Five years ago, the Marketing Matters article published at this time spoke to a strategy to market your school AND raise some funds, so it was a “fundraiser” article…which are usually not a part of the articles here on SchoolAdvancement. With that in mind, and with the new reality we’ve entered in light of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s time for a new Marketing Matter.
Actually, it’s time for a lot of new things.
Schools have discovered that their one or two times per year “Chrome from Home” initiatives are paying off big time, since students are now learning from home, utilizing technology extensively (and, in some cases, using up data like never before, especially if parents are working from home as well).
Other schools have discovered that their staff was woefully unprepared for anything like this, and are discovering the high cost of saying, “No.” While technology was supposed to radically change the way learning was conducted and education was delivered, as well as tuition was paid for, there are still schools that have maintained status quo, adhering to the “That’s the way we’ve always done it” mindset…and are now finding that there is no such thing as “business as usual” anymore.
For schools that have not used a tuition management and billing partner, parents are no longer bringing checks to the school. For schools that have used a tuition management partner, they may be finding that the one they’re using is withholding late fees from parents who have suddenly found themselves furloughed. As one school I’ve spoken with has pointed out, the school is bearing the burden, but it’s a burden they can’t bear for an extended period of time. It’s also caused them to rethink the practices that they’ve had in place for a number of years, and choosing a provider that allows them to waive late fees.
But since this is a Marketing Matters article, let’s talk about a virtual tour for your school, and spin the thinking a bit.
A virtual tour or open house has been a part of a school’s Web site for some time, but it’s even more appropriate today since the Web site is a marketing tool – distinctive, inviting, responsive, and one that engages parents of prospective students. It’s NOT a tool for current parents to find out what’s on the lunch menu, or access their child’s grades. That should be on your school’s App – a remarkable and distinctive service provided to your parents that recognizes their individuality since it’s available on their personal mobile device. Of course, it can be accessed from the school Web site, but an App is what today’s Millennial parents are looking for. Before moving on, don’t think that your Facebook page is your school’s Web site either. Why? Every Facebook page looks like every other Facebook page, and doesn’t allow your branding to stand out. The best reason to have a Facebook page for your school is so that YOU can control the message your school has in the community, or have a place where groups can meet and share information. If you’d like more information about that, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the words “The Role of Facebook” in the subject line.
Now that your school building is closed, possibly for the rest of the year, how will you show those parents of prospective students your school? Most schools I’ve spoken with are glad they have a virtual tour or a virtual open house posted to their Web site. If you can get into your school, right now might be a great time to shoot some video there since there’s no one there, and you don’t have to get parental permission from current students’ parents. If you’ve already got the footage, but just haven’t had time to finish the production, you now have time.
However, there’s something else to consider (which could be the elephant in the room as we move through the next few months): How do you know your school will be open next year?
Now before you start to have additional anxieties, the important part of that phrase is the first part – “How do you know?” It can be applied to many situations and elements regarding your school, since this is the time to start rethinking. Make no mistake, things will not be returning to “normal.” Schools that realize they have the ability to be effective in an online environment might offer more classes online, so all those courses that didn’t have enough students to fill a classroom could be offered as an online alternative. Schools that rely on parents bringing money to school for field trips or other activities might have to offer new ways for parents to fulfill their obligations, and might want to set up prepay accounts to meet these expectations. Above all, your school will need to have a compelling vision – and not just a worthy mission – for parents to entrust their children to you since they might decide they like the fact that they can work at home and educate their children at the same time.
And there will be more “How do you know” questions that boards and parents will be asking educational leaders.
Of course, we should expect all these things to happen, as stated in Isaiah 43:19 – “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” And we can certainly can relate to the streams that technology offers us today!
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2020 (Original Publication Date: 20200406)