Earlier this year, Finalsite partnered with NSPRA to release the 2020 School PR and Communications Benchmark Report. The 25+ page report (released in July) is jam-packed with interesting findings in regards to district size, budget, goals, and initiatives. The survey was completed by 150 NSPRA members from districts of all sizes.
While you should download the full report to dive into all of data, we’re sharing eight of our most interesting findings below.
1. 55% of districts have a one-person communications team.
The good news: you’re not alone.
The bad news: there’s no signs it's going to change.
Communications offices at districts nationwide are severely understaffed — and have been for a while now. From managing upset parents on social media to handling crisis communications, it goes without saying that public school communications professionals are at their maximum capacity. With tightened budgets due to COVID-19 and resources being allocated elsewhere, district communication pros likely won’t have relief in the near future.
And unfortunately, this is an issue not unique to public schools. As a matter of fact, according to the 2020 Private School MarCom Survey Report, about 35% of marketing and communications teams at independent schools are a one-person shop.
2. 82% “feel that it is important for districts to market themselves to recruit new families to move into its community, or open-enroll in its schools.”
Marketing your district hasn’t always been top-of-mind — but it certainly is in 2020 and beyond. As families ditch city living for the suburbs and seek public school alternatives during the COVID-19 outbreak, some districts are needing to prioritize marketing now. But, this shouldn’t just be a band-aid fix. When you couple a decreasing birthrate and increased competition among charters, online schools, private schools, and homeschooling, decreased enrollment is a nationwide issue for all types of schools.
3. 38% have 15+ website authors managing website content.
Hello quality control! Depending what kind of website platform you have in place, that can leave a lot of room for error. While enlisting webmasters and content contributors can certainly help out those small shops, it can also lead to some big issues down the line, like cross-wires in communications, off-brand content, and inconsistencies among school sites.
While that may not seem like a big deal, think about this: it is recommended that a school or district redesign its website about every three years. With 15+ content editors adding content over the course of three years (or more), websites can become unruly. Just ask Wayzata Public Schools, who had to delete 16,000 pages in their last redesign.
If you have numerous content contributors, you’ll want to be sure that you have admin rights/restrictions in place, branding guidelines, and training available. If this is a priority for your district, read our eight “no-fail” tips for training district webmasters (with tips from actual districts) in this blog post.
4. 74% of districts use Instagram.
While it comes as no surprise that most districts are on Facebook (96%) and Twitter (96%), it is surprising that less than 75% of respondents have an Instagram. Keeping students engaged has become top-of-mind for most districts, as they work their way through hybrid or remote learning scenarios — and Instagram is a safe, popular platform to do so.
Plus, the platform really only requires one post per day, and it can be a photo or video with a short caption. So, an active presence here can likely be done in five minutes or less per day.
5. 71% monitor online reviews.
Your community talks — you already know that. And COVID-19 has only made managing the negativity more difficult and painstaking. If your district is monitoring online reviews, great! If not, it’s time to make a habit of keeping an eye on what your community is saying on online review sites on a weekly basis.
6. Social media is #1 for ROI.
Because social media is free, easy-to-use for admins and families, and available to families without at-home Internet access, it’s no surprise it sits at the top of respondents’ lists for best return on investment of time and resources.
But, just because social media offers some benefits at little cost, doesn’t mean it is the best tool for communications. Social media algorithms are constantly in play working to prevent your followers from seeing your content unless you follow their rules to a ‘t’. So, if you’re leaning on social media as your primary school-to-home communication tool, it may be time to re-evaluate your website and other available tools.
7. 52% communicate with parents weekly.
Over-communicating is just as bad as under-communicating. Unless you need to send out emergency notifications, communicating with parents weekly is a best practice. In a virtual world where you are competing with more noise than usual, condensing communications into one, meaningful, weekly newsletter is best. When you give your community too much to look at, they won’t know WHAT to look at!
For a round-up of our favorite email newsletter tips, read 10 Proven Strategies For Amazing District Email Newsletters.
8. 9% aren’t involved in their district’s social media at all.
While nine percent is the minority of respondents, it is still nerve-wracking to think about the kinds of content that’s being produced without any oversight for these handful of districts. And while only 9% aren’t involved with social media at all, a striking number of respondents play a limited role in managing social media content — such as implementing a social media policy or approving posts. (You’ll have to download the full report to get all the details!)
From scrolling through Twitter feeds and negative commentary from upset parents after work hours, to wearing 875 hats (and rocking them), as a school communication pro, you’re never not working. And the amount of work on your plate is clearly the reason why you’re not on every social channel and need help managing your website. Just take a deep breath and remember: it’s okay! And if you’re looking for a helping hand, we’re here for you. Our job is to make your job easier. If you’d like to learn how, schedule a free 15-minute website consultation today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's director of demand generation, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, eBooks, and reports, including Finalsite's Inbound Marketing Benchmark Report.