Request a Quote          
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.

765420
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:

764815
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

761053
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?

760619
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!

759877
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
754896
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!

749889
3 Steps to Expert School Website Management
3 steps drawn on chalk board

Your school’s website is that critical intersection between public relations, customer service, marketing, media relations, communications, and branding. Website management is the process that makes it all work.

In addition, website management ensures that your website servers, software upgrades, site performance, and security are continually monitored and maintained.

Your website goals would, of course, include:

  • keeping your customers informed and engaged;
  • showing potential customers what you have to offer;
  • telling customers why they want or need what you provide;
  • building trust and confidence in your services; and
  • validating your brand and reputation.

In addition to the aspects of effective school communications listed above, you need the practical applications of an attractive school website design, intuitive navigation, up-to-date and engaging content, and a fully-accessible, mobile-friendly site. And delivering in each of these areas requires a variety of skill sets, skills rarely possessed by just one individual. It often takes a team to make it all happen.

Measuring up

How does your website measure up?

Sound a bit more complicated than you imagined? Thought you could assign a few staff members to add occasional updates to the website calendar or post a few attachments and call it good? Unfortunately, that is precisely what many schools do. 

There is a better way, but like anything worthwhile, it involves knowing your goals, developing a strategy, and implementing a plan.

When this is the case, parents can’t rely on their child’s school website for information. They are forced to call the office, usually in frustration, because they don’t know about something that is scheduled or they don’t know about a policy or requirement that affects them. They complain about the school’s failure to communicate. They feel disengaged and often unwelcome. Far too many schools’ reputations, public schools in particular, suffer from this situation.

There is a better way, but like anything worthwhile, it involves knowing your goals, developing a strategy, and implementing a plan.

What's your why?

Step #1: What is your school’s website purpose?

I imagine you want to use your school website (or any website for that matter) to obtain multiple goals. So, begin by listing and then prioritizing them. You may not be able to put them all into play at once, so what is your top priority? Here is a list of possibilities to get you started thinking about your school’s priorities:

  • Contact information (where we are located or how to reach us)
  • Parent information (letting parents know what is happening at your schools, including the when, where, and why)
  • Attract students (marketing to increase enrollment or finding the students with the interests and goals that relate to your school’s strengths or specialties)
  • Recruit staff (finding the most qualified and dedicated team who matches your school culture and goals)
  • Change perceptions (correcting negative, maybe faulty, public opinions about your school or possibly education in general)
  • Build a strong brand (establishing a respected school brand and a trusted reputation)
  • Engage parents (helping parents to feel included and engaged in their child’s education to improve student outcomes)
  • Create community support (gaining the respect and support of community members, parents, taxpayers, and local media)
  • Fulfill legal requirements (maintaining state and federal laws for notices, postings, access, etc.)
  • Establish trust (using communications to earn trust through transparency)
  • Tell our stories (sharing your successes and progress through stories, videos, and news to give people a glimpse inside your school)
  • Seek donations or volunteers (to encourage donations to worthy efforts and causes or to find willing volunteers to share the load)

Depending on what your school priorities and needs are, you would begin by focusing your website content on the needs and interests of those particular audiences. For example, if you chose to focus on increasing enrollment this year, you would:

  • Make sure the strengths and specialties your school offers are prominent on your website. 
  • Highlight the primary reasons prospective parents select your school. 
  • Present your school strengths in a variety of ways, including video, stories, testimonials, stats, or infographics. 
  • Review your enrollment processes, streamlining the application steps to make it easy to submit. 

If you do all of this and then share your great content on your school social media channels, the local media, and with local groups like the Chamber of Commerce, real estate agents, and parent organizations, your website is supporting your goal of increasing enrollment. Great!

Now, move on to the next goal on your priority list and tackle that one. Eventually, as you focus on each goal, you will have a website that is helping to accomplish each priority of your school communications and marketing efforts. The key is to begin.

Step #2: Creating a project plan for each website goal

#1  List Goals

List all the school goals you hope your website should or could support (even if you aren’t sure how you’ll do it yet).

#2 Prioritize Goals

Now put them in the order of what will bring you the most benefit or is a pain point that you need to remove quickly.

#3 Select and Strategize

Select one of these priority goals, and analyze ways you can deliver on that goal considering each of the delivery methods (story, information, interaction, visual, etc.) and how those ideas would be practical considering the areas of school marketing, communications, public relations, and customer support.

#4 Calendar and track

All of this can feel like a lot to do, but if you take it one bite at a time, you can accomplish it over time. Whether you do it using an hour a week or a project a month, depending on your resources and your available time, schedule the steps into your day.

#5 Determine evaluation criteria

Decide how you will evaluate the effectiveness of your efforts. You might begin by adding analytics to your website to see if traffic to those pages or content increases. Look at conversion, for example. Do you get more enrollments and are they handled more smoothly? Do enrollments save staff time? Are errors decreased, or are parents asking fewer questions about the process? Each goal might require a different evaluation, but decide how you will determine if your changes have moved you closer to your goal.

Process success

Step #3: Applying the process

Next, your daily website management processes should support your established goals. That goes without saying. But how does the actual process look? What is a consistent process to keep your school websites effective, informative, accurate, inviting, and accessible?

#1 Gather stories that support your goals

Every member of your school’s staff, from the custodian to the superintendent, sees successes, improvements, and examples daily. Create ways and establish expectations (even if it means making assignments to your staff) to submit these great happenings. Then turn them into news, stories, examples, videos, photo ops, and social media posts for your websites. 

#2 Recognize and reward those who provide this information

Make it a habit of showing your appreciation for staff engagement. If you do, it will encourage more engagement, more stories, and more great content you can use. You can do this at staff meetings, at governing board meetings, or with handwritten thank you notes, but whatever method you choose, show the staff that you value their efforts.

quality school website management

#3 Create quality website management processes

These include making it simple for staff to submit news, information, events, and photos to your communication channels. Website updates should be checked for quality control, typos, grammar, tone-of-voice, and consistent messaging. Develop a content style guide that anyone who touches the website knows they must follow. Assure that website updaters maintain website accessibility standards for both those website updates and for any document you link to from the website (PDFs, Word, Google Docs, etc.). Remove outdated information quickly. Make sure your website is always current. Schedule regular checks to remove or fix broken links, and review the site layout in multiple browsers and devices.  

We realize this is a relatively high-level overview of what effective website management entails. To accomplish specific goals throughout the year, particularly as it relates to school communications, marketing, and school public relations, you’d need to create a detailed project plan or campaign for individual events or goals. 

For example, you might develop a campaign for back-to-school events that would integrate the website, social media, video, photos, stories, interviews, and perspectives from parents, staff, and students. It would include details for each aspect of the activities, developing content for parent notifications and invites, wording and images for postings on social media, content to pitch to the local media, assignments for the event itself, and all of this tied to due dates. Here is a simple project plan you are welcome to use as an example.

Here’s a video outlining what goes into the school website management processes we provide to our clients. Feel free to use our methods, or better yet, hit the easy button, and let us do this for you as well!

Server and software management

In addition to the processes you create for managing the website content we describe above, if you host your own website, which is common with open source platforms like WordPress, you’ll need to establish scheduled processes for website software or server maintenance. All systems vary, so have someone with expertise in this area audit your processes to assure you aren’t missing some critical aspect that could put your website in jeopardy. 

For example, typical server maintenance includes steps like: verify backups are working, check disk usage, update your OS, check application updates, check server utilization, change passwords, check system security, and monitor timetables for service packs and patches. Keep up-to-date with the latest security threats and make sure that your systems are patched and current with the latest software releases to minimize vulnerabilities. 

Once you have the basics covered, you'll want to look at some of the new trends in infrastructure, with auto-scaling servers, next-generation disaster recovery, threat protection, and advanced load balancing. Take all the necessary precautions to stay current and secure.

Great school communication = strategic website management

It all boils down to making your school’s online communications efforts a priority. We live in a digital world. Simply put, do not neglect school website management. If you fail to develop and implement a communications plan, of which your school websites are an integral part, you will do so at the risk of your school’s reputation, you’ll hamper parent engagement (which can affect student learning), and you will be creating uphill battles for your staff that can be avoided by implementing these processes. You will also be missing out on those invaluable opportunities to market your school and earn a respected school reputation.

If you’d like to learn more about other topics that affect school communications, check out these articles:


400524
School Logos and Mascots Done Right
school logo example

K–12 schools find it quite difficult to stand out from their competitors because most schools offer the same services. But, with the ever-increasing competition for parents and students, it is vital that schools find their place in the minds and hearts of parents with school-age children. And that, my friends, brings us to the idea of branding.

Branding goes beyond your colors and school logo, of course. It is inclusive of the entire customer experience and includes everything from your school website design and layout, your school social media interactions, and your mascot to how your staff answers the phones. Your brand is that cohesive identity that you want to solidify in your customers’ minds. It requires establishing a look and feel that supports your brand goals consistently and avoids variations that will dilute or even disintegrate your brand identity. So, let’s talk about how to use school mascots and logos to contribute to your cohesive brand identity.

school mascot examples

Mascots

School mascots can be incredibly efficient at creating an endearing association with your customers. They basically turn any inanimate object into a character with a personality and a soul. They are often based on animals (real or mythical), humans, or even animated objects (think M&Ms).

M&Ms mascot example

I’ll bet you remember what your school mascot was, right? Whether you were a cougar, a bulldog, or a mustang, you probably described it not as “The mascot was a bulldog” but as “We were the bulldogs.” Even if you didn’t play sports, the school mascot was the visual representation of your sense of belonging, right?

Your mascot can and should also be tied to the storytelling aspect of your brand. Stories are what connect us to one another at the deepest levels. A mascot can do that and help the stories associated with your mascot be forever etched in your audiences’ memories. So, when you want to create strong emotional connections, your mascot can help do that for your school.

Mascots can humanize the business of education, leading a path to your customers’  hearts. The Journal of Marketing Management claims that “Brand mascots reflect a deeply rooted human tendency to understand the world through anthropomorphic objects.” By selecting a mascot that shares common values with your customers, you’re on the right track. It can be funny or playful, strong and driven, or friendly and inviting. Give your mascot the qualities that are characteristic of your school.

We highly recommend a professionally designed mascot and logo!

We highly recommend a professionally designed mascot and logo. Don’t have a student draw one or even use a staff member who dabbles in graphic design. It will be worth the extra expense to have it done right. A professional will provide you with all the necessary file types for both digital and print use. You may also request options for dark and light backgrounds (as well as black and white). You wouldn’t show up at an interview in a T-shirt and jeans because you want to make a good first impression. Your logo and mascot are often your school’s first visual impression; so do it right.

One of our client schools even designed multiple views with their mascot in a variety of poses to use for athletics, academics, socializing, as well as a few humorous situations. This provided them with the opportunity to humanize the mascot and reflect the variety of values their school represented. They used these in marketing materials, on their websites, and on athletic uniforms but didn’t degrade the mascot or branding in the process.

Businesses know that paying a one-time fee for a mascot design is one of the best investments they can make, and those mascots don’t age, retire, or do something embarrassing to harm your brand by association. Some well-known and beloved mascots that come to mind are Pillsbury’s doughboy, Planter’s Mr. Peanut, the Energizer bunny, Kellogg’s Tony the Tiger, or Android’s robot mascot (which serves as both the company mascot and their logo). Businesses often make excellent use of their mascots by creating a sense of continuity that helps their customers feel at ease and comfortable with their businesses because they are familiar and reliable. Schools should learn from these successes and use their mascots to their fullest potential.

Once it is professionally designed, establish a personality for your mascot. You can create a marketing campaign around it. Follow the lead of businesses and include your mascot in blogs, videos, and social media posts. Give your mascot its own social media page to solidify its character and engage with your students and parents. Let your mascot humanize your school brand by engaging directly with your audience. What characteristics do you want your mascot to display? Just remember that whatever qualities and attributes you give to your mascot will transfer to your school’s brand and become part of the message you send. So make them count.

Your students and staff may forget much of their school day experiences, and certainly the final scores of the homecoming football games, but they will always remember their school colors and the mascot. Put those memories to use. Endow your mascot with the characteristics you hope will shape your students and your community.

school mascot example

Logos

Much like mascots, your school logo can have a powerful effect on establishing trust and confidence in the services and expertise you provide. According to the National Center for Education Statistics NCES, there are more than 98,000 K-12 public schools and 34,000 K-12 private schools in the U.S., so you can use all the help you can get if you hope to stand out. The role of your school logo is to identify. It is a strategic tool that is the face of the services you offer and the promises upon which you deliver. Done right, your logo should:

  • Establish instant brand recognition (be timeless)
  • Create a good first impression (be memorable)
  • Communicate your values (be relevant)
  • Be simple (be versatile)

So, since including all four of these recommendations is easier said than done, as with the mascot design mentioned previously, use a professional designer! Since our logo designs can start for as low as $500, it is well worth it to have all the formats you’ll need for both print and digital versions in the highest quality. 

colors and fonts

Colors & Fonts

When deciding on the color, it is best to pick two or three main or dominant colors at most, and then, if you’d like, you could use other accent colors sparingly.

Your school logo can ultimately have any typeface or font you want, but it is best for schools to use clean, easy-to-read fonts so your audience will quickly be able to read who you are. Your school logo is a visual representation of your brand.  Some corporations can get away with more artistic, custom typefaces that may or may not even be legible, but schools should be more concerned with appealing to the masses and making sure the fonts they choose are easy to read (and possibly ADA compliant), although as of today, the font on a logo does not need to be ADA compliant. 

A good rule of thumb when picking fonts, especially when you are using more than one font, is to keep it simple. Do not use more than two fonts. Do not use trendy fonts or fonts that are hard to read. You should consider choosing a web-safe font (a font that doesn’t need to be or is already on your computer hosted anywhere else for someone to see them) or at the least a web font (https://fonts.google.com/) that is easy for others to find and free to download. 

Finally, keep in mind the need for versatility. You’ll use your logo in a variety of ways, on everything from huge signage on billboards and outside of your schools to tiny logos on business cards and on stationery. If when resized the words or images become illegible or unrecognizable, they won’t do you much good. Vector files are scalable while photo images have their limits. So, planning for flexibility and design simplicity will help.

guidelines

Establish use guidelines

Once you’ve developed your mascot and logo, create a quick reference guide (often called a brand guideline) that assures these assets are used correctly in all digital and print media and marketing materials. This guideline should include colors (include HEX, PMS, RGB, or Pantone) as well as any fonts used, spacing requirements, etc.

For more details about creating an effective brand guideline, review: 

737061
Give the Gift of Reviews This Holiday Season
give the gift of reviews

I love my pest control service. 

That may sound weird, so let me tell you two things: 1. I live in Arizona. 2. I found a BABY SCORPION hiding in with my kids' toys.

Luckily no one got stung, but it was a wake-up call to get someone to come and spray for bugs. The next day and every month since Peacock Pest Solutions comes to my house, and we haven't seen those creepy crawlers inside since! 

The holidays are coming up fast, and money is a little tight for our family this year. Unfortunately, that means that things like Christmas tips or little gifts may not be what I wish they were for the people and services that bless my life throughout the year. So while I was mulling over what would be of most value this year for people like my pest control guy, it occurred to me—a review. 

worth its weight in gold

Why a review is worth its weight in gold

I know it doesn't sound like much, but word-of-mouth marketing is key to the success for local, family-owned businesses (like my pest control guy). More than ever, people are checking online reviews for goods and services, and your opinion matters. Personally, I ask my friends and neighbors for recommendations on just about everything: who to hire, where to eat, and even what local schools and teachers to consider. 

Frequently—and, at times, unfortunately—customers only leave online reviews for bad experiences. No one wants to be judged by their worst day, which makes your good, positive review all the more valuable to your local businesses. 

And it's not just businesses that need your online feedback—your local schools need it too! 

reviews for your school

Review your school

Schools thrive on enrollment numbers. Enrollment plays a key factor in everything from budgets to attracting good teachers, so it's important that schools earn the community’s good opinion. And it's essential to share that good opinion with the community. 

Parents, if you love your child’s school; if your child loves their school; if you love their teacher, then please leave a review for your school today. 

Parents and caregivers want to hear first-hand experiences from other parents and caregivers. Your reviews help others make informed decisions about where to enroll their children.

How to write a review

You don't have to write an essay. In fact, it's best to keep it simple and honest. While we hope you'll be sharing the positive aspects in your reviews, it's ok to mention weaknesses as well as the strengths. Reviews are a good way to supply feedback to administrators and help improve your local schools. 

Most importantly, share examples or be specific in your review. For example, if your child or teen loves their teacher, you could say, "My kid loves her teacher. They've been able to help her focus better in class and improve her reading and writing skills." If you need help with what to write, check out some school review examples.

Reviews

Where to post your review

I mentioned asking my friends and neighbors what schools and teachers they like; well, I'm looking online too. There are several places to post your school reviews. Here are a few:

  • Google Maps/Google My Business
    Go to Google.com and search for your local school. On the right side of your browser, you should see a school profile that includes a map. Scroll down until you see the section titled "Reviews" and click the button that says, "Write a review."

    Leaving a review on the Google profile increases the ranking and visibility of the school in Google's search algorithm. Reviews are also visible on Google Map searches. 

  • GreatSchools.org
    GreatSchools.org is a site that aims to "empower parents" by helping them choose the right school for their children. It provides information on K–12 schools, including school resources, student outcomes, and, most importantly, reviews.

    I find it easiest to search by zip code or city and select my school from the search results. Once you select the school, there's a blue pen icon in the left-side column where you can write a review.

  • Niche.com
    One of Niche's unique features is "Places to Live," which helps relocating families choose an area in which to live. Combined with their school reviews, Niche's goal is to guide families to move based on what they are looking for in schools.

    From Niche's home page, under the main navigation, "K–12 Schools" has an option to "Review Your School." From that page, you'll do a search for your school by state. Select your school and submit your review.

  • Your school's Facebook page
    Some schools do not enable their review feature on their Facebook page, which is understandable, as the world of social media can sometimes be a negative and hostile environment. But if your school's Facebook page does allow reviews, you'll find the option on the page's navigation under "Reviews."  

A note to school staff

Attention school administrators or school marketers (whoever is in charge of public relations for your school). This is important: respond to reviews. Any time a community member takes the time to share feedback—especially if it's positive but even more importantly when it's negative—make sure they are heard. Share a kind thank you for a glowing review and a thoughtful, appropriate response to negative ones. (For recommendations on online review policies and responses, check out our blog 6 Tips for Handling Your School's Reputation Online.)

It's also important to frequently update and maintain your school's profiles on the above platforms. Every one of those platforms allows you to claim your profile and update your key information. GreatSchools.org and Niche.com allow for premium paid profiles but also have free versions as well. 

If you need help setting up your online profiles or managing your school's online reputation, reach out to us. 

How Successful Schools Market Themselves eBook
745543