Are you making it easy for families to attend your school?
I don’t mean “are your academics not challenging or difficult?” but have you made it easy for parents to be up to date on all the things that are happening at your school?
I have conducted dozens of focus groups of parents across the country, and the number one complaint I hear from them is about the lack of communication from the school.
Of course, when I say this to administrators, they sometimes have a hard time believing the data because they think they are over-communicating. “If parents would just read the communication, everything would be fine,” they say.
We have a perception gap.
As a marketer, the onus is always on you to make sure that your message is being heard — not on the customer to hear it.
I hate to say this to school leaders because I know how challenging their job already is, but the parent is right. With today’s short attention spans and media coming at us from every direction, we have to adapt and do more to communicate with parents effectively.
Here is a list of things I challenge you to ask yourself if you are doing and, if not, to consider implementing to make your school an easy one to “go to.”
The majority of internet traffic is from mobile devices. A mobile-optimized site is customized for the screen size of a tablet or phone. If a parent is trying to read a site on a phone that is not mobile-optimized, it’s going to be a frustrating experience — negating any work you’ve done to make your website useful.
2. Is your school website up to date?
I know it takes time to do this, but your website needs to be scrubbed at least yearly to ensure it is up to date. Next time you do this, create a written site map so you know what to update each year.
3. Does your school website contain answers to parents’ most frequent questions?
Millennials, your primary target “customer,” don’t want to call you. They would rather go to your website. Compile a list of all the questions your admin team fields day in and day out, and make sure those questions are answered on your website in an easy-to-find fashion.
4. Can a parent fill out forms electronically on your website?
Paper forms are a pain. They get lost, and someone in the office must input the information into the computer anyway. Brush up on your Google Forms and try to make things as electronic as possible.
If I can sign bank forms or contracts electronically, is there a reason why I can’t do it for school forms?
5. Can a parent pay for their children’s fees electronically and at a low cost?
Are there additional fees involved in paying electronically? A while back, my boys’ school went to a new lunch program billing system. It was fine, but each time I had to put money into the account, there was a $2.95 service fee.
That’s fine for me, but for parents on a budget who may need to pay weekly, that may be an additional financial burden.
6. Are you using a custom school app for smartphones?
This is a great new technology that a lot of schools are using. Custom apps are typically not very expensive and are a huge benefit for parents. Apps allow you to push content, set appointments and reminders, and make sure updated information is in the hands of parents.
7. Does your school calendar easily allow parents to import important events into my own calendar?
This requires a little more technical tweaking, but most parents live or die by our electronic calendars. Having a single consolidated calendar that can be integrated into a smartphone, tablet, or existing online family calendar program is a worthwhile investment.
8. Are you communicating about important events in multiple channels?
Some of your parents will go to your website daily, others use Twitter, and still others check only their Facebook page.
It’s critical you are providing information through every channel your parents use. But if you don’t want to use those tools and just want one social media platform, use the one that most Millennials and Generation X parents use: Facebook. And if you are feeling good, add on Instagram.
How is Communication Between Parents and Teachers?
9. Do you guarantee a response time to your parents?
Most teachers I’ve met are good about this, but you need to make sure all teachers know that parents generally will be expecting a turn-around time within 24 hours. Make sure all teachers adhere to this, and tell your parents they will get a reply within a day.
10. Are all of your teachers using the same classroom communication system for parents?
Imagine this scenario: You are a parent of three kids.
One of your child’s teachers uses SchoolMint Hero, another uses a Weebly website, and the last teacher uses a random phone app they found on their own.
In this all-too-common scenario, you are asking that parent to check three different places to know current homework assignments for the family.
I know that each teacher probably has a preference, but if you are serious about making this easy for your parents, your school needs to use just one platform and get everyone on board with it.
11. Do you customize your communication based upon the individual students?
This is a little bit trickier, but some schools overload their parents with a lot of communication that doesn’t apply to their students.
While it is important for all of the eighth graders to know about the upcoming D.C. trip, can you figure out a way to just send that to the parents of the eighth graders? The use of “all school” parent communication can lead to parents tuning stuff out because they don’t think it applies to their own specific child.
Creating segments in your email communication will increase your open rates and make sure the right people are reading your communications.
12. When I call the school, do I get a confusing phone tree or a real person that answers?
As I mentioned before, most millennials don’t want to call the school. But when they do, they want to talk to a real person — immediately.
Does your phone tree make them go through eight different options before they get the selection to talk to a real person? This is a balancing act between having too many phone calls and not enough.
Your parents will love you if you undertake any initiative that improves communication and makes it easy for them.
You should always have a goal of making it as easy as possible to attend your school and ensure that your parents are apprised of updates, information, and school news.
If you make it easy to attend, you will be surprised at how many more people DO attend!