Have you ever watched a pride of lions stalk their prey at a game preserve on National Geographic or in a YouTube clip?
They circle the herd of gazelle or wildebeest. They are ever so patient, but you can tell by the way their bodies twitch that they want to pounce so badly that they can taste it.
Eventually, they charge in. With dinner on their mind, they don’t think about the dangerous situation that they are leaping into.
Though these grazing animals are often a food source for lions and other creatures higher up on the food chain, they are also equipped to defend themselves.
Due to the size of their herds and the chaos surrounding a hunt, lions often find themselves kicked in the head, gored with an antler, or injured in another way before they whimper off in search of a less combative meal.
The lions’ thought process reminds me of the dozens of communication, website, and mobile app companies that I have seen enter the education market in recent years.
- They circle the market assuming an easy road ahead.
- They charge in with big promises and expensive solutions.
- They underestimate the complexity of private schools before making a hasty retreat back to the corporate world.
You and I know that private schools are complex by nature. To thrive, they need to serve a multitude of audiences at a very high level – from students, parents, and teachers to alumni, donors, and board members.
Why is Engagement from All Audience Important for Private Schools?
Engagement is a buzzword that has enveloped the education world. While it can mean different things to different people, it usually refers to the level of interaction, consumption of content, and two-way communication between a school and its target audience.
The mistake that many private school administrations make is positioning engagement as the end goals. Engagement is simply the fuel behind getting your constituencies to take action. For instance…
- Engaged parents know to drop their children off at the North entrance instead of the South parking lot where construction is underway.
- Engaged students attend the free SAT prep seminar being held over the weekend at higher rates than non-engaged students.
- Engaged teachers make your mission their own mission and utilize the range resources that you provide in much higher numbers.
- Engaged alumni are more likely to become regular donors.
- Engaged board members and committees are more informed about their role and makeup of your community.
Increasing engagement means that more people see your messages and do the things that you need done, when you need them done.
The Secrets to Increasing Engagement at Private Schools
Keeping your stakeholder’s informed and engagements is the backbone of your communication strategy. However, it is not always easy.
It is not easy to get the right message in front of the right people at the right time. People are busy and the consumerization of technology means that the burden is on your school to reach people where they are.
Given the complex web of messages and audiences, it is also not easy on your staff to manage your communication and engagement strategy.
Many schools are implementing messaging solutions to make communication more efficient. However, many of these solutions are designs to connect private schools with only one or two groups (i.e. connecting teachers and parents).
The streamlined solutions can be effective for broadcast messages, but they rarely lead to ongoing engagement. Schools that implement simple messaging solutions also end up cobbling together multiple loosely-integrated tools to be able to serve all their audiences.
The following are the three secrets to increasing engagement at your private school.
Secret #1) A Unified Engagement Plan Serves All of Your Audiences (and saves headaches)
Engagement is not a linear game. Your school can’t afford to only keep one or two audiences engaged and let the others find their own information. Engaging each of your audiences – parents, students, volunteers, board members, alumni, etc – is the key to meeting your goals and fulfilling your mission.
In addition to creating a plan to keep all your key audiences engaged, there is no reason that your organization needs to piece together disparate engagement tools to support your plan.
Modern engagement and communication platforms for schools are designed to handle the complexity of a private school community.
Secret #2) Engage People on All Their Devices
Several forces are working against you when you are trying to get people to see, consumer, and interact with your messages.
- Your audiences cannot be reached on a single channel.
- People expect your school to reach them through the devices of their choosing.
If you ignore these dynamics in your community, you run the risk of a large portion of your community missing or ignoring important messages.
When you implement a communication platform that reaches people via emails, web, SMS, and mobile apps, you significantly improve your ability to keep people informed and engaged.
Secret #3) Give Your Team a Single Workflow and Interface
If you are like most private schools, you are constantly trying to do more with less. When you combine the demand for cross-channel engagement opportunities with the complexity of your school’s different audiences and their needs, efficient must be the name of the game.
When you force your staff to learn, manage, and try to integrate multiple communication systems, you’ll quickly run into situations where your current staff is unhappy and can’t handle your multiple communication calendars.
Implementing a unified engagement platform makes sure that your team only needs to be trained on one platform and they can easily engage all of your audiences from a single set of tools.
Bonus Tip: Brush up on modern school communication platforms. Gone are the days of heavy, on-premise servers that you need to hire a developer to configure. The engagement tools that schools use today are easier to use, simple to set up, and won’t break your budget.
Private School Digital Engagement Takeaway
Just as the lions at the top of this article learned about the situation they were jumping into the hard way, avoid school messaging tools that will leave you in a lurch when they realize the complexity of your school ecosystem.
In order to implement a strategic plan to improve engagement at your school, follow these three secrets:
- Create a communication strategy that includes all of your audience.
- Engage on all devices.
- You can execute your engagement plan from a single system.
When your technology is valuable and easy to use for both your staff and your end users, you’ll see a meaningful increase in people responding to your messages and following the actions that you need them to take.