Best Independent School Websites
A good school website is critical for independent schools, maybe even more so than for the typical public school. The reason is that you must compete for students and staff in order to exist. Independent schools don’t have the built-in advantage of federal or state funding. There are no bailouts for your independent school, and you must make it or fail based on your own merits. To increase enrollment, you must become experts at strategic communications and be able to tell your stories and engage your ideal audience.
The website and effective use of social media, public relations, and marketing efforts are never an afterthought for a successful independent school. So, what do the successful independent schools do right?
- Responsive website design. The percentage of parents needing to access the school’s website from their smartphones or tablets increases each month. By making sure your independent school website is mobile friendly, you are meeting your audience needs. In addition to the convenience factor, it also provides your school with the benefit of increased search engine optimization (SEO), and in order to increase enrollment, parents need to find you when they are looking for the right school for their child. So, get a responsive school website ASAP.
- Social media integration. As every good marketer knows, you must take your message to where the audience is. That means, you better be on social media—particularly Facebook and Twitter at a minimum (although this changes quickly). Your parents and older students are all on Facebook, and Twitter is increasing in popularity by leaps and bounds. By integrating messaging with social media platforms, you can push out the latest news and success stories, engage parents and students, and drive them to more detailed information on the website.
- Telling your stories. Telling your school’s stories is not just about providing an interactive calendar (which you should, of course) but in fleshing out real stories about real people that your parents, students, and prospective enrollees can relate to, cheer on, smile about, or empathize with. Stories are your way of showing instead of telling and getting out the message for why any decision is made. It is the way to build emotion, create transparency, develop trust, and earn advocates.
- ADA compliance. While your independent school doesn’t fall under the federal requirements for website accessibility, it is to your benefit to make sure that it is compliant. The benefits website accessibility are that your school website is available to a wider audience (an estimated 20% of the population have some form of disability). Being accessible and following best practices for website design and development means that your website will simply function better, regardless of the new technologies that become available, and you are likely to see faster load times, better browser cross-compatibility, and much more. Plus, you are doing the right thing—something independent schools are good at embracing.
- Public relations and marketing. One area that independent schools typically do better than their counterpart public schools is handling public relations and marketing. For public relations, that means you must develop relationships with your local media (or the media in any of your targeted geographic areas). Provide them with stories, successes, and news along with photos for their publications. Make publication easy for them to fit your articles into their busy schedules. Be accessible, informative, and enthusiastic. For hundreds of ideas to market your school, check out our Marketing Your School calendar/toolkit, and get a year’s worth of easy to implement marketing ideas (designed with the non-marketing, savvy educator in mind).
- Best foot forward. Your school website is your introduction to your parent and student prospects. It is the first indication that your school is a good match for what a parent needs for their child. It is a reflection of your mission and how well you achieve and implement that mission. It is a visual example of your school’s values and the success of your students and how your staff cares about its students. It needs to be intuitive, inviting, accurate, and help parents envision the success of their child as a student at your school. If you utilize no other marketing resource, make sure you put your best efforts into your independent school website. It matters!
If your independent school could use some help with website design or management, public relations strategies, ADA website compliance, or social media implementation, we hope you’ll contact School Webmasters and let us help you take your independent school marketing and communications to the next level. Request a no obligation quote today.