Most private schools across Iowa are in the same boat. Too few employees, one or two administrators, and few resources left for dedicated marketing, community outreach, and advertising. In general, our ability to deliver an amazing education on a fraction of the budget our public school counterparts work with is one of our selling points. The flip side of that coin is that doing more with less is difficult and requires a level of creativity that can be exhausting.
There are some simple things that can be done to improve your school’s footprint in the community. By simple, we don’t necessarily mean easy. Even some of the simplest things are often hard to execute with consistency and quality. However, if we want to advance the cause of Christian education, reach as many children as possible, and market our schools effectively; here are five things we should all be doing:
1. Create a respectable website.
It’s not hard to have a website but it takes some investment of time and/or money to have a good one. When a new parent begins thinking about what to do for school as their kid enters the preschool years, what do we think they do? They search online for schools and education options nearby. If our website doesn’t project quality and good design, we can’t expect those parents to believe we somehow do everything else they care about with excellence. Hire it out or make it a competition for your high school art/computer class and have a vote for the best design. Ask a local college to make your website their graphic design project. Whatever it takes to make something you are proud of and gets your school compliments – do it! A simple, well-designed website can last many years and project a quality brand, whereas a poor website will act as an enrollment anchor.
2. Consistent, intentional social media.
It used to be your school was really cool if you grasped the rules of social media and had a respectable number of followers. That is now a basic expectation. If you don’t have a functioning Facebook page and Twitter account, you don’t look like a viable option that is going to prepare a child for the realities of today, let alone the challenges of tomorrow.
If your school’s Facebook page is a personal profile instead of an organizational page or there have been zero tweets about the latest goings-on, prospective student open houses, sports results, photos of your arts and music performances, etc in more than 48 hours; you are doing it wrong.
Make sure your page likes your sister-schools and IACS, follows them on twitter, and make sure your school is posting regular and meaningful posts about relevant events and issues daily. Administrators need to relinquish some control and a staffer or two need to be trusted and expected to get this done. Facebook is constantly changing how it delivers posts on users’ news feeds and puts more and more of the burden on organizations (Pages) to have compelling, creative content. It isn’t enough to just have it and post something once a month.
3. Invite local officials to…everything.
Your State Representative, Senator, Mayor, and city councilmen should be invited to your holiday programs, graduations, etc. Everything. Invite them in for a tour, answer their questions, know a little about where they stand ahead of time and ask them for support on issues you think they can get behind. Not a school choice supporter? That’s OK. Can you help us with transportation and textbook appropriations?
Your willingness to reach out not only speaks volumes to policy makers on the hospitality and quality of your school but their occasional presence at your school tells prospective parents that you are community-minded, engaged in culture, and offer unique opportunities for their kids to rub shoulders others in addition to teachers.
4. Engage in IACS.
IACS is the public policy voice and the primary inter-denominational and statewide networking organization for Iowa’s protestant, Christ-centered schools. As we grow and add even more value to your schools, we need you to participate through your yearly dues, engagement online, forwarding IACS communications to your constituents, hosting IACS events, sharing resources on our members-only forum, etc.
What can IACS do to help your school? Let us know. What can you do through IACS to benefit other schools? Let us know!
We are always looking for articles to include on our website and/or newsletter. Have some advice, a great story, or insight on best practices? As a member school, we’d love to have you submit an article for consideration!
5. Focus on things prospective students/parents needs to hear.
It’s easy to get stuck on the things we like about our schools and the same historically used talking points. Resist the temptation to reach out in a particular way because that’s how you’ve always sold your school to new parents. What are the realities in your prospective parents’ lives? What makes you different than their other choices? What are the mom’s in your area worried about or hopeful for? How do you offer them value that more than makes up for the tuition payments? How can your school make those tuition payments easier to swallow? Put yourself in their shoes. Get to know your current parents well enough to know what keeps them excited about your school. Don’t be shy about the Biblical values and your ability to educate the whole child. Don’t be reticent to brag about your teachers and students’ achievements. Above all, ask yourself this before you ever advertise your school in public: what does the average new parent or public school mom want to hear to consider us as their kids’ school?
IACS schools are the best in Iowa. We outperform our public school counterparts despite similar levels of diversity and far fewer resources. We have the ability to address the physical, spiritual, and academic potential of each child that walks through our doors. Our parents have extremely high satisfaction rates and our results are second-to-none. Let’s focus on empowering our faculty and staff to understand our distinctives and get the word out in the community in the most effective ways possible. There are lots of kids out there that deserve the education we can provide. Let’s not fail them by not effectively putting ourselves in front of them and their parents early on.
Delegate. Communicate. Succeed.