"When do you actually sleep?"
It’s a question we often hear school marketing, communications, and PR professionals curiously ask each other. And, when asked about their job description, this elicits strong emotions and reactions including: I am a marketer, public relations pro, magazine and newsletter guru, brand manager, graphic designer, event planning and promoter, blog writer, website editor, content optimizer, social media maven, videographer, photographer, chief diplomat, and … fill in the blank, followed by a gasp for air.
Most are just trying to keep up, so it’s easy to fall behind on the best tools to drive efficiencies and keep you on top of your school marketing game. Since our client success team works with schools around the world on a daily basis, I asked for their input. And they were eager to share their time-saving tips to help teams of any size.
Here are the top tips for improving operations, doing more with less, and making a small office feel ten times bigger so you can achieve your goals.
- Automate processes with workflows, forms, and landing pages
- Create a communications hub
- Crowdsource content
- Repurpose content
- Embrace C.O.P.E - Create Once, Publish Everywhere
- Utilize a school-specific content management system
Do you still find yourself drafting repetitive emails and manually figuring out when to send the next communication? Automated email workflows are a lifesaver. From admission inquiries, re-enrollment campaigns, a countdown to graduation checklist, and back-to-school information, workflows can automatically drip the information to your constituents over time.
If someone inquires on the weekend or after hours, you look like a superhero when they immediately receive a branded email with images, information, and links to specific areas of your website. When dozens of new families join your school and you enroll them in an onboarding workflow spread out over time, you don’t overwhelm them and they'll appreciate the slow (but steady) drip of important information as they're brought up to speed. When it’s time to re-enroll families, reinforcing the value of your school and sharing impactful stories in the months leading up to contract deadlines reminds parents why they chose your school and supports your retention rate.
Simple online forms go hand-in-hand with automation. Upon form submission, you can send an automated email, redirect to a thank you page with additional information, and have an additional opportunity for conversion on a landing page— a page a visitor lands on after taking an action.
Landing pages and thank you pages are simple and effective, but often overlooked! By driving families to these targeted pages with clear calls-to-action and forms to collect data, it’s an easy way to streamline processes— your office (and families) will appreciate the simplicity!
We’ve all been there: a parent claims they never got the email, or the information they have is outdated and then they rush to social media to play the blame game ... Sound familiar? One of the best ways to ensure the most up-to-date information is accessible is through a communications hub on your school website. Some call it a news hub, a password-protected parent portal, a community portal — whatever you call it, this is the key to streamlining communications, reducing emails, and updating information as it changes.
Charterhouse, an independent school in the United Kingdom, has a comprehensive parent area that is a model for other schools to follow.
By consolidating information into one place, parents know where to go, they trust the information and can access the information 24/7— even from your school’s mobile app. Typical content includes important announcements, archives of school email communications, such as the weekly email newsletter, emails from division heads, stories about life and people at school, directories of staff and parents, important forms, and let’s not forget the lunch menu.
3. Crowdsource content
If you are a control freak, this might be hard for you. The first step is to realize you are surrounded by amazing content creators and brand ambassadors — you just may not realize it. Stories from your students, teachers, alumni, and parents are really what will engage your community. Your team doesn’t have to write it all, but with clear guidelines and examples, coupled with the positive feedback contributors receive, people will come knocking on your door (or inbox) to be included.
Parents are already at your events, so why not let them help you by sharing photos, highlights, and testimonials? Some practical tips include creating a catch-all email address for your community to send content and encouraging your community to use hashtags on social media so that their posts are included as part of the conversation. You can also create a nice landing page with the guidelines and include a form so people can submit content. People crave authentic content and this is a great way to collect it.
4. Repurpose content
Your team spends so much time crafting amazing content, why not get the most life out of it as possible? By repurposing content you can extend its reach and therefore, its impact. The first step is to create a content calendar and a social media calendar.
One piece of your content calendar should be blogging, which we all know takes time but is great for improving your organic search ranking, and has the added benefit of being a great strategy for repurposing your content. With one blog, let’s say about the success of your robotics team, you can include snippets of it in your newsletter, feature it on your admissions page, share it on Facebook and Instagram, tweet about it, and include it in your admissions workflow. Writing one blog a week is a great way to fuel your content.
Many schools invest a lot of time and resources in school videos. If you have a longer video about your school, you can create a 30-second highlight for your homepage, share clips on Instagram stories, and create testimonials to use throughout your site to sell the value of your school. You can apply this content to so much of your work — don’t let it go to waste. And remember, most of your community will not see the content on every channel.
5. Embrace C.O.P.E - Create Once, Publish Everywhere
Do you find yourself copying and pasting content on your website over and over again? What used to take hours of creating, reviewing, uploading, editing, managing, and sharing the same content across platforms, C.O.P.E. allows school communicators to create a single piece of content and publish it across several platforms all at once.
It’s an important time saver and with Finalsite’s content management system, Composer, it can all happen in just a few clicks.
- Does your school newsletter seem to take forever to create every week? Save a significant amount of time when crafting your newsletters by dynamically pulling in content that you created for your website.
- How easy is it for you to send a message, like an important notice about a sudden school closure? With Finalsite’s Messages XR you can send mass notifications via mobile phone, social media, or as an email and text/voice message, without the need to recreate a message from scratch, in a ton of different languages, too.
- Your soccer team just won the championship— congratulations! With Finalsite Posts, it’s easy to update your homepage, your athletics pages, Facebook and Twitter, and your school’s mobile app all through one interface.
In this client story, Highline Public Schools in Washington shares how they saved hundreds of hours of work when they switched to Finalsite Posts to keep their news content up-to-date across school websites.
6. Utilize a content management system made for schools
Our team talks with schools that have cobbled together different tools for newsletters, calendars, forms, portals, data integration, and more. And our clients will tell you the importance of having a robust CMS designed for schools to manage their website and communications, and how critical it is for that small communication team to do big things!
For over 20 years, Finalsite’s Composer has been developed to help meet the unique needs of school professionals. Beyond the basic website editing features, our clients sing the heralds of the following tools. In fact, in a recent client survey, schools shared that they saved an average of 5-10 hours a week by using Finalsite Composer and its modules.
So ask yourself these questions:
Do you feel like you waste time tracking down old documents on your site?
Finalsite’s Resources makes it quick and simple to upload new versions of older images, videos, documents, etc. through the Replace Resource feature. Rather than tracking down a resource across pages, this feature empowers users to overwrite the original version of the same resource by uploading a new version, saving you time.
Do you find yourself wishing you could easily puzzle together content from various web pages in order to create a new page?
Shared elements allow you to save commonly used custom elements you’ve created, and then reuse them throughout your website with a centralized editing location. Commonly used shared elements include calls-to-action (CTAs), navigation elements, interior page sidebars, infographics, maps, slideshows, and simple content elements. When a shared element is updated, the edit is reflected sitewide!
Does managing the school’s calendars seem like a full-time job?
Calendar Manager can save you headaches by streamlining your calendar management into one, simple interface. You can automatically pull iCal and Google Calendars into your website, embed forms for sign-up into events, allow your community to customize their calendar views, subscribe to them via RSS, receive alerts, and so much more.
“Calendar Manager saved our school 228 hours – nearly six weeks of staff time. That resulted in a savings of almost $5,000!”
MEGAN EASTERLY, SEACREST COUNTRY DAY SCHOOL
Is your website ADA compliant?
Keeping your content and website ADA-compliant should not slow you down. Finalsite's built-in accessibility checker quickly scans for a wide variety of accessibility issues including missing alt text, improper use of headings, and incorrect or vague links. With a quick content scan, online feedback is provided with errors and/or suggestions and the Quick Fix utility helps you make quick corrections.
We all strive to be that marketing person who is agile, organized, and flexible while meeting deadlines and goals and not dropping the ball (or at least not the important one). By implementing new processes, collaborating with peers, and utilizing Finalsite tools, you can be that modern-day marketer who looks like you're working 24/7 without missing a beat. Now, you can finally hit the snooze button.
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.