First, let’s talk about what a school webmaster looks like today and how it came to be that way.
What it was (and often still is)
In a majority of schools, the school webmaster coordinates the design of the website with a website service provider but seldom does any actual coding or design work. They are often in charge of gathering the content and possibly even writing it. But, more often than not, the content that was on the old site is simply migrated to a new website template design. Done.
Then, the person assigned as webmaster adds updates—content and graphics—to the school website as needed. Often there are others who are also trained on the content management system (CMS), and they also add content or graphics to the school website.
Often, someone in the IT department is given the role of school webmaster. This is primarily a throwback to the days, some 15 years ago, when schools hosted their websites and managed their own servers. This required the expertise of an IT professional just to keep things up and running. Today, few schools, regardless of size, host or manage servers or software development. The security risks, complexity, and level of expertise required to manage this are far too costly and complex. Outsourcing the hosting and the software development to other service providers that specialize in these areas has proven to be the more secure and affordable option. But, for many schools, the webmaster’s role has remained in the IT department.
However, if the district is large, a school might hire someone specifically for this role or as part of a communications team. This is a far more logical option and more closely matches the skillsets of the job, but only the larger or most affluent schools can typically afford to have a team dedicated to communications and public relations. So, this leaves the majority of schools in the U.S. in a challenging position and at a disadvantage.
In an ideal world…
What would be the best solution if money and resources weren’t an obstacle? It might be a school webmaster that provides the following services.
School website design & development skills that include:
- An experienced, school website designer whose work includes a responsive (mobile-friendly) design
- Website development that ensures your website’s code is compatible with all browsers and uses a tried and true user interface methodology and is also ADA compliant at WCAG 2.0 website accessibility standards
- A graphic designer who will manage image copyrights, understand accessibility contrast issues, and create an elegant, intuitive, and functionally visual site
- A professional copywriter who consolidates and organizes your existing content to create an inviting, customer focused, and informative website with intuitive navigational structure
- A project manager with school website experience to coordinate the whole thing and with the foresight to avoid common issues that can arise
School website management expertise and services that:
- Develops a style guide to create accuracy and consistency for all website content
- Trains staff who manage all updates, including proofing, quality control, and website accessibility compliance for website content
- Provides online training for all staff who are responsible for creating document attachments, since website ADA compliance is required for attachments like PDFs, Word or Google docs, Excel files, video captioning.
- Sends reminders and encouragement monthly to your identified staff who provide news, stories, calendar items, photos, and other information to keep the website informative, current, and enjoyable
- Makes it easy to submit updates, with no staff training needed
- Provides quick response times to requests and information that are then posted, proofed, and placed in a manner that keeps the site intuitive and attractive
- Performs quality control regularly to fix broken links, errors, removing old news, layout or structural issues, ADA compliance issues, etc.
- Offers guidance to your staff when changes or enhancements are needed to maintain best practices and keep your site at its best, year after year
- Thanks and acknowledges those staff members who “do it right” to encourage content generating cheerleaders
Consider expanding the role of school webmaster
That would be a great start, right? But since we’re dreaming big, let’s not stop there. What if we could expand the role beyond that of school webmaster and incorporate the duties of a public relations and communications specialist, with a dash of marketing savvy thrown in? It might look a bit like this:
Public relations & marketing services that include:
- Coordinating with staff, parents, students, and administrators for story gathering, storytelling, news and article submissions, and photo taking
- Working closely with administrators, implementing public relations and marketing strategies for the school year that coincide with the school’s mission, annuals goals, and any upcoming projects
- Developing relationships with local media, facilitating community outreach marketing, and providing opportunities to have the local media sing your praises
- Integrating social media coordination and strategy with the website content and school-wide events, goals, and services to build an engaging and active presence with your customers
- Developing internal school ambassadors and parent advocates
- Planning and implementing a strategic marketing and communications effort
- Using communications and public relations strategies to rebrand or revitalize the school’s brand
- Establishing and incorporating a school marketing plan that integrates your school’s mission with your communications and branding efforts
Basically, what you need is a communications team. But, what you can afford is a school webmaster with a wide range of skills and experience. If you want to hire for this position, here is a school webmaster job description and sample interview questions to help you know what to look for in an applicant. Once this position is filled, you will need to hire someone for the public relations/communications expertise, such as a consultant, agency, or staff member.
School choice is a reality, and there is more and more competition for students and staff. If you don’t provide the quality school communications that will keep you competitive, even if you offer the best education in town, you can suffer from disgruntled parents, low morale, declining enrollment, and bad press. Communication is the key, and that means you must have an active, informative, professional school website coupled with active social media and enhanced with good public relations and marketing.
If you choose to do this all in-house, it is certainly possible. We provide tons of information on our blog and the various eBook downloads available there that will help you succeed. So, if that is your preference, go for it. We are big DIY advocates and even developed a year’s worth of marketing and communications resources to help. The best school websites will have a school webmaster that takes their role to the next level.
But, if you aren’t into a do-it-yourself solution, or if your time and budget are sparse, there is an alternative. Enter School Webmasters, LLC.
What if you could hire for all of these areas and pay less than you would pay for one full-time school webmaster? Here’s how it might look, and yes, this is a flagrant marketing plug.
School Webmasters can offer you all of the services mentioned in the wish list above, including the associated public relations services. We provide a three-pronged approach.
- School website design and development. (including all the areas listed above) along with our full-service website management. The cost includes a one-time design fee (depending on your school size and type of site you want), a monthly fee of $149 per site for website management and updates.
- Social media management. We offer various levels of service here as well, depending on your needs.
- Public relations and communications. Finally, we also offer public relations and communications services (also listed above in our ideal world scenario), which is the cost of our hiring a part-time communications coordinator from your community. We will then train and work with the communications coordinator (this typically starts at $16,050 per year, depending on your needs and employment costs in your geographic area).
You can often get all of these services for less than you would pay for just a website service provider’s CMS system and your staff to do the work (without getting the expertise and experience we include). No other website service provider offers anything comparable. So, if you are not into DIY, we hope you’ll check this out.
Average salaries of a full-time webmaster are $44,000 to 77,000—depending on the area of the country and job requirements. However, that job description typically doesn’t include the skillsets of a school public relations manager, marketing director, copywriter, or graphic designer. So, if you are looking to make your school stand out, communicate better, and become a school of choice, be sure you include the services described above and you’ll begin to witness amazing results.
Curious about what this whole program would cost your school? Just ask for a no obligation quote to find out. Easy peasy and no high pressure from us. In fact, the only sales guy we even have is Jim, an owner, and he hates sales. So, like I said, no pressure. But, whether working with us or doing it yourself, get your school ready to compete, improve communications, energize your staff, and create raging fans. Education matters and we can’t do that without community and parental support. Go get it!
Bonnie Leedy, CEO, School Webmasters, LLC.