Parents: they’re often a school marketer’s most important, and most challenging, audience.
They’re the ones you’re trying to attract. They’re the ones you’re trying to please. They’re the ones you’re trying to turn into your school’s biggest advocates. And they’re the ones that can make or break the success of your school marketing initiatives.
So why is it so hard to create communications for this audience?
The biggest challenge: you need to tell your school story to both prospective parents and families, and to current parents and families. And while these audiences may care about the same things, the ways in which you will pique their interest and provide them with value are vastly different.
I get the struggle. As a school storyteller, I understand how difficult it can be to create spot-on communications that address the wants, needs, and challenges of your various audiences. Yet as a parent, I want and expect spot-on communications from my children’s school that address my specific wants, needs, and challenges.
While making everyone happy and interested is an unattainable goal, there are strategies and tactics you can use to streamline your communications to both prospective and current parents—making your job easier and more effective.
Here are ten ways to improve parent communications while consolidating your storytelling efforts:
1. Show them you know them.
The best way to capture the interest of prospective parents during their initial school search is to become their mirror—to reflect their cares, concerns, challenges, and expectations back to them in your parent communications. This shows you understand them, and that your school can be the solution they need.
In order to demonstrate this in your parent communications, start by doing Voice of Customer (VOC) research that captures the specific language your audience uses to describe their wants and needs. Then use this research to craft authentic Audience Personas that bring your audience segments to life and guide your marketing messaging.
This first step is the best way to ensure your communications are focused on the right topics and are using messaging that resonates with your dream families.
Learn more about Voice of Customer Research and Audience Personas in our new ebook, The Word-of-Mouth School Marketing Toolkit.
2. Offer value.
Once you know what your prospective families are looking for or struggling with, craft content designed to help them in an authentic way.
By creating gated content—eBooks, worksheets, videos, or other on-demand resources—that offer true value to prospective families, you are positioning your school as a trusted resource while encouraging prospects to stay connected to your school.
Once a prospect opts into your email list to access the valuable content you’re providing, you have the opportunity to communicate directly with them on issues you know they care about. Which leads me to...
3. Anticipate their needs.
Now that you know your prospective families, and you’re creating content that provides them with so much value that they opt in to receiving more content from you, nurture that relationship with email marketing.
One simple way to start: Create a welcome email series that will automatically send over time to prospective families once they join your email list. In this series, be sure to answer new families’ most frequently asked questions; tell compelling school stories; and help them take the next steps forward.
Download our tip sheet: How to Create Effective Email Workflows for Future Students.
4. Provide choices.
Stories. Videos. Podcasts. Webinars. Ebooks. Slideshows. Infographics. Today’s online landscape includes endless options for when, where, and how to consume content.
In order to appeal to prospective families, you must make sure that your school story is told in a variety of formats so that your dream families can access information about your school in the way they prefer.
This might mean offering transcripts or written summaries for video content, providing audio recordings of important stories, or creating graphics to support long-form written content. Regardless of how your prospective families want to learn about you, you have to give them the option to do so.
5. Give access to on-demand content.
Along with giving your dream families choices with the content format, you also want to give them access to your best content when they want it.
Think about the parent who is too busy to attend an Open House, or works off-hours and cannot speak to you via phone for an initial inquiry. How can you make their lives easier? How can you create evergreen content that they can access on their own time? A webinar or video that provides alternative content for those who cannot attend in person will ensure prospective families who may have skipped out on meeting you still feel that connection.
Those are five tips for prospective parents, but what about once those prospects become current families? While many of those same tips apply, here’s how to adjust them to meet the needs of current parents:
1. Mind their time.
While it’s important to continue to communicate your story to current parents, you also need to be mindful of their time—and their interests.
Current families aren’t in the midst of a decision-making process, but they still need to have their wants and concerns addressed—so make it easy for them. As in number five above, offer informational sessions on-demand—evergreen presentations or communications that parents can access online through a parent portal.
For example, my daughter’s school has a Parent Education night, where parents can learn the ways students are taught math, reading, etc., so we can help with homework. This would be great content for an on-demand webinar for parents who could not attend.
2. Continue the value.
Just because a parent already has a student at your school that doesn’t mean they’re no longer looking for valuable resources to help their children succeed.
Current parents chose your school because they like your philosophy and expertise, so continue to offer that perspective through regular communications, like a monthly email and social media content.
By providing ongoing valuable content—both original and curated from trusted sources—you’re proving to be the experts they expect you to be.
3. Stay ahead of the game.
The most frustrating thing for me as a parent is finding out about a school happening days before it is scheduled. Working parents need time to plan and prep, especially when an event requires parent attendance or for a purchase to be made.
Fend off the last-minute parent shuffle by:
- Creating a general calendar of annual events and activities that parents should expect during the year, even if dates are TBD
- Including important dates in a weekly eNewsletter, as early as possible
- Encouraging parents to follow you on social media for timely updates
4. Make it all about them.
Current parents want you to know them, and their children, inside and out. Where possible, customize communications so that they highlight specific things of interest to that family, whether it be grade-level news, sports or intramural updates, etc.
While this can be difficult because of the time or resources it may take to create different communications for different grade levels or divisions, parents will appreciate not having to sift through general notices and information in order to stay informed.
5. Repurpose, repurpose, repurpose.
Once you begin thinking about your parent communications on a global scale, you may begin noticing that you’re often recreating materials that should simply be reused.
Can you create standard emails that hit parents at certain moments throughout the year? For example, a “Welcome Back” email for students, holiday emails, policy emails, reminder emails?
What about FAQs? Why are parents calling you? Why do they want to meet with you? What are they emailing you about?
Wouldn’t it be helpful to develop standard content with the answers, so you can have these on hand to send to parents? That way, you don’t have to create a new response every time. Think of all of the facts you share every year that don’t change and create standard messaging around them.
By developing both evergreen and timely communications for current and prospective families, you’ll be strengthening your school’s bond with its most important audience and allies—and making your job a little easier moving forward.
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