As staff shortages deepen across the country and the workloads increase, more school marketers feel overworked, stressed, and demoralized in a profession that demands high spirits, energy, and perseverance. Unsurprisingly, a recent report found that educators were more than likely to report higher levels of anxiety, stress, and burnout during the COVID-19 pandemic.
That might not come as a big surprise, but teacher job satisfaction recently hit an all-time low, with more than half of teachers saying they wouldn’t advise their younger self to pursue a career in education. Ouch…
Small teams facing big challenges with limited resources and high demands leave many school marketers wearing too many hats. Marketing, communications, social media, PR, photography, design, website maintenance, bus duty … When we try to do everything, we can’t do anything. Burnout impacts your work, and that can trickle down to student experience and family satisfaction.
What is “quiet quitting?” Can I do that?
You may have heard about this trend of "quiet quitting," which actually doesn't involve quitting at all. Rather, it's more about doing what your job requires, but not going above and beyond and risking burnout. It means clocking out at five, turning off email, and regaining your life/work balance — easier said than done when you're getting pinned for last-minute emails and needing to respond to the latest tweet.
Instead, here are some more effective responses to avoid burnout, boost employee satisfaction, and get yourself back in the game so your school marketing strategies can thrive.
Learn how to say “no” to last-minute requests
Prioritizing the work that’s necessary for daily operations is a given, but learning how to politely say “no” is a skill of its own. Too often, we’re sidetracked by last minute-requests, the email that “needs” to go now, or the photo request that’s been on the calendar for weeks, but you were never told about. Saying “yes” to everything results in many of us spending our precious time trying to figure out how to be in two (or three) places at once.
Say it with me: “Your failure to plan does not constitute an emergency for me.”
Occasionally saying “no, not right now” must be OK. School marketers need to learn how to prioritize and focus on what makes the biggest impact — creating a system for project requests can help alleviate some of these 11th-hour emergencies. Requests for special projects, photoshoots, emails, digital advertising, development appeals — you name it — should be formally submitted well in advance to allow for planning, review, printing, mailing, etc.
Requests should clearly indicate the timeline, budget, scope of the project, and most importantly — the value and purpose behind the request — how will it help advance the school and students?
Hill School in Pottstown, PA, created an online project request form and an event request form that’s submitted to the office of strategy management. It gathers important details about the project’s goals to determine whether or not they’re actually able to take on the project and deliver a high-quality product. What’s especially helpful is including a form field for the date they are submitting the request and a deadline for the project. That realization can help curb expectations and set more realistic timelines (“Wait, I can’t have this designed, printed, and mailed by tomorrow?”)
Creating a formal process for project and event requests can help quell the rapid-fire of last-minute demands and as a result, help educate your colleagues on the actual amount of planning and resources it takes to do a job right.
Create a content calendar
Strategizing and planning your content ahead of time is a “must” for avoiding burnout. Without planning, creating content is like laying the tracks down right ahead of the train.
Creating quality content for your school’s website can mean a variety of different topics and styles, anything from blog posts and news articles, to social media posts or alumni profiles. Photographing campus events, gathering testimonials, and publishing weekly newsletters — it’s all about what will keep your current and new audiences engaged, interested, and entertained. It drives the story you’re sharing about your school.
To help streamline your school news, focus on these four avenues for content:
- Upcoming Events: Speakers, sporting events, meetings, etc.
- Summarize Past Events: Recap past events, highlighting key points and takeaways. Use the end of the week, month, season, semester, or year to highlight your achievements in your academic programs and beyond.
- Local and National News: What’s happening in the world around your school and how does it affect your audience? How is your campus responding?
- Reoccurring Content: Use this area to showcase a person in your school community on a weekly or monthly basis (Student of the Week, Athlete of the Week, etc.)
Creating content as frequently as possible demands a lot and again, planning in advance and keeping clear lines of communication open with your admissions, development, alumni, and parent organizations will save you time and energy in the long run.
Work backward from knowing when you want your content published, and then work with your team to assign coverage, editing, designing, printing, etc. A project management tool like Asana can help keep things organized and timed with the academic calendar or the busy admissions and appeal seasons.
Save time and “create once, publish everywhere”
There’s so much to do and so little time. If you’re updating your website site on regular bases, that can take up a good portion of your day.
If your website provider offers modules with Create Once, Publish Everywhere (C.O.P.E.) functionality, take advantage of only having to make changes or add content once, and having it reflected sitewide.
Design elements like navigation, embedded content, the search functionality for your site, and bringing in imagery — The ability to copy/paste content blocks, and create shared elements to repurpose are standard with Finalsite’s content management system, Composer. It’s a huge time-saver and can help showcase some really outstanding content, especially if that content is being used again and again across pages.
St. Andrew’s School in Delaware applies this concept to create content once, and then reuse it through its site. After writing a campus news story that features a specific student, the school can tag it appropriately as a student highlight AND a news update, and then automatically have that story be included in its campus news section, and have it appear as a student spotlight feature. That content can also be dynamically pulled into a newsletter to include in a weekly roundup.
When you select an easy-to-use content management system, even your non-tech-savvy website admins will feel confident and ready to hop on board. This type of software often helps remove room for error and minimizes the amount of training required for admins. That gives back some precious time for yourself.
Prioritize your mental health
Putting the “me” before the “we” can feel contradictory to the spirit of education — working at a school is often about putting students and families first. But you can’t pour from an empty cup, so by reinvesting time and energy to build back our emotional health, you’ll be better able to serve your school community.
Take smaller breaks throughout the day
A large amount of stress requires large amounts of stress relief, so before too much pressure builds, find ways throughout the day to alleviate some of that mounting anxiety. Stretch, breathe, meditate, take a break from your computer and get outside or raid the faculty lounge for coffee (#guilty) ... Taking smaller, multiple breaks throughout the day can help us release tension before it becomes a bigger problem.
Use your personal time off
At one point or another, we’ve all been told about the importance of taking time off from work, and while vacation time and personal days are beneficial, more than half of U.S. workers don’t use all their paid time off. Making PTO a priority is easier said than done, so schedule your vacations and long weekends and plan your work ahead so you can truly unplug while you're away from campus. Don’t feel bad about using PTO — that's what it’s there for.
Mountain Education Charter High School presents a staff and student wellness area on its website, which offers a selection of employee fitness discounts, and a video library of strategies for reducing stress and tapping into the power of a positive mindset, among other resources. It’s an example of highlighting the ways your school supports its staff with mindfulness and mental health. Nicely done!
Create a social media calendar and pre-schedule content
Keeping an active presence on social media can sometimes result in a frantic effort to find something —anything — to share. But just like your content calendar, planning ahead and creating a social calendar empowers your school to increase your social media engagement, make all of your departments happy, and keep your community in the loop, all the while playing to the algorithms that have the biggest impact on your organic reach.
Setting time ahead in advance to plan a social calendar allows you to:
- Maintain engagement with consistent posts
- Offer diverse content across all networks to engage all audiences
- Be selective about what your community wants to engage with
- Optimize your content based on each network’s algorithms
One of the most common pitfalls of your social media strategy is believing you must post on every channel daily, which can be a huge commitment. If your team or bandwidth is stretched thin, start small with Instagram, which offers the most reach to get in front of both parents and students. Then expand to Twitter, LinkedIn, and maybe even TikTok if it’s appropriate.
Setting aside a morning every week to pre-schedule content across channels gives you a holistic view of your strategy and can help fill in the gaps. Furthermore, if you’re making use of Finalsite Feeds for social media integration, you’ll be able to pull in your posts directly onto your school’s website, helping keep those key pages fresh with the latest content.
Still don't know what to post? Check out our latest social media calendar for schools and find all the inspiration you need to keep the likes and shares coming.
Find an intern or volunteers
You might not even know it, but extra help might be right around the corner. Onboarding an intern to assist with some of the more mundane (yet important) tasks can bring a little welcomed relief. Sometimes a parent volunteer who might be looking for additional ways to get involved can be the answer to a jam-packed schedule.
Sometimes an extra set of hands might be just what you need.
- Work with the art department to find a student who knows their way around a camera to assist with those home games.
- Meet with the parent’s association and see if there’s an opportunity to create a communications liaison position to assist with compiling school-home communications.
- Is there an alum who could take point on the messaging of your upcoming reunion? Connect with your alumni or development office and see if there’s a recent graduate who’s looking for some real-world experience.
The internship program at the Nueva School aims to place students in a variety of fields for some great experience, but the school’s Nueva Technology Internship specifically engages current students to fill critical roles within the technology department. The team of interns is charged with setting up and preparing some 850 laptops before they’re redistributed to students and staff at the start of the new academic year — a critical task that can only be imagined with the help of some dedicated and knowledgeable students.
Know when to ask for help
If it feels like you’ve exhausted all the resources at your disposal, asking for assistance from an outside consultant and finding a strategic partner can bring a different support system. The key is finding someone who truly understands schools and with the right access to the tools to make a difference.
With limited resources and feeling a bit overwhelmed with so much to do, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Day School recently partnered with Finalsite Advantage to assist with its new website redesign and overhaul its communication plans, essentially rebuilding its marketing and communication strategy from the ground up.
“We were really impressed by what we were able to do in such a short amount of time,” said Karolina Canning, director of communications & marketing. “We kept going with other communication marketing initiatives while redesigning the website. Advantage helped us stay on top of our website deadlines while we were working on different internal communications plans.”
Avoiding burnout requires the foresight to take time for yourself, find smarter ways of working, and knowing when to ask for help if needed. Before the stress of busy schedules and demanding expectations take hold, marketing and communications staff owe it to themselves and their work environment to take the necessary steps to prioritize mental health and stay motivated.
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.