When your school recruits prospective families and faculty from around the world, you can't just compare your school’s online digital strategy to schools in your local market — that’s far too limiting. Engaging a diverse audience on a global level plays a critical role.
Prospective families and students will be researching your school from across the world, which means your admissions and marketing teams need to make sure your school website and online admissions experience shine on the global stage and help families understand the benefits of an international education, like learning new languages, experiencing different cultures and perspectives, and being a part of a diverse community.
Families are on the move — with flexibility in working remotely, relaxed COVID restrictions, and international events like Brexit, some reports have seen nearly a 16 percent rise in international relocations.
So to help attract prospective families from around the world and make your school stand out on the global stage:
- Make sure families and faculty can find you from anywhere
- Create a world-class experience
- Provide amazing content that allows your school to compete globally
- Continue to nurture families from across the world
1. Ensure prospective families and faculty can find you
Imagine a family that just received a new posting abroad or a teacher who decides to research jobs in another country. Now, put yourself in their shoes. If you Google “international schools” in any number of capital cities, the results don’t always return the results one would expect. You’ll likely be served search results that relate to international schools near you.
Just adding the word “in” to your search can serve up different results.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is complex and needs constant analysis and refinement. From paid advertisements to outranking competitor schools, many with similar names, understanding how SEO works is imperative when you are trying to rank #1 globally.
And, with Google constantly updating its algorithms, you need a strategy to keep your SEO fine-tuned. Best practices include keyword research, adding meta content, and on-page SEO to start. For some small teams, there are just not enough hours in the day to manage SEO, so finding outside help is a good starting point.
2. Create a world-class experience
Now, imagine prospective families and faculty dreaming of living in Paris or Japan, and an amazing educational experience to go with it. They’ll be envisioning the community, the culture, and the benefits of your school, as well as how they see themselves fitting in. Whether they land on your homepage or one of your interior pages, do you make a great first impression with your international school's website, or do you underwhelm and send them racing off to find another school?
Having a modern, engaging, and mobile-friendly website is essential. Design trends are constantly changing — today the average lifespan of a website is under three years. Since you’re competing on the global stage, your website needs to resonate with a very diverse audience with high expectations.
The American School of Paris’ (ASP) award-winning website delivers — both seasoned international families, as well as newcomers, are engaged with this scrolling interactive homepage.
ASP's site has a great user experience and the website design combines imagery and purposeful text that welcomes families. And as users scroll down the page, it's easy to find a variety of elements to dive deeper into discovery.
If you ask most people what makes a great school, it’s the people. ASP succeeds in sharing the stories of its amazing community. It’s a simple, yet very effective way to bring an extra element of personality and life to your international school’s website design.
Alexandra College Dublin’s homepage is a work of art, too. As you scroll down the storytelling is brilliant. The photos and the captions emotionally engage site visitors.
3. Provide content that transcends borders
Boarding schools and international schools attract families and faculty from around the world, many with upward of 60-80 nationalities presented. Providing content that transcends borders and resonates with a diverse audience is crucial.
This is something we often see with school websites — the perspective of the host country casts its influence over the text and imagery. While this might be appropriate for certain schools, if you’re trying to attract families from around the world, incorporating a global outlook is important and you can do that through the imagery, language, and content you select.
The Canadian Academy in Japan’s website takes perspective into account throughout the site. “Discover, Experience and Belong” in the navigation welcomes everyone, describing their school as “international, worldwide, world-class.”
The “exceptional opportunities” show the potential for students to make an impact from a local, national and international perspective, too — a key point that’s also included in their Strength in Diversity statement.
A diverse, international community
For students, parents, and faculty moving abroad, having a welcoming community is important. Frankfurt International School (FIS) captures that family-oriented home concept with calls-to-action for different constituents.
As faculty recruitment becomes more challenging for many international schools, it’s important that your website caters to prospective faculty so they can get to know your school. FIS does a great job with their More Than Just A Job. Both examples show how the school goes the extra length to make families, students, and faculty feel like FIS is their “home away from home.”
Are you creating barriers by only having your website in one language? There are best practices for multilingual websites that aren’t hard to implement, so check this one off the list by making sure your site is translated into the most popular languages in your community.
Google Translate, which can often result in some pretty off-the-wall translations, isn’t enough for many schools. UNIS Hanoi partners with Weglot to offer translation services for their site, automatically providing several language preferences so visitors don’t miss out on what makes them #uniquelyUNIS.
From the very young to those about to graduate, nothing is more authentic than a video of students sharing what they like about your school. Hearing a first-hand account of why they love the faculty, culture, and programs can provide a genuine review of your school and its community, just as The American International School of Abuja did with this touching video on its About page.
Don’t get lost in translation
When trying to engage families outside your country, don’t forget to avoid using terms and language that might be confusing to those outside your own community. While IB, IGCSE, and AP seem obvious to you, to some, this is all just alphabet soup. Helping prospective families understand grade levels and the curriculum goes a long way when breaking down international jargon. Don’t let families get confused here.
St George’s International School Luxembourg’s infographic helps families quickly understand the key stages and ages for each stage.
And in this example, Jerudong International School presents two different pathways to help families and students choose the right path.
4. Continue to nurture families
You’ve come this far with your prospective families, so keep the momentum going. What happens when someone fills out an inquiry form? What happens when these inquiries are submitted after hours, on weekends, or during your school’s long summer holidays? You may think that keeping them waiting is okay, but your competition probably has a different strategy.
With email automation tools, your admissions team can be working 24/7. Finalsite Workflows allow your teams to create automated email campaigns that continuously engage and nurture prospective families. When an inquiry comes in —at any time of day or night — and a beautifully branded email can be sent automatically, it not only acknowledges their interest but includes additional information to further nurture and engage.
It’s a great chance to share your signature travel programs, your academic results, and your stellar faculty — this is your opportunity to share what makes you unique and what makes you proud. We have seen some creative admission workflows that are effective in moving prospective families through the admissions funnel.
With an automatic workflow in place, Baylor School makes sure they're able to nurture prospective students and families with information and answers about boarding life, ensuring that they're keeping the conversation going. Getting started with workflows is easy, so make it a priority for your admissions office. They can increase your productivity and allow your team to focus on more strategic initiatives.
As prospective families from around the world consider your school, present the benefits of attending your international school with engaging and diverse content and a welcoming, inclusive community. Engaging a diverse audience on a global level requires a digital strategy that transcends borders and supports the goals of your international school.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As part of Finalsite's marketing team, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past 11 years while living in both Asia and Europe. She helps schools understand how they can maximize their web presence while partnering with Finalsite. As a parent of three children who graduated from IB World Schools, she has keen insights into the marketing and communication needs of international schools.