I can’t make the font larger in the title of this Next Practice Tip. If I could, that first word, “DAILY,” would be as large as it could be.
Not long ago, it was a luxury to have a Web page for one’s organization. Before the turn of the century (in the year 1999), before the Surface, iPad, iPhone, Ultrabook, Wifi and Broadband, there was dial-up access to connect the Internet (actually, to connect to the World Wide Web, which was just a small part of the Internet). I learned how to create a Web page with some simple code and Notepad. What made people go “Wow!” 19 years ago now makes them say, “So?”
Sadly, there are still some schools that have a Web page that’s updated at the start of the school year. If you’re reading this, I’m sure your school is not one of them. A vibrant, interactive and responsive Web site is now a necessary part of a school’s successful marketing efforts.
Not only is a Web site necessary, it is the nexus of ALL information associated with your school. Your school’s eNewsletter to donors should link them to your school’s Web site where they can read more about the articles that are important to them. Your school’s eCommunication to prospective families should link them to engaging content that excites students about attending if your school is a high school, and engaging content that excites young mothers about placing their children in your school if your school is an elementary school. What about dad? Dad’s important too, but that’s a topic for another time.
This week, I heard a school official talking about a password protected portion of their school’s Web site being for current parents, and containing teacher Web sites where assignments are posted, and activities that will be happening are detailed. Some of the teachers in the school say that maintaining their Web sites is a lot of work, especially when parents don’t necessarily visit them. Perhaps they’re not responsive in design, so that the only device they work on is a computer, and parents want to access this information on their mobile devices. This is another example of the above statement regarding an outdated utilization of technology. The place for assignments, grades, attendance an other information regarding a parent’s student is the school’s student information system.
The conversation continued, with the school official stating that they’re converting their Web site to be a marketing tool to increase enrollment. I was waiting for the “and development,” but the sentence stopped at enrollment. A Web site used to be a tool to market the school to parents – those that were interested in the school, and those who were already engaged with the school. Today, your school’s Web site still serves two market constituencies: Parents of prospective students in your school, and donors and supporters of your school. It’s a place to share stories of successful students and honored alumni, while enabling visitors to make a contribution to continue the vital work that takes place at your school.
Just as there used to be the comparison between schools that had a Web page and schools that had a Web site, the comparison has now moved to schools that have a Web site which someone updates and maintains for them (like a volunteer or parent) and schools that update their site every day. However, there are also social media tools available today, like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other new technologies which seem to be created every day. Your social media presence should include a mix of these tools that complement your Web site, and use them for the proper purpose (Facebook is a retention tool, Pinterest is a marketing tool, and Twitter and Instagram are enrollment tools. Drop an email to me at email@example.com if you’d like to know why). It’s a system of tools that need to work in concert with each other to support your school’s efforts to grow enrollment, grow development revenue from donors, solidify your parent community, and solidify your school’s presence as an integral member of the community.
Next month, plan on doing three things to promote your school every day – create a blog post, add something to your Web site (like a news story about the school play, the volleyball team win, or the winter clothing drive that’s become your school’s signature community outreach activity), and push out a Tweet to your school’s followers. While this sounds like there’s a lot to do, if your school does announcements every morning, I would bet there’s at least one item that you could blog (actually, your school’s principal/president/administrator could blog about), create a shortlink within it to the article about it that’s been create it on your school’s Web site, and then a Tweet with that shortlink to the blog posting could be forwarded to your school’s followers.
Make the messages connect to one another to reinforce the message. And, yes, do it every day – even on the weekends and holidays, and all through the summer too. If you say that nothing’s going on during the summer, that sends a very distressing message to today’s parents. Today’s parents are busy during the summer, and if they’re busy, then everyone needs to be busy. Plan on starting the practice this summer, beginning next month. If you can start in the summer, can come up with something every day, imagine how easy it will be to come up with a material when there’s tons of activity happening at your school during the school year. And, if you discipline yourself to do it every day during the summer, the habit will be formed by the time the new school year begins.