to serve the needs of both groups. 

Are parents in your community really using your website? If they are, you’ll want to make sure you know what they use it for most often so you can stay on top of those services. If they aren’t, then you’ll want to know why so you can make changes to better serve them.

So, what are parents looking for when they visit your school’s website? Depending on their needs, the parents in your community want to be able to access different information throughout the school year. How well you provide that information may determine whether they ever bother to pay your online home another visit.

Open Enrollment

Prospective Families

In this digital age, parents looking to find a school for their child are likely to visit your website before ever visiting your campus. Does your website provide the answers they’re looking for? Prospective families look for:

  • information about your school’s curriculum, programs, and staff;
  • photos that illustrate the general climate of your campus;
  • self-explanatory, printable online registration forms; and
  • updated tuition/fee schedules.

These days, parents are also likely to want to register for the upcoming school year and pay fees online. Does your website have these functionalities? If not, it may be costing you student enrollment you didn’t even know you were losing.

Enrolled parents

Enrolled Families

When your students’ parents access your website, they are looking for a way to connect to their child’s educational experience. They’re looking to stay informed, so it’s important to provide them with up-to-date, helpful web content that addresses their most immediate concerns. To do that, you need to predict what parents want when they log onto your school site. Most parents are looking for information that will help them plan the following, for example:

  • district and school calendars
  • school menus and the ability to add money to their child’s lunch card online
  • a straightforward way to contact their child’s teacher

What’s more, parents need these items to be up to date and easy to find. If you’re going to refer parents to your website as a convenient resource, then you must update it regularly with easy-to-access information. An active website is a great indicator of active home/school communication.

Using parent surveys to improve your website 

So, how can you find out for sure whether parents are using your school’s website? If they are, what services are they using? If they aren’t, why not? Performing a survey is a great way to find answers to both questions. You can find out what you’re doing right and what you could be doing better. For online surveys, Survey Monkey is a great place to start. You can create your own questions and email the link to your focus group, parents, or PTA to get a good idea of how well your community uses your website.

mobile website

Make sure your school website can be read from any device

In addition to content that your website visitors are looking for, it must be readable on any device they are using. If your content is difficult to read, they’ll be gone within three seconds (really, that’s the average length of modern patience). In 2020, 61% of online users are accessing your website from a mobile device, and that increases yearly. Make sure your school’s website is responsive.

Stay on top of your content

Whether enrolled students and their parents or prospective parents looking for the right fit for their child, they are all looking for information about what is happening at your school. Here are a few vital areas we recommend you focus on:

#1. Calendar events. Make finding dates and times for upcoming events and activities easily available. This can be from an online calendar, a downloadable PDF of your annual calendar, or an iCal that allows visitors to download school events into their personal online calendars. This keeps parents in the loop, students from missing out on important schedules, and prospective parents aware of what your school has to offer.

#2. Upcoming events. Create pages that outline special events, and link to them from your online calendar. Tell why it is part of your school, what value it adds to the students and their educational experience, and what the students think of the recurring or traditional events.

#3. News. Use a news page to promote upcoming events and activities. Be consistent and reliable with your news. Once parents learn to trust that your website provides news that is useful to them, they will return again and again to your site to stay informed. Also, be sure to use news articles to follow up with activities. Let everyone know what a success your school’s events and activities are and how students benefit from them.

welcome packet

#4. Welcome packet. Help new parents acclimate to their child’s school by providing them with a comprehensive welcome packet (available online as well as from the front office). Create a guide to help answer new and returning parents’ common questions in one inclusive guide. You might want to include the following:

  • Welcome letter. Be sure the tone in your letter is personal and welcoming. Let them know your staff will be helpful advocates for parents and their students. Include contact information and the invitation to reach out with their questions and submit suggestions.
  • Important dates. This might be as simple as a link or a copy to your school calendar, but provide information that helps them with advance planning for upcoming activities so they can integrate student events into their own schedules.
  • Volunteer opportunities. Many parents are willing to get involved with their child’s school. Outline the opportunities your school has for volunteering, including the contact information for each type of volunteer opportunity (include time commitments required). You can even include a flyer for volunteers to sign-up.
  • Key contacts. Some school website managers are hesitant to include contact information on their websites (like emails) to avoid spam. But, you can use a welcome packet to provide this type of information returning or new parents need like email lists for key contacts, links to e-newsletters, PTO or PTA contacts, your school Facebook page, etc.

It may be time to take a hard look at your school website and see if you are providing a resource parents are using. If they are not, why not? If it isn’t a resource that provides parents and prospective parents 24/7 access to the information they need when they need it, then it is the school’s job to turn that around. 

An effective website promotes enrollment and retention and improves customer service and school branding. If this seems overwhelming, remember that School Webmasters has the expertise to make it possible while saving your staff time and your school money, so give us a call at (888) 750-4556 and speak to Jim or reach out to us.

More helpful tips to improve your school website:

Using school websites and social media to encourage parent engagement.

Roll out the welcome mat for your school.

How to engage and connect with busy parents.

686821
Pick Me! Pick Me!
2021-06-22
Pick Me! Pick Me!

Unless your school is a boarding school, you are hoping to attract local students. That means you need to show up on the local internet searches parents might use to research local schools whether private or public. If your school doesn’t show up in their search, you are missing out in a big way.

One of the ways to increase your chances of showing up, besides having an active school website, is to claim your “Google My Business” listing. Google My Business (GMB) lets you maximize visibility in an organic search and highlight positive reviews at the same time. It’s like jumping up and down, waving your arms enthusiastically, and shouting at parents, “Pick me! Pick me!” No school administrator, especially those working in recruitment, enrollment, or admissions, would ever want to miss out on such an opportunity. 

If you are serving students within a local geographic area (and most schools are), your goal is to make sure local parents are aware of what your school has to offer. Marketing folks will tell you that you need to “fish where the fish are.” Google My Business is a way to do just that. It is well worth the effort to add GMB to your school marketing efforts. 

Google My Business mobile version

11 Benefits of Google My Business (for your school)

Today’s schools must work hard to attract students because there are many options to choose from. But finding and attracting your ideal students can be complex, time-consuming, and expensive. Wouldn’t it be ideal if a pop-up display provided your school’s location, phone number, website link, and parent reviews when someone searched for your school? Well, lucky you. That’s exactly what Google My Business does.

So, what are some of the benefits of setting up GMB for your school? 

It's Free

1. It’s Free!

You don't need to spend hard-to-come-by budget dollars to start promoting your school, developing your brand, and creating community relationships. The presence of your school on the free GMB platform is a budget-friendly way to strengthen your presence in your community.

2. High-profile display of school information

Your searchers will immediately see mobile-friendly information that matters to them in their research, like:

  • School hours of operation
  • Directions to your school
  • Photos of your school
  • A “call now” button for easy access to your school for mobile users
  • A description of your school
Visibility

3. Search visibility

If you are using Google as your search engine, you will notice there are three local listings at the top of the page (above the organic results and below the paid ads) along with their information. These are the local listings (business or schools) populated by Google My Business listings. By providing a complete and optimized listing, your school can land in this section. It also lets searchers click on the rest of your content, such as your website, or to easily make a phone call to your school.

4. Local SEO boost

Google can be a crucial part of your local SEO and marketing strategy by helping you find students in your area and improving search engine rankings for your school. Google My Business is directly connected to Google Search and Maps. When a potential student or family is searching a school in an “area near me,” Google will find your school and show it to a potential family. By having a Google My Business account, Google will rank you higher in the SEO engine.

5. Provide insights

Google My Business offers insider insights into your business list, giving you useful insight into what's working and what's not working. Insights concentrate on how families locate your listing on Search and Maps and what they do after finding it, helping you make changes to enhance your listing and your school. By having a Google My Business page, you will be able to see who is seeing your page, making it easier to target them with further advertising efforts.

Consistency

6. Consistency

You want your school’s information to be correct on the web—regardless of where your customers find it. Google My Business allows you to enter, monitor, and update the correct information and business data in one directory over the internet so search engine queries provide the right information. Basically, to gain from this Google-powered advantage, you must keep the information up to date, which also makes it very easy to get in touch with the administration for additional information.

7. Review management

Google My Business uses rich insights, review integration, and customer interaction tools to give you an outlook into the online reputation of your school. Knowing how your school is viewed by the public will help you grow and develop. It is crucial to manage your online reputation. You (or your page manager) can easily evaluate these reviews and respond accordingly, showing the community that they are heard and valued. These insights can help you improve your brand and make changes to enhance school customer service, which in turn will improve student enrollment and student retention.

8. Gaining customer insights

GMB can provide your school with analytics you can customize. You choose the status you want to compare, and it shows up on a chart. The three main sections are visibility, engagement, and audience. You’ll use this information to improve your engagement and conversions (including enrollment) by using information from these areas:

  • The visibility section shows you the number of views you are getting on your school profile, photos, and posts. You can view this data to show the last seven, 30, or 90 days.
  • The engagement section lets you see how your audience is interacting with your posts. As in the visibility section, you can select results from the last seven, 30, or 90 days.
  • The audience section shows the breakdown of the people following you, including age groups, gender, and countries.

9. Additional communication channels

The more communication channels you can provide to your potential and existing customers, the more accessible your school will be. Additional channels also provide opportunities to promote your programs and expertise and offer additional educational or other benefits your school offers.

Customer Reviews

10. Encourage and respond to reviews

Reviews are powerful marketing tools, which you’ll get whether you want them or not. Most customers read these reviews and decide whether your school is a good match for their child’s needs or not based on what others are saying about your school. So, it is imperative you make it as easy as possible for customers to leave positive reviews. You can send a feedback request email with a link to your Google My Business page. You can then use GMB’s dashboard to monitor and respond to reviews. Responding to reviews, even negative ones, is important as is responding in a professional way and thanking your customers (parents, volunteers, students, etc.) for sharing their positive reviews.

Stand out in the crowd

11. Stand out from your competitors

As we mentioned, your GMB profile displays the basic information to encourage parents (customers) to engage with your school. It also lets you display a description of your school that will help visitors see if what your school offers matches the needs of their child or their hopes for their child’s education. This description offers a snapshot of your school’s differentiators and values, including relevant keywords. You can stand out from other schools in your area through this description—a benefit  you won’t want to pass up!

To further stand out from the crowd, make sure your school website is top shelf. 

Need some help? Hire School Webmasters!

While claiming and setting up your Google My Business account isn’t difficult, it does take time and a bit of dedication. Often this is just one more thing on your plate you’ve not had the time to tackle. School Webmasters can do it for your school for $499. We’ll gather the information necessary to maximize your account, make customized recommendations for your school, create and post optimized content, and turn it over to you along with instructions and tips to maintain your listing and review your stats. Easy peasy!

Use Google My Business to better connect and understand your audience, generate more traffic to your website, and increase your chances of being found by parents looking for the programs and activities your school offers.

If you can provide more quality information and content even before your viewers click on your website's link, then why not do it? If you’re not already doing so, let us start building your listing on Google. Leverage the advantages of a Google My Business page for your school, and shout “Pick Me, Pick Me” to the next parent searching for the educational services you provide!

700090
School Website Management: It May Be Time to Get Some Help!
2021-06-08
Help button

If you are like many of the school administrators we speak with, you know your website is a critical tool in your communications toolbox. But, most schools don’t have staff on hand to manage communications and public relations. They simply can’t afford it. So, how do you effectively and affordably manage these critical tasks? Consider getting some help by experts trained to manage school websites. Your school staff is busy and often lacks the skill sets to maintain the level of communication that an effective website requires. 

Not just the design—the day-to-day grunt work too!

Most schools outsource the design of their school’s websites. Very few schools have the skill sets among their staff members to get a professionally designed school website with effective layout and navigation. But, there are content management systems that provide templates and editing software to use. Sometimes these are sufficient. (Though sometimes they are ineffective or cookie-cutter and don’t brand your school the way you want and provide the image you need.) But very few supply you with the staff to keep your site current, professional, and informative on a day-to-day basis, which is what really matters, right? Consider another option: you can let School Webmasters become your trained staff of professional webmasters for as low as only $189 a month. 

Get help with the grunt work, too.

If you can’t do that, then let me help you create a process that replicates what we do to help our clients maintain current and effective websites.

  1. Develop your school’s website style guide (the rules anyone who has access to making updates will follow). Be specific, from grammar, spelling, and punctuation rules to tone of voice and font usage.
  2. Determine color choices, and stick with them throughout the site. Don’t let individuals change “their” page to reflect their own interest, but always maintain the integrity of the site’s overall design and the brand image you desire for your school. Be consistent—insist on it.
  3. Train, inform, check their work, and do it all again. We do this by providing monthly PR tips to anyone who might want to submit information for the website. We also provide ongoing training and quality control for those who are trained to do updates, something you will also want to include as part of your process.
  4. Create an easy procedure for collecting information from staff, and then reward their contributions. It is the only way to keep your site vibrant, current, and informative and to turn it into the public relations tool it should be.

But, please beware those hidden costs of the do-it-yourself website. 

School districts are forever trying to trim their budgets. When looking to tighten the budget purse straps, many administrators believe that creating and maintaining the school website would be a perfect project for a knowledgeable computer teacher to do during his or her prep time. Or the job makes the to-do list of the district IT department. While delegating an in-house employee to the project may seem like immediate savings, there are many hidden expenses that can end up costing your district more than you imagined. 

Beware those hidden costs

Here are a few:

#1: Time away from mission-critical tasks

Placing the responsibility of the district’s (or school’s) website onto employees keeps them away from the jobs they were originally hired to do. An effective school website takes time to build, write, and layout, which are only a few of the actions necessary for the site to be functional. For teachers who may be delegated this responsibility, it means time away from lesson planning and preparation, and time away from their class. Teachers are hired to teach our students, a time-consuming responsibility in itself. Robbing students of their rightful teacher time is the biggest expense imaginable.

Likewise, IT directors have vital roles in a school. Making sure the computer systems are operating properly and software is running efficiently, installing programs and firewalls to keep students in safe places on the internet, and handling technology emergencies are just some of the daily responsibilities. 

Let’s be honest—when overworked teachers and IT directors get saddled with the school or district website, unless they let their mission-critical work suffer,  maintaining the website will go to the bottom of the to-do list. Many times it will never even make the radar.

Similar to #1 is the hidden cost of delegating to overworked staff

Those who have worked inside any school system will tell you that most people are overworked and underpaid. You hear people speak of public school as a “noble profession.” There are many requirements and not a lot of recognition, monetary or otherwise. Many times the goals of an administration are not understood by the faculty and staff, viewing them as more requirements, more forms to fill out, more hoops to jump through, and no time in which to do them.

Overworked staff

Delegating a sizable project—such as website maintenance—to an already overworked employee is likely to lead to employee discontent. Maintaining a positive work environment for teachers and staff is key to having a highly performing school, and when employees feel used, the entire dynamics of the school environment suffers. If an unhappy employee is now responsible for the school or district website, it’s a pretty good bet that employee won’t devote his or her personal best to the project, leading to a less-than-effective website. 

Taking these factors into consideration, it’s easy to see that while it may appear to save your school or district money upfront, a website created in-house has unforeseen costs. If your school or district really wants to make their website a priority, hiring School Webmasters is the easiest and best solution. We already have the experts. We already have the time. It’s what we do. It's ALL we do.

#2: Set realistic expectations because Computer experts are not necessarily web design or accessibility experts

There’s a lot that goes into creating and managing a fabulous website. While many people within your school or district may be computer experts, chances are good they do not have all the skill sets required to do the job effectively. School Webmasters employs experts in each area. Our graphic designers create sites that are not just pleasing to look at, but that help the user find things easily on the site. The placement of graphics, sidebars, images, and other text effects on a website is actually a science. Balancing visual elements so they help the user find information rather than distracting them, is something our designers do flawlessly.

In addition to design, the content of a website is one of the most important. It’s not simply about putting information onto a website; if parents and the community can’t access or understand the information, your school or district website is useless. Our content writers make sure the information on your website is not only informative, but they ensure it is also conversational in tone and easy to read. We pare down wordy information to include just what the public needs to know. We take the “education-ese” out and rewrite it to appeal to a larger audience. While volunteers may be great at scanning in documents and newsletters to put on your site, very often your audience is not taken into consideration.

As if this wasn’t enough, a good website requires knowledge of layout philosophy, public relations, branding, proofing, editing, and accessibility. Your volunteers may be good at one or two of these tasks, but are they experts in every area?

Keep it up! Constant maintenance

#3: Good websites require constant maintenance

For the sake of argument, let’s say someone at your school or district does create a fabulous website. It’s beautiful. Easy to read. Easy to navigate. Now the question is, does that person have the time to keep your site current? For a website to continue to be effective, it must be updated regularly. Information at school gets old quickly; meeting dates pass, school fundraisers end, new events have been added to the school calendar. Principals retire, teachers transfer, clubs are canceled, new sports find coaches. Many times that volunteer who so graciously got your website up and running doesn’t have time to continue weekly maintenance on your site, especially if the work he or she is performing is pro bono. 

And the fact is, parents log on to your school or district website a few times and see the same old information, they will quit using your site as a resource. They will start calling the school to get the information they need, which is now a double whammy—it wastes school and district personnel’s time, and now that great website someone volunteered to create is no longer being used by the public. School Webmasters makes it easy to update your school website. We have a staff of updaters who focus solely on keeping your site up to date. Our staff makes thousands of updates to graphics and content in an average month. Does your staff or volunteers have that much time?

Take off the blinders

Once you’ve truly assessed the benefits and drawbacks of outsourcing different components of your website, you may find that this process is a huge benefit to your school. You may also find, however, that a company that can deliver the whole package for you is a better use of your school’s time and money. If you find yourself in that boat, give us a call. Here at School Webmasters we’ve got the blinders off and both feet planted firmly on smooth ground. Do you?

Take off the blinders

It doesn’t pay to underestimate the time and expertise required to manage your school’s online communication successfully. You want everything you put out there for public consumption to reflect the same excellence your school embraces. But do you have the time and expertise to create and manage an online presence that really represents that excellence?

Hiring a professional to manage your online communication ensures quality and consistency. Successful websites and social media pages will always require some kind of cost, whether it’s time or money. The difference in how hard your online presence works for you depends on investing both wisely.

Need more reasons to get some website management help? Check out Nine Reasons to Outsource Your School Website Management.

684975
It Might Be Time to Update Your School Website If…
2021-05-25
Time to update

Ah, technology. Do you have a love/hate relationship with it? It seems as soon as you update your cell phone, TV, or even microwave, there’s a newer, better model right around the corner. Having the latest technology with all the bells and whistles has become not only a  cultural status symbol, but it’s become absolutely essential to many consumers. It’s no wonder cell phone providers have developed creative incentives to encourage you to update your phone as often as once a year! 

Websites also have become essential for all organizations—from Fortune 500 companies to non-profit organizations, and, yes, even for your school

You certainly don’t need to overhaul your school’s website every year, but you do need to make sure you're presenting your school in the best light by keeping up with current website trends. Your school website is the key component to all of your digital marketing efforts and often the first impression prospective parents have of your school and your values. So how do you know when it’s time for an update? 

It’s time to update your website...

mobile friendly website

#1. If you don’t have a mobile-friendly (responsive) website design 

If your website is not responsive (meaning it looks weird on a mobile device), you are definitely long-overdue for a redesign. The percentage of folks who use their phone and other devices most of the time increases daily. So, it is critical that the website is designed with well-thought-out space and navigation. Your website should be designed with “mobile-first” in mind. 

Your site visitors will access information on their phones differently than on their desktop, and your website must address that reality. For example, if there is a lot of information on the home page, they would much rather see a social icon or link to the social media feeds than have to scroll through and past all the embedded social feeds in order to find the phone number in the footer.

In addition to your viewers’ expectations, for several years now, Google has been penalizing websites (with lower rankings and less likelihood that you are found during searches) if your website is not responsive. You definitely want to come up in any search where parents are investigating schools in order to decide which might be the best choice for their child. Being found, and quickly, is essential for increasing your enrollment. It is also important for the convenience of your existing parents and families.

Websites that are 3–5 years old are also likely to have dated coding in the background, which can produce multiple issues, including security risks, accessibility issues, slow loading, and many others.

make a good first impression

#2. Your website’s home page does not make a positive first impression

  • Busy busy: Make sure it’s not too busy with lots of various things going on (many buttons, many different kinds of graphics, slideshows, embedded videos, lots of gradients, etc). Clean and minimalist is king now.
  • Too much is too much: Avoid using too many colors and more than two main fonts. Also remember that anything flashing tends to date your site quickly as does too much texture and too many buttons.
  • Silly slider: A pointless slider in the header serves no purpose for your visitor. No one sits and watches these any longer. If you are going to insist on a slider, at least incorporate important calls of action within them. A huge image in the header with no call-to-action is a waste of space. If the first thing someone needs to do is scroll down to see any kind of information, that makes for a poor user experience. A large picture at the top of the Home page is still a trend, but use the space wisely while including something along with it.
  • Logical layout: On Home pages, if a site only has two columns with a main body and sidebar, it looks dated and needs a refresh. There are so many more interesting ways to present information on Home pages these days. A main body and sidebar are fine on subpages since they are generally there to only present information. But a home page is for at-a-glance info to get you where you want to go. 
  • Quick links: The navigation and quick links should have strong categories but be kept simple and clean. Use them to ease navigation and create intuitive and easy-to-find information. Use them well and keep them simple
  • Hover heaven: Button or navigation hovers and any movement on the page should be cohesive and used sparingly. One to three hover transitions throughout the site is sufficient. Any more than that is just too much.
  • Wise width: If your entire site is still contained within 1200px, it may look dated. The content can still be contained within 1200px, but just stretching the backgrounds, navigation bars, and images the full width of the screen results in an updated design.

#3. If your website is slow loading 

If your website is slow loading, commonly due to extremely graphic-heavy designs, using images instead of CSS for styling, or hosting or development inefficiencies, you put your school at a disadvantage. 

Since your website is often a prospective parent’s first impression of your school, the judgment they form from this experience matters. It is estimated that if your site doesn’t load within three seconds, 40% of your site visitors will abandon your site. When this happens, you defeat the purpose of having a  website. Website speed is imperative for a good user experience. Do a speed check to see how your website measures up. The faster your site visitors can get to the information they need, the more satisfied they will be.

#4: If your site’s colors or photos are dated

Colors and photos make the difference between an attractive and updated website and one that is unappealing and fails to inspire confidence. Regarding photos, out-of-date photos generally look dark and drab, while modern ones look light and bright. The photos that look older may not really be old, but they give that appearance. For example:

dated and modern examples of photos

Another tip: Make sure objects in the photos are still being used in today’s classrooms. For example, chalkboards are seldom used anymore; everyone has smartboards or at least whiteboards. And computer monitors are no longer huge and chunky but sleek and slim (or laptops).

examples of modern and dated computers

Regarding your website colors—avoid those that clash. Use neutral colors that complement main colors. Use bold/strong colors as the main color instead of as accents here and there. Graphic designers say we should ask ourselves if the website feels “heavy.” It’s okay to use bold colors, but today’s sites should still feel clean and light.

Consider your page background colors as well. Avoid using too many colors as backgrounds behind text, and be sure to include enough white space. The white space areas will help keep your site feeling clean and light. It also improves contrast, which assures that your site will be accessible and ADA compliant (at least in the area of contrast).

#5. If your website is difficult to navigate

Your website navigation can make or break the user experience. Having a clear, easy-to-use navigation will provide good customer service, keep potential customers on your site longer, and help visitors quickly find what they seek. The following are some areas to consider when creating intuitive and simple navigation:

  • KISS. Avoid trying to cram everything possible into your site’s primary navigation level. I realize your intention is to provide visitors with immediate access to all your page options, but fewer choices make it quicker to evaluate their choices and make a decision. So, be aggressive in editing your top-level navigation down to the fewest, most popular options possible and “keep it simple, silly.”
  • Frantic flyouts. Your site users are accessing your website from a variety of devices. Touch screen devices technically have no “hover” state, so it is important that you make sure your navigation links are still accessible to users regardless of their device. Along these same lines, you’ll want to avoid fly-out menus with three or more levels. It is more challenging to navigate menu systems that have fly-outs within fly-outs. Avoiding unwieldy menus makes navigation easier on all devices.
  • Be consistent. You sure don’t want to change your navigation menu once your site visitor figures out how to use it. Keep the same structure throughout the entire experience—from page to page and across devices. Your primary navigation should be set in stone to avoid confusion. Your users will appreciate your effort on their behalf.

#6. If your website is out of date

One of the most important aspects of a school website is that it is up to date. Your customers rely on your school website for useful information. Failing to provide them with current, timely information can destroy their trust. Being current and timely builds confidence. Your customers (your students and their parents) will know that your staff and administrators are highly engaged, and they’ll appreciate you for providing well-timed and accurate information.

I’m sure you’ve visited a website where the copyright is 2016 and the latest news article is from last school year, right? How did that make you feel? If their site—the public-facing image for their school—is outdated, you might question what the education and programs must be like. Don’t damage your credibility or put your professionalism in question by letting your site visitors read outdated information and think, “wait, that’s old news,” or “that’s not right.”

Pet peeves

#7: Some pet peeves

We asked our designers what some of their pet peeves were. What screamed to them that a site is dated? Here are a few that didn’t quite fit into the above categories:

  • Fonts. Avoid outdated or overused fonts. They specifically mentioned staying away from Comic Sans (which everyone should know to avoid by now), and now Papyrus is becoming a bit overdone.
  • Coming soon. Just don’t! If the page or information isn’t ready yet, don’t put up a sign saying it isn’t ready yet, and don’t activate the page until it is. It’s just bad form.
  • Flawed footers. Check your website footer. Is the information there still current, including the copyright date? These tend to become overlooked since they remain the same from page to page; when there is an error, it ends up on every page. So, check to be sure all the information there is correct.
  • Dreaded white box. Incorrectly saved logos and buttons so that they are surrounded by a white box are a sure sign of amateurish layout. Save the graphic as a JPG on a colored background that matches the site or as a PNG with a transparent background.

It’s an ongoing process

Because your school website is often your chance to make a great first impression on prospective parents, how you manage it is critical. It is important to put your best foot forward. An outdated website doesn’t positively represent your school or the education you provide to your students. 

Your website, its content, images, and layout should reflect the best you have to offer. Is it time for a tune-up? If so, please contact School Webmasters and let us help you make your school’s website the best example of all your school has to give. Request a quote today or give us a call at (888) 750-4556 and speak with Jim.


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