Let’s play a quick game of pretend. Ready? Here’s the scenario:
You’re the parent of a prospective student. You’re at work, on your computer, and you just read a bunch of emails. You then pop over to Facebook, and you see an update from a friend whose daughter recently enrolled in a local private school. So, you decide to check it out. But when you Google the school name, a bunch of local schools appear in the search results. You decide to do a little research before your next meeting. And you start clicking.
Ok, action! Pretend you’re that prospective parent, and open a few new tabs on your browser. Pull up the websites of at least three schools that compete with yours. Navigate to their “About Us” pages. Read them, while maintaining the perspective of your character. And then, open your school’s website and navigate to your own “About Us” page. Read it.
So, prospective parent, what did you think? Were you impressed? Did one school stand out from the rest? Did YOUR school stand out from the rest?
While it can be tough to put yourself in the mindset of your audience, this type of exercise is important and often eye-opening. Because when we work in the bubble of our own stories, they become so familiar that they lose their meaning. That’s why it’s important to continuously critique your own story -- and your story is most prominent on your About Us page.
Your About Us page is the place readers click when your site has intrigued them enough to prompt them to learn more about you. For that reason, it needs to be perfect. It needs to reflect the most polished and distilled, yet compelling, version of your school story.
It needs to sell your school.
If your current About Us page isn’t working hard enough for you, it’s time to do an about-face. Here are 10 ways you can make your About Us page content stronger:
#1: Move your Head of School letter.
I hate to start with a “don’t”, but … don’t open your About Us section with a message from your Head of School in letter format.
Why? A letter format simply isn’t optimized to meet the needs of today’s online readers. Dense, paragraph-formatted narratives with no headers, subheads, bullets or white space are best for print. Believe me -- if your About Us page is a letter, check your analytics and see if anyone is actually reading that page.
Too often, a Head’s letter is hiding some really fantastic content -- that no one is reading. So consider changing the format to better fit online best practices. This doesn’t mean you have to delete your Head’s letter. Instead, move it so that it appears as a sub-page within the About Us section, and then …
#2: Start with a hook.
You want to start your page by giving your readers a reason to stick around, so make sure it packs a powerful punch by appealing to your target audience’s needs upfront. For example, you may want to start by recognizing what they are looking for and then demonstrate how your school is the answer.
Try something like the following (and insert your own student outcomes and school information):
Looking for a place where your child can <experience the joyous freedom of childhood while building a strong foundation for success>? <School Name> is a <creative community for children ages 3 - 6 that teaches exploration and belonging in an active learning environment>.
By leading with your audience’s cares, concerns or frustrations, and positioning your school as the answer to those needs, you are demonstrating your understanding even before introducing what you have to offer.
#3: Tell an authentic story.
Once you hook your audience, tell an authentic, human story. Leave the jargon at the door and get real. Be emotional. Use the words you would use to describe your school when speaking to someone in person. Make sure it reflects your school’s voice and tone.
For example, Sonoma Academy does a good job putting its story in context in the Mission & Philosophy section of its About Us. If you just read the bold statements on the page, you get a strong sense of what the school believes and how that translates into a Sonoma Academy education.
Another way to be authentic: bring in some history, and get creative. Annie Wright Schools does this on its Traditions page, which is an interesting way to showcase the school’s history while making it relevant to its modern story.
#4: Offer social proof.
Also called social influence, social proof is when someone uses the actions or reactions of others to help him or her make a decision. There are five types of social proof, and each can influence your audience’s choices.
You can use social proof to your advantage by incorporating testimonials and social comments into your About Us page. By showcasing examples of how your story makes an impact, through someone else’s words, you’re legitimizing your claims.
Jacksonville Country Day School does this through its Response from Parents section, which showcases testimonials from parents about how well the school fulfills its mission. Duke School’s Why We Believe page brings parent testimonials alive through video.
#5: Get graphic.
Remember: “content” does not mean “text.” Your About Us page can and should integrate various content types by mixing written word with multimedia formats.
Try infusing your page with personality by including graphic callouts of words or phrases to capture attention. Include an overview video that brings your school’s unique story to life. Incorporate infographics to help tell your story through imagery and statistics. Make your About Us page visually appealing so that readers want to explore its message.
Duke School does a good job of this in its Why Preschool-8th Grade? section, which makes the case for the school’s benefits through easy-to-scan written content, a strong callout testimonial and a video that shows how it is creating bold young thinkers.
#6: Show community.
Your audience not only wants to learn About You as an institution, but also wants to learn About Them -- meaning, the other students and families in your community.
If possible, incorporate your latest social updates or photos so that readers can get a sense of the community you’re cultivating on campus. Father Ryan High School curates its social accounts on its Connect With Father Ryan page, where the latest social updates and photos appear in gallery format. However, you can also pull these types of feeds into your About Us page to give your content extra credibility.
#7: Toot your own horn.
Has your school won awards, collected unique accreditations or graduated impressive alumni? Mention them in your About Us section! Remember, the purpose of this section is to set your school apart, and sometimes the small details make a big difference on a prospective family’s decision making.
#8: Profile your graduate.
I love the feature in Proctor Academy’s About section that details the Profile of a Proctor Graduate. It paints the picture of who a student will become by learning at Proctor, and it’s a great way to demonstrate intended outcomes to prospective parents.
#9: Give your staff the stage.
Social proof does not only need to come from students and families. Include quotes from your faculty and staff to demonstrate what being part of your school’s community means to them, and what they get out of educating students. Highlight tenure, or personal passions, or unique credentials to bring your staff to life for readers.
#10: Include a sign-up or subscribe form.
If you’ve done your job and intrigued your audience, there’s no better time to ask them to stay connected. Provide readers with a reason to sign up for your newsletter or get in touch with you for more information.
This can be done by offering some type of valuable piece of gated content (like Sewickley Academy does with its free guide 27 Questions to Help You Evaluate a School for Your Child), or with a simple embedded contact form. The key is to make the value of submitting your information clear.
BONUS: Let them know where you are!
Too many About Us pages skip the most basic information points -- like, where you’re located. Make sure you never assume that your audience knows anything about your school, and include the who, what and where along with the why.
About the Author
Emily Cretella is a marketing strategist and copywriter who helps her clients create and share stories that make audiences take action. As owner of Cursive Content Marketing, Emily provides consulting, copywriting services and workshops to independent schools and higher education. Read her stories at cursivecontent.com.Follow on Twitter More Content by Emily Cretella