Here are some tips to build and maintain a parent ambassador program for your school.
One of the most powerful marketing tools your school has at its disposal is the powerful, positive voices of your current parents.
Positive stories in local media, great reviews online, impressive test scores, and national recognition all demonstrate your excellence, but there’s nothing as powerful to a prospective parent as the personal experience of another parent.
Great parent ambassadors can help you tell the story of your school and bring in new families. Keep reading for some tips to create and maintain a successful parent ambassador program.
What Is a Parent Ambassador?
A parent ambassador is a parent or adult who has a child at your school who helps you spread the word about your school to their friends, neighbors, and community.
However, these parents are more than just your biggest fans.
An effective parent ambassador is trained, focused, and works in coordination with your school as a part of an intentional marketing strategy.
Think of your parent ambassadors as your boots-on-the-ground marketing team. They are out in the community — at the soccer games, the swim meets, the grocery stores, the local park or playground — talking to other parents about their experience in your school.
And while the personal touch, the authentic nature, of what they are saying is essential to the effectiveness of your program, it’s even more important that they are all working together to tell the same story about your school.
What Story Should Your Parent Ambassadors Tell?
When you decide to launch a parent ambassador program, an important first step is to decide what story you want to tell.
- Are you a STEM school?
- Do you have a project-based curriculum?
- Does your sustainable garden provide students the chance to work with their hands while learning about the earth?
- Do your graduates excel at the next level?
Whatever your story is, you need to know it, live it, and arm your parent ambassadors with it. If your message is told consistently, it has a much better chance of being remembered.
Remember, you don’t just want your parent ambassadors to just say your school is great.
You want them to be able to wow prospective families by demonstrating why your school is great with the unique story of your school.
How to Choose the Right Parent Ambassadors
Your parent ambassador program is only as effective as the ambassadors you choose.
Some factors to consider when choosing parents to help tell your story:
- Select parent ambassadors who can speak to the experience at each point of entry. If you tend to enroll preschoolers, first graders, or ninth graders, choose parents who came to your school in those grades. And did so recently.
- Choose happy parents. This may seem obvious, but you don’t want a parent with an ax to grind spreading their gripes on your behalf.
- Find parents who are active outside your school community. They can reach parents who don’t already know all about you.
- Outgoing and available parents are ideal. Parents who are too busy or who aren’t comfortable talking to others will not be able to attend events and help out.
At this point in the process, you should also identify one or two lead parent ambassadors who you can communicate with and through. They can help lead this effort while you are tending to the other important parts of running your school.
Advertise Your Parent Ambassador Program to Your School Community
While you definitely have some ideas about which parents would make great ambassadors, there are likely many parents who would love to help sing your school’s praises.
Before launching your program, let your school community know what the parent ambassador program is, what the goals of the program are, and how they can become involved.
The last thing you want is for an excited and motivated parent to be turned off because they weren’t offered the chance to help.
Host a Parent Ambassador Program Kickoff Meeting
A parent ambassador program is an exciting initiative! It’s one that gives parents the chance to help their school and share something they are passionate about. It deserves a lively and impactful start.
Your parent ambassador program kick-off meeting should be filled with all of the information your ambassadors are going to need to be successful and the energy you want them to take with them when they leave.
Your best ambassadors are informed and excited.
Parent Ambassador Training
There are many ways parent ambassadors can help you market your school:
- Talking directly to friends with school-age children about your school
- Posting school news on their social media as well as local pages, forums, and parent groups
- Reaching out to feeder schools, realtors, or daycare centers
- Staffing tables at local school fairs
- Leading school tours during open houses
However, even though your parent ambassadors are all well-intentioned, you need to ensure they are representing your school in the right way.
Make sure every parent ambassador understands the story of your school that you want them to tell. They don’t need to memorize a script word for word, but they should be able to highlight the key value propositions that you worked so hard to create.
As such, it’s best to narrow the scope of your parent ambassador program to a few specific actions you’d like your ambassadors to take, give them goals for these actions, and train them how you’d like things done.
These are volunteers — not necessarily marketing professionals — and volunteers without direction can do more harm than good. Take the time to give them the tools and training they need so they can give you the help you need.
Also, make sure parent ambassadors understand it’s okay to respond to questions with “I don’t know.”
If they come across a question they’re unfamiliar with, have them say that they’ll find out the answer and follow up later. Then have either the parent ambassadors or a member of the administration get back to the questioner with the answer within 24 hours.
Prospective families will appreciate the personal attention of a follow-up call much more than an immediate but unhelpful answer.
Connect with Your Parent Ambassadors Frequently
Parent ambassador programs require ongoing care. They are not perpetual motion machines or an “As Seen on TV” rotisserie chicken cooker. You can’t just set it and forget it.
Once you’ve kicked off your program and trained your ambassadors, take time to touch base with them regularly.
These conversations help them feel appreciated, keep them engaged, and keep you connected to the challenges and successes they are experiencing.
Keep Parent Ambassadors Up to Date About Issues and Initiatives in Your School
As the school year progresses, keep your parent ambassadors “in the know” about what’s happening in your school community.
Whether you’re doing something exciting (like launching a new math program) or handling an unexpected expense (like replacing a boiler), or dealing with a difficult issue (like bullying), your ambassadors can help you spread your message and explain to current parents “the why” of your decision.
A group of parents trained and capable of sharing your message, properly informed, can be invaluable in helping you celebrate the successes and manage the difficulties.
Build Your Parent Ambassador Pipeline
Your parent ambassador program, just as with any volunteer operation, can only be helpful to you in the long-term if you take the time to develop the next wave of volunteers.
Here are some tips:
- Provide frequent updates to the school community about the efforts and successes of your current ambassadors.
- Talk to new parents as they become more familiar with your school.
- Identify which current ambassadors will be moving on or stepping back in the next school year.
This can help you develop next year’s parent ambassadors and ensure that the program continues to grow and help tell your school’s story.
For more advice on engaging families and students in your school or district’s marketing efforts, check out all of our school marketing–related articles here.
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