Oftentimes getting more inquiries, applicants, and enrolled families comes down to one thing: communication.
You’re focused on the goal, and you’re trying to keep your eye on the prize, but keeping up with so many students and different stages of the admissions process can be complicated and tedious. What if there was a way for you to keep up with all of your families in a strategic, personalized, and targeted way?
Here’s the good news: you can do all of that with automated communication plans, plus reduce your workload, and stay in contact with more families. Here’s what you need to know.
What Exactly is A Communication Plan?
A communication plan is a strategic plan for communicating with your families in a targeted and personalized way. Communication plans are automated actions that trigger in response to parent or admin actions. They can save time by eliminating routine tasks, as well as automatically providing useful information to applying or enrolling families as they progress through the process.
Communication plans are built around triggers and actions as defined below:
- Triggers: Completion of checklist items (application fee, teacher recommendation, uploaded transcript, etc.) or change of status (moved from inquiry to applicant or applicant to application complete, etc.).
- Actions: Send personalized communications to your families, send instructions for next steps to colleagues, or even set up internal reminders to help a family take the next steps.
Why Are Automated Communication Plans Important?
As admissions and enrollment professionals, your primary focus is on building relationships and establishing an emotional connection with your current and prospective families. Building trust plays a key role in how your parents ultimately make the decision to apply and enroll in your school. We know the term “automation” or “automated” can seem impersonal; however, when you build automated communication plans correctly, families will still receive your personal touch, get the information they need, and establish a deep connection with your school.
How to Build Your Own Communication Plan
#1 Identify your key messages
There are two broad types of messages you can use that have a significant impact on moving families through the funnel: informational and interest-based. Both types of messages can help you personalize the experience for your families.
- Informational messages are objective and used to answer questions and help your families get through the admissions or enrollment process. Typically, these types of messages help remove obstacles that might be holding your families back from moving forward to the next step.
- Interest-based messages are more subjective and are used to connect your prospective families to your school’s story.
#2 Identify your target audience
The key to personalized communications is deciding who each message is relevant to. There are likely certain messages that you will send to specific groups and other messages that you will send to everyone. In this step, take time to write out and identify the target audience for each message.
#3 Map out the touchpoints
A touchpoint is a single step or outreach in a communication plan. It is usually a conversation or point of communication with your families, such as a phone call, face-to-face meeting, email, social media message, or letter.
In order to map out the touchpoints, you need to define each point with:
- What will we say?
- Message content (information or interest-based)
- Make it personalized
- When will we say it?
- In X number of days
- On a specific date
- Who will say it?
- Admissions Team
- Business Office
- Arts Director or Athletic Director
- How will we say it?
- Phone Call
- Text Message
Below is an example of a communication plan for a family who filled out an inquiry form and checked a box indicating they are interested in learning more about financial aid and affordability at your school.
With an automated communication plan set up, as soon as a family submits their inquiry form, they’ll receive an email with an overview of financial aid from your business office. Then in seven days, the family will receive another follow-up email — this time from your admissions team. At this step, you may share a few testimonials and stories of other families who have enrolled in your school. Lastly, two weeks after the family submitted their inquiry, you can set up a reminder to give them a call and answer any other questions they might have about applying for financial aid or about your school.
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How to Get Started
1. Start simple
Choose your top two or three most important informational and interest-based messages to start. Then create a few touchpoints per message. We recommend starting off with building messages for broad categories, such as athletics vs. a message for soccer and another for tennis, golf, swim, volleyball, etc.
Once you have your initial plan in place, you can gradually build out more tracks in detail over time.
2. Brainstorm as a team.
Work together. You want everyone at the school to be on board with what you’re doing. Bring them into the fold, let them participate, and you’ll get their buy-in.
3. Blend informational and interest-based messages
Objective, informational messages don’t have to be boring. In fact, including quotes, stories, videos, and featuring multiple voices can make every conversation fun.
Communication plans are a great way to personally stay in touch with your families throughout their admissions and enrollment journey without adding any extra work to your plate. Taking the time to set up a few different sequences for families will go a long way and be well worth the initial investment of time and effort.