At School Webmasters, we feel strongly that schools should share the extraordinary things happening on their campuses with their communities. Effective school communications make that possible.
A while back, our CEO, Bonnie Leedy, was invited to be a guest presenter at the annual conference for the Pennsylvania Association of Rural and Small Schools (PARSS). PARSS works to benefit students in all of the Commonwealth’s schools, but especially those in small, and rural schools. At the annual PARSS conference, administrators gather to network and discuss current issues related to education, policy, and funding.
Bonnie was asked to present on school communications. Specifically, why public relations and school marketing have become vital for all schools and how schools can improve their school communications even on a shoestring budget.
In her presentation, Bonnie said:
“Managing school websites all over the US, we see dedicated teachers motivating and enthusing students, changing lives, making amazing things happen in their lives. We see students realizing their potential and striving for their dreams. We see dedicated leaders who are guiding their schools to improve and excel.
But, we also see a troubling pattern in many public schools: these success stories seldom make it to to the local news or onto their school websites or into conversations or to their school social media or into their communities where they need to be heard.
School personnel talk about test scores or funding decreases or declining enrollment or disengaged parents. Most public school personnel take it for granted that everyone understands the value of what they do.”
In the private sector, the foundation of any successful business or corporation is effectively communicating the value of what they do. In education, we often assume that people know the value of what our schools provide. But do they really? Do they understand what we mean when we talk about “digital citizenship,” “social-emotional learning,” and “cultural proficiency?” Or are they glazing over the jargon and wondering what in the world their children are doing for six and a half hours a day?
School Communications Spotlights
In her presentation, Bonnie highlighted a School Webmasters’ client, Otto-Eldred School District, whom we know does a fantastic job getting their school stories to the community through their school website and their local news. How do they do it?
Watch the video below to find out:
To help schools grow accustomed to recognizing and talking about the wonderful things that take place amid the “daily grind,” we asked participating PARSS administrators to submit a story about a time they successfully shared what was going on at their schools with the community. We chose one lucky winner to receive a copy of the Marketing Your School toolkit.
Congratulations to our winner, Dr. John W. Zesiger and Moshannon Valley School District!
According to Dr. Zesiger, Moshannon Valley has worked to embrace STEM project-based learning and connect it to the rural community of Houtzdale, Pennsylvania. Through various grants, the school has created an Aquaponics lab, a greenhouse, and garden beds. Students created a Garden Club and, most recently, high school students invited the 4th grade students to the high school for student-led demonstrations about the lab and how it connects to science, math, chemistry, and other classes.
Does that sound similar to some of the learning activities going on in your school? I’ll bet it does.
Dr. Zesiger explained that several fish tank Aquaponics systems were organized in the elementary school classrooms and that the younger students were so excited that their enthusiasm spread to their parents and the local community. Dr. Zesiger said, “Interest is increasing in this learning opportunity. We are sharing much about it through our Twitter account @MV_Knights.”
What a great example of excellent public relations and marketing from Moshannon Valley School District—well done!
Here’s What Their District is Doing Right
First, the district purposefully looks for ways to incorporate and connect STEM learning to the community.
Next, they created interactive labs—aquaponics, greenhouse, and garden beds—to engage and enthuse students.
It worked! Students organized a Garden Club, high schoolers invited the 4th graders to come and learn from student-led demonstrations, and student excitement over these projects spread to parents and the community.
Bonus: the school shares its every-day successes on its Twitter feed. Teachers and students post about what’s going on in the classrooms using a school-wide hashtag (#puttingacademicsfirst) and tagging the school.
Moshannon Valley School District is demonstrating its value through its school communications. When parents see their students engaged and excited, they form positive opinions about the school—and that’s good PR. When the community can follow the activities on school social media—that’s good marketing. Thank you for sharing your story with us and with your community, Dr. Zesiger. Keep up the good work!
The Importance of School Marketing
Bonnie also said in her presentation, “If we think marketing our school isn’t a part of all our job descriptions, then our careers, our schools, and our students will suffer. Our students suffer when there is no parent engagement, and parents disengage when they lose faith and trust in our schools.
Done right, marketing and public relations provide transparency, trust, and confidence. When we earn trust, we gain advocates who will help us achieve our goals, and that includes parents who support their children in their education, communities who support us with their tax dollars, legislators who back us in their policies, and media coverage that is more than the sensational and negative.”
Remember, school marketing creates enthusiasm, school spirit, and cooperation. If you need guidance for how to market your school, the Marketing Your School toolkit is a great place to start.
Katie Brooks, School PR Manager