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Parents: Talk About What Matters to Them

Effective school communication + engaging visuals = winning influence

Photo of baby using laptop and cellphone

I’ve been preaching for years that content is king. I’ve written numerous articles espousing this recommendation. However, I’m kind of old-school and I actually read content—on the Web, in books, in ads, etc. However, our co-founder my graphic designer daughter and I continually debate this subject. She says people don’t read content anymore. The attention span of the general populace is short and we need to be entertained if we are to stay engaged and interested. She opts for visual and video in lieu of text.

Well, our debate is over. We are both right (that in itself is a miracle). But, in Tammy’s defense, the reading content versus visual content debate is actually weighed in her favor with one caveat. If your written content is the right sort of content, which means it is compelling, interesting, and targeted to the interests of your audience, your message will succeed. You need to be heard above the noise. 

Whether it is your school website, blog, brochures, parent messaging system, or social media, it will not be effective if you don’t write your content with the needs of your audience in mind. If the content is compelling, it can trump visual—if not, the entertainment value may keep them on the page, but won't make your case. (Think of all those very entertaining commercials you like, but by the end you have no idea what their message was. Great visual. Very ineffective.)

You must engage rather than repel. And what repels is anyone who wants to talk about themselves to customers (your parents, students, or taxpayers) who want to know what your services will do for them, their children, or their community.

Start with simple steps. Whether it is the school website or school social media, make sure your information addresses your topic from your audience point of view. For example, let’s say you are looking for increased funding through bonds or tax overrides. Don’t just say you need the money; tell your audience what you will do with it that will help your students or staff and how the community will benefit. 

Provide real examples that they can relate to. “We will continue to offer quality science and math classes that will help our students (your children) get into the best colleges or to compete for the most coveted jobs.” Describe, specifically, what the courses can do to enthuse students and to make the knowledge applicable to them in a real-world setting.

Then, include visual reinforcement for your written message. Interview a few students who will be impacted if the override fails and the courses will be cut. Or, take the positive approach and interview a few students (or alumni) who benefited from the courses and in what way. Create a short video of those interviews. 

A video doesn't have to be anything fancy and can even be done with your cell phone if necessary, but showing people telling their stories is very compelling. Look at all of your existing school web pages and see where you could incorporate a more audience-focused message. Where could you tell a story? Where could you add a video?

Content may still be king, but the visual reinforcement can seal the deal. Use both approaches whenever possible—whether it is a presentation to the governing board, a story on the school website, or on your school's social media channels.

To help you get started, here are a few additional articles to help you along:

How Successful Schools Market Themselves eBook