With the school year fast approaching (or in some cases already here!), it’s normal for new school website administrators to feel a bit overwhelmed. Faculty and parents are bombarding you with questions about first-day paperwork, event dates, deadlines, new staff procedures, how to access content, and even where to park — all the while you’ve got your own first-day jitters to deal with.
Let’s mitigate some of that confusion and frustration! Here are five tips and easy website updates for school admins to hit the new year running!
1. Take inventory and set a baseline
For every “what” that your new position entails, there’s a corresponding “how.” In a perfect world, your predecessor meticulously laid out all of the tools of the trade and provided detailed instructions for each resource you will be using day-to-day. All you’ll need to do is log in and get going right? Doubtful.
In the likely scenario that nobody left you all of the answers in a neatly-organized document, you’re going to want to take make some time and get a feel for the state of things. Make a list and familiarize yourself with your content management system, email marketing, social media integrations, and any other tool that might be critical in communicating with your school community.
This is a great opportunity for you to get an understanding of what your school’s communication strategy is, and how they’ve gone about accomplishing it to this point. It’s also a time to consider your own goals for the year and make sure you’re equipped to accomplish them. Are you looking to recruit faculty? Or maybe improve your admission and enrollment goals? Whatever challenges your school may be facing, it’s important to know how you’re stacking up.
2. Eliminate the backpack postal service
Maybe a third grader isn’t the most reliable courier for important parent information? School-to-home communication needs to be far more direct and reliable. A communications system will allow you to automate correspondence with your constituents, and improve your messaging as the school year goes on. When we can reach parents directly with clear and concise messaging, it eliminates confusion and contributes to an overall more efficiently running community.
For schools and districts, the likely solution is email newsletters and a mass notification system. Finalsite Messages allows you to track email campaigns and subsequent parent engagement. It displays email engagement analytics in an easily digestible activity log, including important email stats such as open rates and click-through rates. You can even dive in to see exactly who opened or clicked within an email.
This allows you to refine your messaging and see which emails resonate most with parents and garner the most engagement. Additionally, you can see which parents need a follow-up reminder or even a phone call for more important paperwork at the start of the school year.
Messages XR makes it easy to reach your entire community in just one click. When you have an important announcement to make, you can notify your constituents via mobile app, website alerts, emails, texts, phone calls, and even social media. What's even better, is that you can send your message in a number of languages, allowing you to reach an even wider audience.
3. Go mobile-first
Education is now a mobile-first world. Nearly 77% of adults are using phones as their primary means to browse web content. Recently gathered Pew Research data suggests the amount of Americans with lower incomes who rely on their smartphones has doubled since about a decade ago. It’s now a requisite to have all mobile-responsive pages, and taking a user-friendly, mobile-first approach to design is the best practice for school sites.
Schools that take advantage of Finalsite's Mobile App enjoy the convenience of an all-in-one solution for mobile communication. And because parents are always on to go, it’s easier than ever for constituents to get real-time updates for school events and calendar updates.
4. Address your sub-communities
Once upon a time, principals and school administrators sent out a “welcome back to school” letter that was more akin to a state of the union address. It was a sweeping “to whom it may concern” which tried to cover everything at once. In addition to being inefficient, this isn’t really necessary anymore.
As a website admin, it’s in your best interest to get rid of inefficient communication. Let the principals of your school communicate directly to families, students, and teachers with community-specific portals. Families will thank you for the personalized messaging, easy-to-access information, and one-stop-shop of paperless downloads. Plus, you’ll declutter the homepage of your website and be able to highlight digital content that’s more engaging than the weekly lunch menu!
One example of how to effectively provide resources for the beginning of the year comes from The Hotchkiss School which begins the new student journey with a "Welcome to Hotchkiss!" portal page featuring: a guide for new families, downloads to help new students with registration processes, highlights of important dates to remember, and dozens of quick links to other useful resources and pages.
5. Stay active on social media
Even if you have previously managed a Facebook page, or an Instagram or Twitter account, the logistics of social media can be very different as you step into this new role for your school. At its root, social media is quick, easy, and oftentimes preferred by parents as a means of communication. Using it to your advantage is an easy way to keep your website evergreen with fresh content, without having to regularly update the CMS.
One of the bigger upsides of social media is that it lends itself to community engagement. Consider finding individuals within your parent community and faculty who enjoy photography or writing and enlist them to maintain an active social presence.
A great example of this in action is on Crown Point Community School Corporation's homepage. Without having to lift a finger, Finalsite Feeds pulls the latest social content straight to the website, allowing you to shift your focus to other important tasks.
Stepping into any new role can be overwhelming, but start by taking a deep breath and familiarizing yourself with the tools you have at your disposal. Consider how your community will access information and then formulate a communications strategy to put your constituents in the know and prepare them for a smooth transition into the new school year.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.