I was one week on the job in school communications, and I was traveling to my first National School Public Relations Association conference in Baltimore, Maryland. The first session I attended that week stood out because of one remark the speaker, a representative from a public school research firm, made during his presentation.
The number one reason parents choose a school for their child is to look competent in front of their friends and other parents. FYI – The number two reason was for the educational success of their child.
As a teenager, reputation is everything—the same thing as a parent.
Life After High School is an Extension of High School
As a brand expert, Jeremy Darlow states in his best-selling book, The Darlow Rules – “Life After High School is simply an extension of high school itself.”
Darlow states that the table you sit at and the group you sit with establishes your social hierarchy position. You are the company you keep. Make the wrong choice as a naive freshman and… well, good luck getting invited to that house party.
The same statement can be said about parents as they navigate parenthood. The school you choose and the parents you associate with establishes your position in the parent social hierarchy. Everyone wants to be accepted deep down, and everyone wants to go to those parties hosted by the popular parents*.
Acceptance and looking cool is evident in our social media timelines. That’s why we post vacation pics and videos of our children doing extraordinary things on Facebook and Instagram. It feels good when we receive likes, and people comment positively on our posts, just like when the star quarterback or the head cheerleader says hi in the hallway. It’s high school all over again.
Making Parents Feel Confident in Their School Choice
So how do you make parents confident that they made the right choice selecting your school to send their child? How do you make them look like the competent parent in front of their friends?
This article will give you nine tactics to increase your schools’ parent confidence, ultimately growing your school district enrollment.
These tactics include:
- Find Your Influencers
- User-Generated Content
- Take Control of Google Reviews
- Word of Mouth Power
- Content Marketing
- Discover Love & Hate
- Developing Engaging Web Content
Here are nine tactics you can use to increase parent confidence and help grow your student enrollment:
1. Find Your Influencers
According to Social Media Examiner, influencer marketing delivers eleven times the return on investment that traditional digital marketing does. Recognize thought leaders in your school district, get them to interact with your brand, and incentivize them to reach parents for you.
“The hard part isn’t finding influencers; the hard part is finding YOUR influencers,” states Darlow.
Just because someone is famous in your community does not mean they are the right fit for your schools. A TikTok famous influencer with 250,000 followers probably will not resonate with your parents. However, a mommy blogger in your city could make a huge impact.
The key to influencers is to find individuals that will engage your audience and be a trusted resource. Influencers might be different for your elementary school parents and your high school parents. Make sure you know your audience.
2. User-Generated Content from Your Audience
User-generated content is all about your audience sharing their love for your schools. UGC can be a post on social media, a glowing review of a teacher, a nice comment in a chatter group, or a smiling picture of their kid at a school event on Instagram.
In his book, Marketing Rebellion, Mark Schaefer says, “UGC is social media’s most significant contribution to the world of marketing.”
His book also gives jaw-dropping statistics about the power of UGC**:
- Social Campaigns that incorporate UGC see a 50 percent lift in engagement
- Ads featuring UGC generate five times greater click-through rates.
- Ninety percent of respondents in a survey said UGC influenced their online purchases.
The best time to encourage UGC is right when a parent enrolls. We know they are happy with your schools because they decided to attend. It is not wrong to encourage UGC. Sometimes your audience needs a push to create content.
3. Take Control of Google Reviews
Did you know that you can claim your schools and school district on Google Reviews and Google Maps? By taking control of these sites for your schools, you can moderate comments and respond to negative reviews, and Google gives you a link to direct positive parents to post quick reviews and ratings.
We all know that many parents make snap judgments against campuses with less than favorable reviews. Ownership of your Google Business gives you the power to help control and monitor harsh reviews. And the more positive reviews you can gain from happy parents, the more your ratings will improve.
You will need a Google or Gmail account to access this feature. Google verifies the account by calling the main number associated with the school. Make sure to give your frontline staff the heads up before you claim your school. They will need to provide you with a unique code from Google they will receive from a phone call.
As you improve your google reviews, you will enhance word of mouth about your schools. Word of mouth can be powerful when building the confidence of your parents or potential parents.
4. The Power of Word of Mouth
Eighty-three percent of purchase decisions are driven by word of mouth from family and friends. Word of Mouth Marketing can be your most effective way to sell your schools and build parents’ confidence. We know that hearing a review or praise from a real person carries much more weight than hearing from a school district.
Schaefer states that ten percent of the population are super sharers that love to talk, and other people love to listen to them. More importantly, when they talk, people listen and take action. When you give them a powerful story about one of your schools, they will make the conversations happen.
The most shareable stories are going to be ones that are authentic and interesting. When your stories come from the mouths of the super spreaders, it is trusted. Your goal is to create stories that are talk triggers.
5. Develop Engaging Storytelling
In her book, Brand Storytelling, Miri Rodriguez states that “stories can be up to 22 times more memorable than other types of information.” Storytelling is crucial in marketing. We hear this quite a bit, but what does it mean? How do we craft authentic, exciting stories about our schools?
“In a story, audiences must always know who the hero is, what the hero wants, who the hero has to defeat to get what they want, what tragic thing will happen if the hero doesn’t win, and what wonderful thing will happen if they do,” says Donald Miller in his book, Building a Story Brand.
You must know your audience and what they want. The story must be based on your audience’s needs and desires, straightforward and easy to understand.
Miller defines story by breaking it down:
- A CHARACTER who wants something encouters a
- PROBLEM before they can get it
- A GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a
- PLAN and
- CALLS THEM TO ACTION
- That action helps them avoid FAILURE
- and ends in SUCCESS
To write your story, you need to know your audience’s wants, figure out what is opposing them to reach their goal, and then paint a clear picture of what the hero’s life looks like when they get what they want.
6. Parent and Student Testimonials
Parents are more likely to believe other parents than the district communication team. Testimonials from your parents and students is a great way to tell your story through your audience’s voices.
Find your happy parents, and don’t be shy about asking them to submit a testimonial. The majority will be excited to contribute.
After you gather these positive quotes, you can place them on your social media, website, videos on your YouTube page, and even on posters in your schools.
Go into testimonials using the advice from Darlow – “People trust people, not companies (school districts).” To sell your schools, you need authentic parents to say they love your schools.
7. Relevant Content Marketing
If you have seen any of my conference presentations, you know I am a fan of content marketing. I feel it is one of the most critical marketing tactics you can do to build trust with your parents.
Content marketing is all about helping your parents with relevant, consistent content. The more you help, the more parents are going to trust you. Parents don’t like to be sold to using advertising. They want their problems solved and their questions answered.
Here is a video that explains Content Marketing in more detail:
8. Discover Your Parents Love and Hate with Your Schools
Decision making by your audience boils down to their love and hate for your brand. Much like your other content, you must know everything about your audience. Knowing your audience includes what they love about your schools and what they hate about your schools.
When you discover what your audience loves and hates, you can create content amplifying what they love and then make content to solve what they hate about your schools. The solving part goes back to developing engaging and educational content marketing.
9. Develop Engaging Web Content
Parents are continually researching schools online. If you do not have web content that is informational and engaging, they will find the information they are looking for in other places. Places that you do not control.
You must take the steps above and integrate them on your social media and your website. You must not forget about your website. Your website is your owned real estate. We do not own the real estate on social media.
Your website is the hub where parents, students, and the community can learn about your district and read beautiful stories about teachers and students. You must have a hub that you can call your own and where your audience can call their own.
Don’t get lost in the rah, rah world of social media. Never forget about your website.
We must build our parents’ confidence and build the confidence of potential parents who are school shopping. Taking the steps above can create winning content that will impress and encourage parents. Give them something to talk about, and they will.
*Cool by Association: ADJ. Achieving a higher social status through association with a popular person. (Urban Dictionary)
**Matthew Hutchingson, Salesforce Marketing Blog