You know what they say—communication is key—and that rings true about how schools deliver information to prospective families during admissions season and beyond.
Developing a communication strategy outlines items like brand voice, key messages, and communication channels and determines how they will be delivered to your target audience. It coincides with your marketing plan to create the messaging that is used in marketing campaigns throughout the year.
Read on to learn what to incorporate into your communication strategy to ensure that your school’s communication makes an impact.
Find the right focus
Oftentimes when producing communications content, it can be easy to fall into the trap of only focusing on “us,” and what your school offers; instead, you want to focus on prospective families and how you can meet their needs. One easy way to do this is to explain how your school benefits their student(s) and family. For example, you may have an award-winning curriculum—but how does it benefit the student and families? You could speak about your student success rate and how many of your students go on to attend prestigious post-secondary schools. The latter makes it clear that it’s not just about what you bring to the table, but rather, how you contribute to meeting a student’s or family’s goal.
Families receive a lot of communication daily. You want your school’s communication to stand out, and you can do that by providing value. Communication that provides value is focused on educating, entertaining, or inspiring your audience rather than making a big ask right away—in other words, it nurtures the relationship!
To start, think about how you can best serve your family’s needs. Here are a few questions to consider:
- What pain points do prospective families run into when searching and comparing schools?
- What topics are most important to families considering your school (Options to take college-level courses? Flexible financial aid choices? Opportunities to volunteer?)
- What are the most common questions you get from prospective families?
If you have trouble coming up with the answers, you can also turn these questions into a survey for existing families about why they chose your school. Then, convert these answers into content that resonates:
- Show families how your school can solve their pain points. For example, are families running into a lengthy and complicated application process at several schools in the area? Make sure your communication materials show them how easy it is to manage the entire application process at your school.
- Create communication pieces that cover the topics families care about most in a variety of formats. Websites, emails, and social media are the most popular K-12 communication tools—but don’t be afraid to experiment with a variety of channels.
- Turn the most common questions into your website’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) page.
Read online reviews, forums, and posts
Another great way to gather insight is to monitor online reviews, forums, and social media posts to see what current families are saying and what prospective families are asking. This is especially helpful because oftentimes, families will look to their peers as part of the decision-making process. Another benefit of this method is that the commentary is largely unfiltered—families are likely to be more transparent about what draws them to your school or what may be holding them back from applying. If you can align your communications plan to amplify the positive commentary and address any concerns, you are well on your way to creating effective communication that speaks directly to your audience!
Bonus tip: Did you know that existing families can be a part of your admissions marketing and communications plan? They are a trusted resource, and they chose your school for a reason—why not channel their input into speaking with other families? From an ambassador program to social media sharing, learn how to get them involved.
Measuring Effective Messaging
How do you know if your communication is resonating with your target audience?
First, you can measure reach and engagement. These will vary by platform. For social media, you can track reach by how many impressions each post receives; for engagement, you can track how many likes, comments, and shares each post receives. Whereas with email, you will look at your open rate and click-through rates—a high open rate indicates an engaging subject line, and a high click-through rate tells you they find the content you are sharing interesting and valuable. Learn more about tracking for various channels in our admissions marketing guide.
These metrics can help you decide if you want to try a new method of communication. Again, you could consider surveying existing families about what channels they prefer or would like to see used.
One helpful tip is to note what format styles work well and replicate them. For example, say you create a blog post about how to apply at your school, and over time, you notice that it is a high-traffic page on your website and receives a lot of engagement on social media. You can use that insight to develop more “how to” posts in the future.
If there is a channel or format that is not performing well, don’t be afraid to try something new. Experimentation is key and what works or doesn’t work will fluctuate based on generational differences, technology trends, and current events.
A Free Resource for Planning Marketing and Communications
Take your communication strategy a step further and incorporate it into your admissions marketing plan. Need help? We have an interactive admissions marketing guide to help you start planning. Learn more about setting goals, tracking progress, and more by downloading the guide.
If you need help streamlining your communication efforts in time for admissions season, get in touch with our team to learn how we can help. We aim to streamline the entire admissions process, so families and staff can focus on connecting and finding the right fit.