Marketing to High School Parents: 5 Tips for Success
Mia Major

Ah, high school parents — embarrassing their kids, having weird dance moves, and being nosy. That’s what they're about, right? Not quite! High school student’s parents wear so many hats and play many roles, yet most of their drive is with one goal in mind — molding a successful adult out of their child. If you want to win over the parents, they need to trust that your school with this important goal. 

So how can you develop marketing strategies that build trust with high school parents to  attract and retain them? 

Well first, you need to know who they are.

Who are high school parents?

Since the average high school student is between the ages 14-18, their parents are going to be older Millennials (Gen Y) or younger Gen X-ers.

  • Gen Y: Anyone born between 1980-1994 and are currently 25-39 years old. 

  • Gen X: Anyone born between 1965 - 1979 and are currently between 40-54 years old.

While the parents of high schoolers will cover two generations, they have a lot in common. They were around when MTV was created (and still played music), when the Berlin wall fell, and when Pink Floyd released “Another Brick in the Wall”, which all seems so long ago.

The parents of high schoolers have done a great job of keeping up with the fast evolving world (after all, their kids are Gen Z-ers). Their experiences make them especially unique since they grew up with print ads and home phones connected to the wall, but have seamlessly adapted to a mobile world. 

So how do you aim your digital campaigns towards this adaptive group? Here are a few topics we’ll be covering today to get you on the right track:

  1. Create Quick-to-Comprehend Content

  2. Don’t Forget Print Ads

  3. Build Trust Through Blogs

  4. Develop a Smart Social Media Strategy

  5. Best Email Practice

1. Create Quick-to-Comprehend Content

Needless to say, driving the kids to school, practice, games, homework, cleaning the house, cooking, and working... “free time” is a distant memory for most parents.

If you want to engage with parents or grab their attention it needs to be done quickly — this includes your efforts to attract and retain families. On top of their busy lives you are also going to be battling a short attention span of only 12 seconds. Granted, this is 150% longer than Generation Z’s attention span, but you still need to have a clear and defined purpose in everything you put out. 

Ensure that all avenues are presenting your quick, quality content, including:

  • Email marketing

  • Website content

  • Develop a blog strategy

  • Create more engaging emails

Let’s take a look at a few examples from schools who get it:

A great “to-the-point” email:

Stevenson High School, one of the top public high schools in the country, does a great job of keeping its community informed with their weekly newsletter, which means it inherently has less content than a monthly newsletter. Big, bold images break up text, and scannable headlines make it easy for parents to find what matters to them. Plus, fun subject lines like “What is Canvas and Why Should I Care” and “Is Technology Controlling Your Student” mean open rates teeter around 40% — which is fantastic!

Stevenson High School's weekly newsletter

Neatly organized website content:

This “Families” section of Sun Prairie Area School’s website has short snippets of content organized by type of content for new or current families — making it easy to find and digest.

Sun Prairie Area Schoo website family section

At-a-Glance and “Why” pages are common areas of your site that prospective parents might look at first, so making that content both compelling and easy-to-consume is key. We think Whitfield School makes the mark on their At-a-Glance page, here:

Whitfield School At-a-Glance page

Smartly structured blog:

A variety of fonts, images, links and headers make posts on The Avon Old Farms school blog easy reading for parents.

Avon Old Farms school blog post

Engaging social media content:

This short, visual-driven post from TASIS Switzerland will catch the eyes of current and prospective high school parents.

The American School in Switzerland Facebook post

2. Don’t Neglect Print Ads

Print gets a bad reputation in the marketing industry, but it can still pull its weight with this group! The fact of the matter is that a physical print ad — whether in a magazine or sent via direct mail — can help your audience establish an emotional connection to your brand. On top of that, it will help your message stand out to your audience and get the attention it deserves. 

A recent study shows that nearly half of millennials ignore digital ads, while only 15% ignore direct mail. The same study also shows there is a 70% higher recall from the participants who were exposed to the direct mail as opposed to the digital ad — so not only are they actually viewing your ad, but they are remembering it. 

Because this group grew up with print, they associate print with trust and that of a genuine company; however, by creating a hybrid of “old school” and “new school” you can really reap the benefits! 

This one from Westminster School in Atlanta hits the mark with a bright image of a student, a bold headline that matches the one on their website, and a short snippet of text. The school loves using this format because it allows them to easily switch out the student depending on the audience or demographic of the print ad — that’s a smart use of time and resources! 

Westminster School in Atlanta print ad

Here are some ideas to help you create a hybrid approach with digital and print ads:

  • Use a QR code on your print ads to allow for easy engagement and interaction while bridging the gap between print and your desired landing page. Be sure that you create a unique landing page for each specific print ad so that traffic can be evaluated. This will help you measure the ROI.

  • Keep that 12 second attention span in mind. Your print should showcase quick and easy to comprehend bits of information. Focus on using vibrant photography and as few words as possible.

  • Don’t use “sales” language. These folks don’t trust that. Be authentic to your brand and let that do the selling for you. 

  • Research your demographic and make decisions on where to invest in print ads to get the most ROI. It’s important to take note of where this group spends their time.

Create something tangible for Gen Y to hold onto, to remember, but something that also has an easy bridge to the digital world.

3. Build Trust Through Blogs

Your school’s objective is to get parents to count on you to educate and guide their children. You are asking for a lot of trust, so give them a reason to trust you! Creating a blog with consistent, high quality content can establish your school as an industry leader. 

Studies found that companies who blog have 55% more website visitors than those who don’t. That same study shows that 81% of U.S. online consumers trust information and advice from blogs. Sixty-one percent of U.S. online consumers have made a purchase based on recommendations from a blog.

We often tip our hats to Avon Old Farms School for their blog: The Boys School Blog. As an all-boys boarding school in the competitive New England market, AOF established their blog with the goal in mind of establishing AOF as the leader in educating and mentoring young men. The category, “Teaching Boys” on their blog in particular helps to build this trust. 

Avon Old Farms The Boys School Blog

Tips for Engaging High School Parents on Your Blog

  • Don’t focus on “selling”— focus on sharing ideas and information they will find educational, helpful, or entertaining.

  • Keep content scannable using big headlines and bulleted lists, like this one!

  • Use images and videos as often as possible. Because attention spans are short, visual content can help keep them engaged longer.

  • Answer the questions they’re asking to become their trusted source of information. Blogs are often read in hope of getting an answer to a certain question. To figure out what your high school parents want to read you just need to figure out what they are asking. We have a helpful blog on creating content for your blog.

  • Update your blog regularly. This is particularly important for your current families who look forward to your content.

4. Develop a Strategic Approach to Social Media 

Make sure that when Gen Y is spending their 5.7 hours a day on the phone that they are seeing your message! And one Nielson study found that Gen X spends more time on social media than any other generation. (Whoa, mom and dad — maybe you do have free time.)

Focus on creating quick-to-comprehend content, use an authentic voice, and hold your school to a high standard across all platforms. 

Let’s take a brief look at how parents use each of the three big players in the social media game:

  • Facebook: They’re here for news and information — remember those two things in particular. Reports show that 81% of Gen Y uses Facebook daily, and 90% of Gen X is active on Facebook. Design your posts to share news and information on academics, sporting events, community events, and more. Also, utilize the fact that people love to belong to something. Creating engaging content but also engaging with the users who comment on your posts or ask questions is a great way to make them feel included. When humans feel included, they begin to build a certain level of trust -- which will work in your favor.

  • Twitter: For other audiences Twitter is thought of as the “News Platform”; however, Gen Y does not have a large presence on Twitter. Gearing tweets specifically towards Gen Y is not necessary. Continue to produce your quick-to-digest, spellbinding tweets that you are and if Gen Y is present, that will hook them. 

  • Instagram: 71% of millennials are on Instagram daily, and Instagram is the second most popular platform for Gen X. Instagram is a great way to play into the 12 second attention span of your audience. Use this platform as your “highlight reel”. Instagram allows you to showcase your proudest moments without the “fluff” of long winded written posts that you would find on other platforms. 

Want to master your school’s social media strategy? Join us on January 17, 2020 for #SchoolsGetSocial — a virtual day of social media best practices.


5. Create Mobile-Friendly and Short Emails

You first need to understand how parents use their email. Fifty-nine percent of high school parents use their smartphone as their main device for emailing. As far as email provider goes, Gmail is the clear favorite — holding 61% of Gen Y’s email accounts. 

This means that creating mobile-friendly emails that look good in Gmail is top priority! If you use Finalsite Messages, you can preview your email in a variety of devices to ensure it looks great on mobile.

Westmark School Finalsite Messages email builder

Email Content

As with the other mediums (blogging, print ads, etc..) use that authentic voice and forget the cheesy sales language. Gen Y operates best on trust and authenticity. Also, keep in mind that the average working adult receives 88 emails a day, that's a lot! 

How are you going to make sure your email doesn't get the immediate ‘delete’ before it's even seen? Your subject line is the first part of your email that your audience will see, try some of these tips to make sure your emails are being opened and read

The ‘meat and potatoes’ of your email should stand out! Use headings, bold words, bulleted lists, graphics and images to make emails scannable. Your school will be battling a short attention span and an average of 87 other emails from that day, so make yours memorable. 

Key Takeaway

By understanding high school parents you will be able to tailor your approach to increase engagement. Maintain your reputation as a trustworthy partner in their child’s education by demonstrating an authentic understanding of the field  and show them that you will make a positive difference in the lives of their children, and be authentically you.

At Finalsite we offer consulting services to help with a number of different marketing channels. If you would like to learn about how we can help with your website, e-communication, social media, and more then just click here to reach us

free website consultation - schedule yours today



Mia Major

As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, 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, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.

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