UC20 Ignite: How to Cultivate the Parent Experience

July 9, 2020 Daren Worcester

The Ignite-style sessions at UC20, created with guidance from Blackbaud K–12’s Advisory Board, delivered fast-paced presentations designed to inspire and spark discussion. In this session on cultivating the parent experience, our panel of school leaders and industry experts offered advice on search and social media, engaging parents in meaningful conversations, reimagining the school newsletter, and strategic communications. 

The presentation kicked-off with Ashley Casarella and Ryan Caruso, co-founders of Connect.ED, who discussed the impact of search and social media on parents’ first impressions. “Many times, after word-of-mouth, what a parent finds online is the next most impactful piece in the decision-making process,” said Casarella. “The big question is—will you be happy with what they’re finding?”

Casarella went on to explain the importance of knowing the difference and having a balance on social media between highlight-reel content for current families and marketing-channel content for prospective parents. Caruso added that schools should Google their names to see what appears in search results and claim their Google My Business profile to update their knowledge graph information. 

Cynthia Bertolini, director of admissions and enrollment management at Oakcrest School in Vienna, Virginia, next focused her presentation on the importance of engaging parents in meaningful conversations. “Does your school have an official chief experience officer?” she asked. “Whether you carry the title or not, someone in every school needs to assume the role.”

“If I can leave you with one takeaway,” she concluded, “it will be this: Take two minutes—write that quick email to a colleague or a parent, stop by to say ‘Hi’ to someone in your school that you haven’t connected with for a while, write thank you notes, lead by example. If you want others at your school to engage with parents, live up to the title of CEO and show them how it’s done.”

Maria Bereket, digital strategist at Digital Bear Marketing, shook things up by revealing how schools can design intentional experiences for parents in the new COVID-19 normal. “Parents are at home now, and you are in their homes,” she said. “Parents are really looking for experts—you were always there, you were always the expert—but now they’re paying attention to you.” 

Bereket went on to explain that schools can capitalize on parents’ need for expertise by reinventing the school newsletter to go beyond reporting school news and focus on educational activities that parents can do at home such as sharing recipes. This shift from a marketing newsletter to one led by teacher expertise will enable parents to see the school in a new light.

Penny Townsend, head of school at Ransom Everglades School in Miami, Florida, brought her perspective on strategic communication to the Ignite table. “Parents want to hear from us,” she said, “and if they don’t, they’ll communicate on our behalf.”

Townsend added that strategic communications are built on trust. She recommended building this trust by focusing on the quality of all written communications—from teacher comments to dean’s letters. 

“Never underestimate the power of thoughtful, timely, and fully integrated communications.”

If you missed the session, you can view the on-demand recording here. Didn’t register for the conference? No problem! You can still register for UC20 here to access the on-demand recording. 

You may also be interested in our other Ignite session recaps:


About the Author

Daren Worcester

Daren Worcester has been a member of the Blackbaud K-12 team for 17 years, assisting hundreds of independent schools through a variety of website development roles. A former copywriter and a published author with an appetite for SEO, Daren currently serves as the senior content marketing manager for K-12.

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