Charter Pulse

Selected readings on US charter schools

The New Rules for Charter School Marketing in 2013

roiWhere does your charter school stand in the age of smartphones, social media, and digital automation? Are using these technologies to your advantage or letting them fall to the wayside while other charter schools take the lead? An increasing number of charters schools are turning to the latest online tools and seeing great improvements. You, too, can market your charter school online with minimal time and effort. Keep reading to find revamped versions of traditional marketing with modern twists.

OLD RULE #1: Put Up/Hand Out Flyers for Events in Local Businesses

People might see your flyers, but only if they don’t have their faces glued to their smartphones. This traditional tactic takes lots of time, paper, foot travel and cooperation with local businesses.

NOW: Promote Events Online and Allow Families to Sign Up on Your Website

Host open houses, information nights and events that will get families to know your school. You can post event registration calendars right on your website. Registrants are now official inquiries and their contact details like name, grade, email address, etc. can be used for future email marketing.

To promote the events online, use your existing digital media channels like email, website, blogging, online advertising or social media. Create a contest on Facebook and you will really get the word going!

OLD RULE #2: Send Out Newsletters in the Mail

Newsletters are great, but their content is often dated, and they only offer one-way communication. You also have to print multiples copies, fold the newsletters and stuff each envelope by hand. And, as stamps approach $.50 cents, you end spending hundreds of dollars for one simple newsletter.

NOW: Blogging and Guest Posts from Students

Blogging offers numerous benefits for schools. It is almost shocking to believe it is still free. If you create a few blog posts a week, you have already done three things to increase the likelihood of your school’s success. First, you have created an abundance of useful content that people online can find when searching for your school. This content will help increase your search engine ranking and number of visitors to your site. Secondly, it will increase the number of inquiries you receive when you include an online contact form. Finally, it will help build relationships with families and encourage two-way communication while creating an interactive community.

OLD RULE #3: Traditional Open House

You know the drill. Send out open house mailers. Get some cookies, pretzels, lemonade and you’re good to go. Well, maybe it isn’t that bad, but wouldn’t it be nice if your open house had a little more oomph?

NOW: Interactive Open House

With bulk communication tools, you no longer need to send out those pesky mailers. You can now send out email e-vites that allow families to RSVP online. Instead of headcount guesswork, you can now get a realistic idea of how many attendees there will be and be better prepared.

How many times have you gone to the doctor and wanted to ask something but forget the moment they arrived? Well, parents do the exact same thing at open houses. To solve this problem, inform parents that you are opening up your social channels (twitter, facebook, or even email) up to open-house questions.

The questions and answers can be compiled into a brochure distributed at the event or answered by the most appropriate staff member, and then be made available online post-event as a repurposed blog post. This will give your staff great insight into what is important to your applicants. It can also be a great asset when coming up with future messaging.

Also, if for whatever reason, a family is unable to attend your open house, have a videographer film the event and include candid interviews with the staff to create an “online open house.” This gives everyone an equal chance to experience your open house in spite of conflicting schedules and may just make the difference between a parent choosing your school vs. another.

If you are looking to further improve your next interactive open house, collect email addresses and send out a digital survey after the event to incorporate parent feedback.

OLD RULE #4: Hopeful Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is perhaps the granddaddy of all unpaid marketing tactics, however, it is usually beyond your control. Furthermore, you can’t always accurately or easily measure word of mouth campaigns.

NOW: Create Digital School Ambassadors

Who is most passionate about your school besides your students and parents? Hopefully your teachers and staff. Try creating your own digital ambassador program and get your staff involved. School staff can voluntarily join and post messages and blog posts (within the set guidelines) on behalf of the school. To make things exciting and create incentive, offer monthly prizes for participants. Many corporations already successfully use this technique. Your teachers already have a great network, so why not work together to pioneer your schools online presence?

OLD RULE #5: Gather Required Data and Put it in a Filing Cabinet

Print out standard forms. Get standard information. If data analysis means data entry, there is no way you have the time or resources.

NOW: Automate & Analyze

Using the latest charter school admissions and registration software, schools can automatically gather the exact information they want without having to print dozens of custom forms. The beauty behind this software is that it easily allows admissions professionals to create online dynamic forms, on-the-fly. That means forms are unique and adapt in real-time to the student and their unique situation.

Once you have decided what information is important for your marketing campaigns, you can then organize and analyze it without having to be a database expert or I.T. guru. For example: filter the data by zip-code to uncover if there are geographic hot-spots or untapped markets. If you notice there seems to be a lack of interest in a certain neighborhood, you can easily work to target that specific zip code in the future. This is just one example, but once you are able to visualize your own student data, it will be that much simpler to identify new marketing opportunities.

OLD RULE #6: Send out a Press Release

Press releases, while still used, are outdated and are no longer the primary source for news stories. The publishing industry happens in real-time now, and every journalist is in a race to be the first to uncover the latest story.

NOW: Build Relationships Online and be Bold for Free Viral Coverage

If a picture is worth a thousand words, what about a viral video? If you work in a charter school, there is no doubt that you have plenty of inspirational, smart and funny students. Is your science department trying something crazy for the science fair? Have your students started their own non-profit? Document it on film! People love watching kids do amazing things. These types of videos make people smile and inspire hope.

Start using your twitter and facebook accounts to build relationships with local news anchors and bloggers. Try to not be spammy but instead have sincere conversations with them and work to build trust. When you publish your stories and videos, they will be sure to notice.

OLD RULE #7: Send a Single Yearly Correspondence to Everyone Using Snail Mail

Time to wet your tongue because it’s mailing season. The monotonous printing, folding, licking, stuffing and stamping really makes you feel like a robot after 30 minutes.

NOW: Create and Send Personalized Email Campaigns Once a Season

Instead of putting all your eggs in one basket, why not diversify your communication efforts while making them more timely and relevant? Using charter school registration tools you can sort your email contacts by any parameter of your choosing and create custom mass-email campaigns with only a few clicks.

Segment your email list by grade-level, expressed interest (i.e. theatre, soccer, chess), zip-code, or by current step in the applicant process and create a personal message for each segment. Include a YouTube video to make things even more fun and interactive. These personal emails are sure to create a lasting impression with parents and enjoy much higher response rates than traditional mailers.

Source: SchoolAdminInsights – by Jeff Callahan

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This entry was posted on April 17, 2013 by in Charter Schools, NATIONWIDE and tagged .

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