[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ admin_label=”section” _builder_version=”3.22″][et_pb_row admin_label=”row” _builder_version=”3.25″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.25″ custom_padding=”|||” custom_padding__hover=”|||”][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text” _builder_version=”4.6.5″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat” hover_enabled=”0″ sticky_enabled=”0″]
Your communications strategy isn’t just about celebrating success, or attracting new pupils (although both are important). It’s also a chance to take part in your local community, share insights and thought-leadership within the sector, influence policy and define what’s unique about your institution.
A good comms presence also helps recruit teachers and staff, promoting a sense of pride about being a part of a forward-thinking organisation endorsed by colleagues, press and parents.
But there’s an ever-expanding array of communications channels available to schools, and often an ever-decreasing resource available for teaching and admin staff to make the best of them. So, which to prioritise?
Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for parents? LinkedIn, local or national press for profile? TikTok, Snapchat, YouTube for students? Who’s doing the newsletter this week? What about next year’s intake, have we reached far and wide enough? Who’s putting out the story about winning the netball league, or creating an ad for a new Head of Geography? All this, while trying to deliver blended learning, manage after-school clubs, parent’s evenings, PTA meetings, changing exam conditions and more?
There’s no doubt that the headteacher is a crucial ambassador for any school. Your communications policy should consider how to promote your headteacher’s skills, achievements and approach to education. Communications are also a good way to give back, with headteachers using their experience and insights to contribute to the wider education community.
Newsletters are of paramount importance to you, and what we call in the business ‘owned media’. That means that every single person on your email list has signed up to hear from you, and you are in complete control of the messaging. Often unfairly seen as the ‘poor relation’ of digital comms, if you only do one thing, do this!
Newsletters are obviously a good tool for imparting important information about events, achievements, and notable dates, but it’s also a way of communicating and reinforcing your school’s key messages. If you’re taking the time to create a school blog, or share educational insights with the press at large, make sure you draw attention to these in your newsletter.
Content is digital-speak for long-form blogs, articles or features that appear on your website. Rule number one is not to use these simply to promote the school. They are far more valuable when you give away your knowledge to the wider community, including other educators, parents and interested parties. Themes might include the latest thinking on digital technology in education, pastoral care issues, advice on screen time, or any of the myriad issues that face the education sector in 2021.
By giving away your knowledge, you will engage your audience and begin to establish your school as a thought-leader within your sector. As well as being a profile-raising exercise, written content is a big driver of traffic to your website. Once you have your content strategy in place, you can use it to enrich your social media feed with content that is unique to you.
Press can be hugely influential for parents who are looking to choose a school. From Schools Guides to community issues in the local press, a good media relations programme will communicate your key messages and seek to define for their readers what is unique about your school.
Positive news stories locally help to foster good community relations and nationally can influence policy, as well as spotlighting forward-thinking headteachers. Developing relationships with key journalists can feel like a full-time job, with potential pitfalls along the way, but get it right and you will increase your influence within the sector, engage with current and potential parents, and attract top teaching, technical and admin staff.
Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are all good channels for schools. As a rule, Facebook has an older, female bias, so is great for talking to parents and even grandparents, while Instagram is an easy win to populate if you have a photogenic school.
Twitter tends to have a more male bias and is good for sector conversations, as well as quick updates for the school community. If you have the capacity to produce and edit films, then YouTube really helps provide a window into the personality of your school, from staff, to pupils to the facilities and extra-curricular activities you offer.
Paid advertising can work well on social media too. It’s highly targeted and cost effective, as long as you set your objectives correctly. Best practice dictates that you ‘AB’ test your advertising to work out the best combination of words and pictures for you; that is, creating two different ads and tracking them to see which audiences find the most engaging.
Of course, there is a negative side to social media, with effects on young people well documented. As an essential part of safeguarding, most schools have made it their business to inform themselves of how these different channels operate. TikTok is the latest channel to come under scrutiny and while we wouldn’t necessarily suggest adding this to your school communications strategy, it’s important to stay ahead of trends.
For time-poor teachers and staff who may not engage with social media personally, it could be worth looking at regular seminars with outside social media experts.
Educators have had an incredibly difficult year, and anything beyond the most essential communications can end up at the bottom of the list. This is where a blend of in-house and outside help can really make a difference, prioritising which communications channels are the most important to you in order to continue to build admissions, influence and community relations.