School Choice: Something to Fear or Embrace?

Making yours the school of choice

Flying elephant

“The very things that held ya down are gonna to carry you up and up and up.” 

These profound words were said to Dumbo by Timothy Q. Mouse when he was encouraging him to fly. They may also apply to the possible changes with the incoming Trump administration regarding School Choice.

In states that have School Choice, parents have the opportunity to use their tax dollars in the form of school vouchers, education savings accounts (ESAs), tax credits, or tax deductions to decide which educational options best meet the needs of their children. Many parents feel they should have a choice in the matter, but others, particularly teacher unions, feel such changes might undermine public education as we know it. We’ll leave that debate for others.

The challenges of change sometimes obscure the benefits that are often lost in the political debate. So, when change is on the horizon, and it usually is, we can be proactive by focusing on the benefits. In this case, if the change doesn’t happen, we’ll be that much ahead of everyone else because, regardless of the outcome, we’ll have put best practices into place. So, be like Dumbo when he fully commits—don’t just fly, SOAR.

To meet the competitive challenge that all schools face when parents have more educational options, like any other business or service, you must earn your customers. In any school’s case, that means earning the trust and faith of parents, students, and staff. How do you do that?

Market Your School

More competition forces us to raise the bar, offer unique services, target specific needs, and most importantly, let our communities know what we are doing well. Even if your school is exceptionally effective, yet those successes remain unknown because you fail to communicate them, you are losing out. You are failing to build trust, win advocates, and attract more students or quality staff.

Effective communication and marketing earns parental support and student engagement. There is abundant evidence that engaged parents produce better student outcomes. Isn’t that your overall goal? Want to learn how to market your school? Start simply by downloading our free eBook “How Successful Schools Market Themselves.” But, when you’re serious and recognize how important creating a strategic marketing strategy is, purchase Marketing Your School calendar/toolkit with 50+ weeks of marketing strategies and access to the companion web resources. You’ll be well on your way to getting out the good word and letting your community know what you have to offer.

Tell Your Stories

Facts and numbers don’t usually convince doubters. What reaches beyond distrust and suspicion, though, is engaging emotions. A compelling story impacts us emotionally. That is how we are wired. Our brains resonate to story. We intuitively put ourselves into the experience, and that helps us identify, relate, and internalize the story.

So, rather than a list of facts or a calendar of events, tell stories. Your website news page should be packed with story. Stories make your data believable and memorable. Story conveys and demonstrates your school values. They differentiate your school from its competition. And most importantly, stories will help people imagine a future that’s worth achieving, even when it is far beyond their present experience. For some tips on getting started with telling your school’s stories, gathering stories, generating stories, and prompting stories that win not only minds but hearts, check out our blog post, Telling Your School’s Stories.

Become Your Own Media Outlet

If you don’t create your own outlet of communication and keep those channels flowing with information and answers, you won’t control the narrative. Are you willing to turn the narrative over to strangers who may not have your school’s best interests at heart? In fact, they may not even have the facts, which can allow public relations to quickly spin out of control. But, if you don’t fill it, that communication void will be filled by others, often by well-meaning or not so well-meaning media, disgruntled community members, misinformed parents, or frustrated or uninformed staff.  

Luckily, you have two effective, manageable, and affordable channels that can become a powerful media outlet for your school. They are your school website and your school social media platforms.

Whether starting from scratch or redesigning your existing school website, there is a lot that goes into it. Some of the important steps include:

chool website content that is effective, comprehensive, and inviting

Responsive website designs that are intuitive and website accessible

Reliable and secure website hosting

Effective school communications that include staff input to keep your website and social media current and engaging

School website management processes that include quality control, consistency in style and tone, and maintenance of ADA accessibility standards

School social media platforms incorporated into your school website processes so that they work in unison to help you reach all your audiences 

Once you have done all the above, your next step will be to establish relationships with your local media outlets (newspapers, radio stations, online news outlets, even Mommy bloggers who cover school events) and begin including them in your news updates. If you don’t have the on-site expertise to manage public relations, consider checking out our PR4Schools program as a potential affordable solution for you.

Don’t just fly, SOAR

Following these steps, you’ll take your school marketing to the next level and have no fear of School Choice. Parents and community members will hear a steady stream of good news. You’ll be building trust and confidence. Your school reputation will be positive, and you’ll have the supportive ambassadors you need to weather challenges that may come. Whether it is the competition that School Choice may bring or some media crisis that rocks your world, you’ll be able to fly above the fray. Dumbo, our role model in this blog, was an improbable hero. Your school, regardless of the competition, can also be the local educational hero. If you choose to market your school, plan your communication process, and then work your plan, you too will soar.

Good luck, and let us know if we can help.
Bonnie Leedy, CEO