Now that you are headed into the second half of the school year, it’s a good time to refocus on how to best reach and engage parents in the new year. We recommend five new year resolutions to help bring your communication goals up to speed. If you can’t do all five, then just pick one or two to tackle for now. We promise you’ll see great long-term results.
Get that school website mobile friendly and ADA compliant.
More and more parents are using their phones and mobile devices to access your school’s website. Is your school’s website responsive (mobile friendly)? 68% of adults own smartphones (that was back in 2015, so that percentage is probably much higher now). By not offering responsive, mobile friendly access and helping parents get to the information they need quickly and conveniently, you cause frustration and create some bad branding for your school. So, this year, make plans to get your school web design responsive and mobile friendly. The best school websites are responsive. While you’re at it, make sure yours is also an ADA compliant website so that it is accessible to those with disabilities. Plus, you’ll avoid a costly mess when the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights comes knocking on your door. You will also be doing your communication efforts a tremendous service because you will be expanding your website to a much wider audience (since 20–30% of individuals have some sort of disability that can affect how they access your website).
Implement marketing efforts into your school’s communication strategies.
As school choice becomes the new norm, and that looks to be the way things are moving with the change in administration, it means your school must embrace marketing as an essential aspect of your communication efforts. This applies to your external audiences (parents, community members, taxpayers) and your internal audiences (staff, prospective staff, students, volunteers). If you don’t make the effort, serious efforts, to highlight your strengths, tell your stories, and provide easy access to information, you are failing to market your school. If you fail to market, you fail to grow and to create a strong and respected brand. Whether you are a small or rural school, a private or public school, a large unified district or a prestigious prep school, marketing efforts are a requirement. You can start small, and with consistent, strategic steps, you’ll soon see impressive results. Consider, for example, implementing the school marketing strategies available in our desktop calendar/toolkit called Marketing Your School. It’s a year-long series of marketing recommendations that anyone can implement, regardless of their school public relations or marketing background. Get started now—no excuses.
Businesses do it all the time and usually dedicate an entire page (or a space on every page) to customer comments. What better way to show parents what a great school you have than to let them hear it from other parents? Hearing a testimonial from someone who has nothing to gain is always more credible than hearing it from a school employee with a vested interest.
Make submitting testimonials easy:
- Ask teachers to help gather positive comments (try making forms available during teacher conferences).
- Ask the office to have forms available for parents to complete—with a checkbox to check and an agreement to sign allowing you use their comments on the website or in a brochure.
- Add a feedback form right on the website to collect parent, community member, or alumni testimonials.
- When you have an event or program, get a testimonial from parents whose children were involved, and include it with the article.
- Ask for them from alumni. There is nothing more powerful than hearing from those who once attended your school and went on to accomplish their goals, crediting a teacher or school with their start on the right path.
- Ask the PTA or PTO to collect testimonials—and use them on your website. You can also turn brief testimonials into graphic elements and use them as part of the overall theme of your school website design.
Develop social media policies for your school.
If your school or district still does not have any official social media policies in place, it’s past time to get those underway. If you want to communicate to your primary audience (parents), then you need to go where they are, and that is on social media. In 2015, Pew Research reported that 75% of parents used social media and 81% of those parents tried to engage when others in their networks shared good news. What better way to engage positively with parents? Establishing your school’s social media policies will not only outline how your school or district will engage on social media, but it should also guide faculty and staff as to what social media they can use and how they can use it within the classroom—especially important for sharing good news. If you aren’t sure where to begin, e-mail our social media manager, Anna, and ask for our guidelines. Just tailor them to meet your school’s needs. Then, create a school social media calendar, and put it in play this year! If you need help or want to learn how schools use social media effectively, we can help.
Double-check your website for registration and contact information.
With school registration for next year already around the corner, make sure your website home page is a helpful resource for this important information. Your website stories should tell them why they should register; now make it easy for them to do so.
- Can they locate your school or district address, phone number, and fax number from your home page and the registration page?
- Have you linked all necessary registration forms on your website so parents can print and fill out the forms before coming to the school?
- Or better yet, can you automate the process with online forms?
- Have you outlined exactly what additional information parents need to bring in for registration, like immunization records, proof of residency, or transcripts from a previous school?
Making sure all this information is current and available for parents will save your staff time and energy and streamline the process for parents, which, of course, makes them happy. Remove the challenge of registration, and the decision to choose your school becomes easier.
Whatever the year brings, the communication and technology options will no doubt continue to expand and grow, and your school must grow with it to stay relevant. Make it a goal to bring your school communication strategies and outreach programs in line with parent expectations.
Need some help? Give us a call and let us know what your challenges are (888-750-4556). We can help. If you’d rather do it yourself, check out our DIY school marketing with our Marketing Your School course. If you need on-site help with your school’s public relations and communications, learn more about our PR4 Schools program. Bonnie Leedy, CEO