Eagle Hill School
Eagle Hill doesn’t talk about learning disabilities—they talk about learning and how they do it differently. That requires different messaging and an integrated platform that can tap into school data to help drive a school’s mission.
As an independent school for 200+ students with diverse learning profiles, Eagle Hill School in Hardwick, Massachusetts, needs to reach a specific audience of families who are looking for additional support for their students’ learning profiles.
Since its website redesign with Finalsite, Eagle Hill has opened up a world of possibilities through integration with its current data system, Blackbaud, to support the specific story Eagle Hill wants to share with families.
The Challenge — A Lack of Marketing Tools and a Dated Design
With a website that was over seven years old, Eagle Hill School’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Chris Komenda, was ready for something new. Not just an updated design, but an easier way to manage their online presence while keeping the content fresh and the messaging consistent.
“When people come to our website, we want them to know who we are, what do we do, and how we interact with students,” Komenda said. ”Do they feel like they would be at home here? Would their child be successful here? All that information had to be communicated.”
Ultimately, Komenda wanted a platform that was more interactive, dynamic, and engaging. “Our website is probably the most important entrance into life at Eagle Hill School “ Komenda shared. “Eventually, everyone goes to the website, so it really had to speak to who Eagle Hill was, and I think the old site wasn't doing the best job. Things had changed over the last seven or eight years, and we could do a better job communicating that message.”
As a school that is fully integrated with Blackbaud to run the back end of its operations, Komenda felt the limitations of the system on the front end when quick edits needed to be made and content needed to be shared. “The public side wasn't working the way I was hoping it could,” Komenda said. “I didn't see those tools in Blackbaud for the front end, and there weren't many marketing tools.”
With a small marketing and communications office, Komenda was feeling the pressure.
“With our old site, we didn't have ways to engage with somebody, like calls-to-action or download forms, and so we were giving away some of our most valuable assets without collecting email addresses or information, like our college counseling guide book, and registrations to our virtual admission events. I also wanted to really engage our admission process with our marketing.”
But switching systems completely might disrupt many of the efficiencies between departments that are in place and work well. School culture was also a consideration for Eagle Hill: up-ending processes and the need for training staff on a new system were deterrents to a big change.
“Everything is in the backend—it's a very robust system for us, so any integration had to work seamlessly and for the people managing the data,” Komenda said. “We knew right off the bat we couldn't be training the entire school to a whole new system. We didn’t want to burden our staff with more things to learn because they are very comfortable and adept in the Blackbaud world."
“We wanted to make sure we could manage the transition with just a few a handful of administrators on the website, then slowly integrate as we needed certain people who might want to take it to the next level.”
By integrating Finalsite’s CMS with Blackbaud’s SIS, Eagle Hill recognized the opportunity to bring the two systems together and offer a solution that offered the best-of-both-worlds: keep their current student information system and integrate the system for a best-in-class user experience and inbound marketing tool.
“The integration offers more opportunities to better communicate with our families. It’s definitely the best-in-class front-end and back-end.”
DIR. OF MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS
The Solution—Integrated Systems
With the integration between Finalsite and Blackbaud, data flows from Blackbaud’s education management portfolio into Finalsite, ensuring that contact lists, online directories, and points of integration always have up-to-date information. That means a more personalized web experience for families and more operational efficiencies for staff.
Komenda and the team at Eagle Hill can now access the story-telling modules within Finalsite Composer while leveraging their data to power points of connectivity, such as directories, calendars, and athletics. “The athletic module gets pulled into team pages and we've made it so that it appears in certain sections of the website, “Komenda said. “We've slowly integrated a few other departments: Student life uses Messages to send out communications to students and families because it's a much easier tool to use. It gives them more flexibility like adding resources and photos.”
The integration has avoided disruption to Eagle Hill’s day-to-day operations, too. “The people who come to our website have a seamless experience,” Komenda added. “They don't even know we have another system on the backend other than a login on the top, which parents are given when they enroll a student.”
Eagle Hill’s website redesign has gone on to earn an Award of Excellence in the 2021 Communicators Awards. “So much has happened in a year and a half— it's just amazing,” Komenda said.
Despite a launch that coincided with the start of the pandemic, Komenda and the Eagle Hill team were able to pivot and adapt their communications while responding to the changes. “We were ready to launch in spring and then COVID hit and of course, we thought, ‘Oh, we'll have some time to work on the website,’” Komenda remembered. “Well, it turned out to be the opposite…We were bombarded with so many things that changed, and that's another reason why the website was so flexible for us—to be able to use those tools to communicate on the fly.”
When COVID shut down travel, Eagle Hill was still able to reach families. “We heavily relied on the website to have that gateway into our world. It made things a little bit easier so that we could focus on a lot of other different priorities,” Komenda said, adding that when the team held a virtual coffee, they were able to quickly create a landing page to tell their story and collect registrations. “It’s just so many more tools that we have access to for marketing and targeted communications, and I love how our admission team is on board with all of that too.”
For instance, Eagle Hill School’s homepage introduces families to not just the teaching faculty and administration but also additional members of the staff — everyone from the kitchen employees and theatre director to athletic coaches and dorm counselors — adults that students see every day. “They're all part of one big community that helps their child to be successful and to feel comfortable being here.”
“We have more tools, more modules, and now with the launch of Messages, we can send out emails and Workflows to better interact with people who are coming to our site. There are a lot more opportunities to be able to tell our story.”
With Workflows, Komenda’s marketing office can align its effort with the school’s enrollment goals and utilize the automated email feature to engage families—something the team had always wanted to streamline.
“We worked very closely on creating that workflow and what information we wanted to put in those communications,” Komenda shared. “It was a great opportunity for us to interact with people, keep things fresh, and show dynamic content. At any point, we can stop the Workflow, and if they fill out the inquiry form or if they have any questions, we can open up that dialogue at that point and have a personal connection.”
At every click, Eagle Hill School shares the meaningful stories of its dedicated community, the faculty that enable students to become confident learners, and the programs that instill confidence. The storytelling tools, supported by the system data, have allowed Eagle Hill students to soar and families to know their children are receiving a truly meaningful educational experience. “The integration offers more opportunities to better communicate with our families,” Komenda said. “It’s definitely the best-in-class front-end and back-end.”
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