You may see them as distinctly different concepts – school marketing is designed to attract and enrol new pupils, and parental engagement is designed primarily to keep those with children attending the school up to date with relevant events and news. But there’s no reason why both activities can’t go hand in hand. Approaching parental engagement in the same way that you would marketing is a great way to give it a boost. To give you a “real-world” analogy – you may already be a customer of a brand, for example Apple. That doesn’t mean that Apple stop marketing to you. They want you to continue to buy their products, and be an evangelist of their brand. That’s the core aim of an effective parental engagement strategy – creating parents who are evangelists for your school, committed and active participants in both their child’s learning and the wider community.
With that in mind, here are some school marketing strategies to help you increase, enhance and drive better parental engagement.
Ditch the one-way, one-channel approach
Different people prefer to consume media and communication in different ways. We’ve seen many schools rely on one particular channel to get messages and announcements out to parents and the community – whether that’s through their website, a newsletter or SMS messaging. In order to reach as many people as possible, you need to adopt a more multi-channel mindset. An announcement or message should be synced across various assets you have available to you – including your website, social media, SMS or app. This gives you the opportunity to reach more people where they prefer to be reached. Similarly, consider the purpose of a message, or update, and whether you need feedback or a response from the recipient. Much of school communication is decidedly one-way, which doesn’t make for great engagement. Adopting two-way communication platforms instantly helps parents feel more involved, and if they’re able to instantly respond, they’ll feel more listened to and valued, as a result.
Speaking of social media – spending time and sharing content on the right platforms can be a really effective way of reaching more parents and engaging with them in a way that’s familiar and a big part of their daily life. In the UK, 57% of the population are active on social media. Sharing posts, alerts and announcements on social media platforms opens up a new way to engage with parents, as well as an effective channel for sharing quick updates, and media such as videos and images, throughout the school day. Providing this window into what goes on at school during the day will prove incredibly valuable to many parents. You can also use social media to invite feedback and responses to questions, polls and surveys – proactively asking parents for feedback and making it easy to provide this at the click of button, will make them instantly more involved in the school community. It’s worth considering the potential risks associated with opening up school communications to networks like Facebook and Twitter. If you think social media is the way to go, consider looking at a dedicated engagement app which can collate all content and help you manage, as well as lock it down, should you need to. Some school-specific apps also allow you to create your own newsfeed – giving you the benefits of social media engagement with more control and minimised risk.
Much the same as the more traditional school newsletter, a blog on your website or school portal/app can be a great way to engage parents in activities, achievements and events in the school community. Apart from saving on printing costs, a blog is a quicker and easier way to share engaging updates and stories. You can then share these posts with parents via some of the channels mentioned above. If you have the time and the resource available (probably more likely if you are a larger school or trust), you might also consider expanding your blogging activity outside of the goings-on within your school. Help parents out by suggesting summer holiday educational day trips, snow day activities, useful websites for homework research, tips for learning algebra etc. Producing helpful content that actually provides parents with useful information and advice is a sure-fire way to get them engaged with you.
Combine a great school marketing strategy with the right tools
We consistently tell customers, and schools that we speak to, that investing in a communication tool or piece of technology – much like Weduc – is not an all-encompassing solution to increase parental engagement. Not only do you have to employ flexible and capable tools, you must also have a strong school marketing strategy to make the most of them. Focus on both, and you’ll be on to a winner. If you would like to discuss further how you could boost parental engagement in your school, get in touch.See Weduc in action