Forty-six states and the District of Columbia offer a school choice program that allows parents to explore various school options for their children. This competitive environment makes it critical for districts and schools to add marketing to their long list of duties.

Your district and schools have a brand or identity that represents how you want parents and the community to perceive what you do and the quality of education you provide. The definition of “brand” depends on who you ask — there are hundreds of them. But one common theme is that your brand is how people experience your school or district. So, having a positive brand image is critical to attracting and retaining students as parents and students shop for schools.

Here are eight ways you can build a positive brand image that will help make your school the first choice for parents and students:

1. Keep your brand consistent

A well-designed and managed website is your greatest opportunity to promote your district. Websites are often the first place the public visits to learn about a district, and the go-to place for resources – which makes them a prime channel for recruiting students and staff. Parents can preview a school online if they have a choice about where to send their children; job-seekers will visit a district website to review available careers and learn more about the district; and taxpayers will view district websites to see how and where their money is being spent.

Providing your stakeholders with a consistent brand experience (logos, colors, and images of mascots) across all of your channels (including websites, intranet, email messages, social media, publications, etc.) is a step in the right direction to increase your district’s visibility and demonstrate professionalism.

2. Update your materials and message

Every school has a history, and it’s important to update your messaging to highlight the best that your school has to offer. Think about what you can show that will help parents and students understand what makes your school unique. Take a fresh look at the marketing message on your websites to make sure it captures your distinctive programs and reflects a positive image. Work with parents, teachers, and students to create a brief (one to three sentences) and powerful statement about your school that conveys why it’s a great choice.

Once you update your marketing message, do the same with your marketing materials to make them consistent with your new message. Be sure your homepage, social media, mobile app, teacher pages, news releases, department pages, and calendars are up-to-date with accurate copy, graphics, and photos. Not only will this draw people to your website, it will keep them coming back and enable you to tell your story your way. Post news releases, feature stories, and photos on both your district and school sites to ensure your story gets told in a positive light.

3. Make your website parent friendly

Your district and school websites are usually the first stop for parents and students when shopping for a new school. Your website is your “store” where you can show parents and students that your school is the best choice. Develop content that’s relevant to specific audiences and empathizes with their wants and needs. Don’t know what your audiences want? Ask them and conduct a quick check of your website.

  • Does your parent section include information about the school choice process?
  • What information do teachers, staff, students, parents, and even taxpayers want to find on your website?
  • What’s the best way to make that information accessible to them?

Once you determine what the members of your district want, recruit the support of district administrators and school leaders to deliver it. To get your visitors more engaged with your website, you can:

  • Create teasers for feature stories, links to classroom photo galleries, and sports videos.
  • Encourage reading and scrolling by using short sentences and paragraphs, engaging headlines and subheads, and bullet points.
  • Use everyday language because not everyone may understand education terms, program jargon, or acronyms.

4. Use photos to engage and entertain

To get a parent who may be visiting your website for the first time to stay and explore your site, you need to have content that makes an emotional connection with them. Nothing tells your success story better than student photos. Post them on your home page and include links that tell the stories behind the photos. Rotate your photos weekly, and keep a photo library on your site that’s readily accessible to parents and students.

5. Say it with video

Video is a must for any effective marketing program. We are all exposed to video messages on the web and in social media that entertain us and influence our buying decisions. YouTube, Vimeo and other websites have conditioned us to prefer short, authentic messages that engage and convince us. Many new and easy-to-use tools are available that make video production fast and easy — so there’s no excuse not to feature video stories. Consider posting a featured video on your homepage, with a welcome message or a student success story. Be sure to keep videos short to make them more shareable — one to two minutes is best.

6. Get social to promote two-way communication

Many districts are taking advantage of search engine optimization and social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook. The best way to think about social media is not in terms of the different technologies and tools, but, rather, how these technologies and tools allow you to communicate directly with your key audiences in places they are congregating right now.

One of the many breakthroughs of social media is its ability to allow for two-way communication. Two-way communication is a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of what parents and your communities find important. Keep your social media pages fresh by connecting your website news with your social media posts so you can acquire new followers on an ongoing basis. Use the Page Insights metric tools on Facebook to monitor your progress. Also, consider targeted and inexpensive Facebook ads to build followers and increase engagement.

7. Go mobile to meet parents where they are

More than 90% of American adults now own a smartphone and more than 60% of smartphone owner’s use their phones to access the internet. That means it’s critical that your website can be easily viewed on a smartphone screen. Explore mobile options with your website provider and ensure their websites are responsively designed so they can be easily viewed and navigated on a majority of browsers and mobile devices.

Also, consider investing in a mobile app that can provide parents with easy access to school information from their smartphones. Giving your community mobile access to your school information helps teachers, students, and parents stay up-to-date on school activities, cancellations, sporting events, grades, attendance and weather alerts.

8. Create a marketing toolkit and guidelines

Districts that offer a marketing toolkit can help staff members easily access and implement new marketing ideas. Include things like a written policy that outlines expectations for web and social media content – including content priority, accuracy, and timeliness. Develop an editorial calendar to help keep everyone on the same page when it comes to scheduling updates and developing appropriate content.

School choice is here to stay and marketing can help make your district the preferred choice for parents and students shopping for the best education. A fresh marketing message, an engaging website, and sharing student success stories will help ensure new parents and students will choose your school for all the right reasons.

 

Related Posts

Share This Article

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn Pinterest Email