If you’re a parent of a school-ager, chances are you’ve had at least one rotten experience with your kiddo’s school. We all have. And it’s such a shame.
While some schools simply forget how important community relations and marketing communications are, there are others that flat-out lack marketing communications know-how. As a parent, I just want to be informed. A school is a brand; I’m buying what it’s selling, which is mostly trust (more about that in a minute). Just make it easy for me … like maybe pre-fill registration forms with last year’s information and let me edit if needed, for example.
So parents, here are three things you may impart upon your school principal or PTA president on how to kick off the 2012-13 school year with high marks.
1. First and most importantly, communicate. Schools sell trust – trust that it offers a safe environment, trust that good teachers work there, trust that all students get the opportunity to succeed and achieve, trust that money is spent wisely. Parents will buy this as long as they are engaged in open, honest two-way communication that educates and informs. Encourage the faculty and staff to communicate with parents, and give us time to react.
We’ve got email and voice mail. We’re on Twitter. We’re on Facebook, well about 149 million of us anyway. According to Nielsen, social media accounts for 25 percent of all the time we spend online. Schools should use any of these social media options to let us know what’s going on: tell us your good stories, share official statements and polices; introduce ideas and plans, control rumors, gain support garner insight, build awareness for a cause or issue. If we parents are confident you’ll share info with us, we’ll join you’re your online community as soon as you begin the conversation.
Also make sure your branding is consistent across all media channels: email, website and in print. Ensure staff use their school (branded) email address when communicating with us. Also, use your website to tell your story. Make your site the primary marketing outreach tool. Promote it, keep it fresh and train us parents to visit it often.
One more thing, we’re all busy. More than half of the parents of the students in your building work. So, take a note from business. Make your communications clear and concise. Cut to the chase, use bullet points and spell things correctly. Beware of using jargon in your communications. Sometimes it’s necessary, but it can usually be avoided.
2. Customer service and training. Make sure faculty and staff are up to date on school policies and procedures—especially where interactions with parents are involved. It’s critical that everybody in your building be on the same page with this information and is able to clarify the goals and objectives for the new school year.
3. Work to maintain mutually beneficial relationships. Every school has its own way of making this happen, but the common element is to have plan. A well-thought-out public relations plan will help ensure that a school carries out its mission and meets its goals with the support of its staff and community. Schools just like corporations can follow a four-step process for developing a plan.
- Research – up front analysis on where the school stands in regard to all publics it wishes to reach.
- Action plan – developing public relations goals, objectives and strategies that go hand-in-hand with the district’s overall mission and goals.
- Communicate/Implement – carrying out the tactics necessary to meet the objectives and goals.
- Evaluate – looking back at actions taken to determine their effectiveness and what changes are needed in the future.
Lastly, you are not going to be able to please everyone, but everyone will see that you’re aiming to please and that’s about all we ask for. When you do this for us, we’re happy to volunteer and partner with you for the good of the students.
Jackie Costa, the director of content marketing at Clear Verve, works with clients to create and distribute smarter, better marketing communications materials. Listen for her on Twitter @JackieMCosta.
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