Does your school's online reputation need a boost?
You might be amongst the many schools planning and hosting an open evening for first time in ages and having kittens about it.
It’s not that you’ve forgotten how to deliver a successful open evening; it's just the added pressure of keeping everything 'Covid-safe' in this new and challenging world - or even, as some schools have told us recently, having to cancel your open evening at the last minute and revert (again!) to an online experience. These are testing times, even for the most experienced Business Manager / Communications Manager / Admissions Manager / Headteacher / SLT member.
Open evenings are traditionally an effective way of attracting parents through your doors to showcase your school at its shiniest best.
But the times are a-changing. It’s critical nowadays to manage your reputation and shine online throughout the year, as well as giving parents a great on-site experience.
American reputation management specialists NetReputation define what online reputation in education means:
“Reputation management for schools has become critical as more schools have moved to a digital-first arena… With a better reputation, schools are free to pursue better talent, teachers, grants, and more. But reputation management isn’t easy, especially in the digital world.”
So, let’s take a look at the key places where you can turbo charge your online reputation during admissions season and beyond – your website and your social media channels.
Your school website is your 'shop window' to the world!
You’re naturally going to be proud of sparkling, leading-edge school facilities and/or a proven track record of academic achievement.
And, yes, you’re quite right to shout loudly to prospective students and their parents to draw their attention to your accolades.
Here’s the thing. Modern labs and outstanding exam results are great centrepieces. But they’re not the whole story.
Use your website to really bring your school to life with added dimensions such as:
- The culture of your school and what you stand for.
- What’s unique about your school – physically and/or culturally – that gives it an appealing point of difference from the rest of the pack.
- What attracts great teaching staff to want to work at your school? And what sends parents in to a tailspin to have you offer a place to their child?
- Real life stories of students' success. And remember - this doesn't have to be all about winning prizes. What contributions do your students make to the school community? How do you reward that large majority who go unnoticed but do the right things day in, day out?
There’s more. Is it unrealistic to suggest featuring a virtual tour on your website, for parents who can’t or prefer not to attend an open evening in person? Many school staff are now confident to record videos and presentations. Why not leave them on your website for potential joiners to browse at their leisure?
Are you capturing those leads when people visit your website?
It's all very well having people visit your website but how can you ensure that you stay engaged with parents and students after they have left?
Most websites will have the ability to add some sort of custom form, where you can capture their email address and promise to send them follow-up information. If your website doesn't have this, you could create an account with a website like Mailchimp, and keep your list there. You can even then design follow-up e-bulletins from there.
Of course you don't want to bombard these prospective students and their families with too much information. But a gentle follow-up email with links to your prospectus, or highlighting upcoming events, could be valuable. Or a monthly round-up of what has been happening in your school - so they can really get a flavour of everyday life in your school community.
Are you making the most of social media?
Stephen James, CEO of Social Media for Schools, explained to SecEd:
“Well-managed and active social media platforms are a fantastic window into your school and are an engaging way of celebrating what is going on day-to-day as well as creating a sense of community. Social media accounts can be a “quick-win” in improving your school’s brand as well as an easy way to increase parental engagement.”
The more you can engage with parents – and keep them engaged consistently – the better, right?
All the more reason to ensure your social media activity is tip top during admissions season. Go all in with video clips from a special assembly, a trip to a local place of interest or a high achieving class.
Parents will gravitate towards you when they can see you’re in-step with the ways they communicate on social media in their personal and professional lives.
To be sure you're reaching the right people try using the advertising feature in Facebook. It's simple to use and much cheaper that most other forms of advertising. By using Facebook's targeting tools (such as age group, geographical location, etc) you can be sure to reach the right people.
How can you easily manage your messaging?
It's sometimes hard to remember to differentiate your messaging for your different audiences.
Stephen James adds a firm but fair warning about keeping your school social media social:
“It should not just be a stuffy rehashing of your school newsletter or posts about nits in class R!”
But you're busy people. So how do you manage the different messaging for different audiences without spending all day drafting different messages?
At Weduc, we’re the go-to school website and school communication experts for hundreds of schools and colleges UK-wide. Our integrated communications platform makes life easy for you.
So when you post a photo and a few lines onto our Newsfeed, it can be targeted to the parents of a particular class or year group. But if you want to make it more widely available, you choose the option to share with the whole school community - and there's even the option to share it instantly via your Facebook and Twitter accounts and on our integrated school website! All in just a few clicks!
That's why our mantra is 'smart communications'. We understand that you need to target your messages to the right people via the right channels, with minimal fuss.
We even have scheduling tools for News Posts and Notices, where you can send prompts and reminders in different formats. So, perhaps you have a school play and you want to get parents to buy tickets. You can advertise it widely but also schedule a reminder nearer the time of the show itself.
Or perhaps you have a school trip and only want the teachers on the trip to share photos throughout the day with the parents of the students who are there.
Whatever your preference, we have a solution that will work for you. As we always say, your problems are our problems - and we pride ourselves on finding a smart solution that works for you.
Need help to showcase your school during admissions season and every other day of the year?
Call us today on 01509 221 349. Or click here for one of our representatives to arrange an informal chat and demonstration with you.