A Simple Approach to Marketing Your School

Posted by Susan Gilley on February 26, 2016

Marketing graphicThis year marks my 32nd year in education.  When I starting teaching, schools were a part of your community and it was assumed that you would attend your local community school. Today, however, students have unlimited choices for where they will attend and receive their education. They can even choose to stay home and receive their courses digitally. Schools now must compete for students. Parents are searching for the best places and options for their child’s education. These decisions impact everyone’s future.

Therefore, marketing your school is a priority. Schools can no longer depend on being selected because they are the neighborhood choice. Many schools are even hiring marketing and public relations personnel to sell their campuses. I believe promoting your school begins with each classroom and more specifically, every individual. Every single person is now a salesperson for your district.

One easy way that teachers can promote your district is through an up-to-date web page. People want to be able to get on their computer at their convenience and know what’s going on at your district. Keeping web pages current can be a challenge. Especially since most teachers are teachers, not web page designers. Therefore, one easy way I encourage teachers to keep an up-to-date webpage is using a simple Google doc published as a web page.

To accomplish this, a teacher simply follows these steps:

Google Drive File menu

  1. Open Google drive.
  2. Click on NEW.
  3. Click on Google Doc.
  4. Name the document.
  5. Type information on the page.
  6. Click on File.
  7. Click on Publish to the Web.
  8. Click on Publish.
  9. Click OK (you are sure you want to publish).
  10. A screen appears with the link to send to your district’s webmaster.
  11. Click on the envelope icon (Gmail) and your e-mail will open where you can type in your webmaster’s e-mail address and the link will already be in the body of the e-mail for your district webmaster to create a link off of the district web page to your web page.

Once this link is connected, you don’t have to work with the webmaster again. Your page becomes live at that moment. All new changes you make in your Google document will automatically appear in the published page!

You now have an easy way to keep parents current on all events! Follow this link to a sample, very simple doc published as a web page.

Now, a couple of notes:

  • It’s really plain. However, I believe most people just want to know current information and aren’t as concerned about the looks.
  • It does take 5 minutes sometimes to update, so be patient if you type into a document and it hasn’t appeared on your published document yet.

The first time I presented this to teachers, they were blown away that it was really that easy. Most importantly, since presenting this over two years ago to a group of teachers, they are still doing weekly updates on their web pages.

Many people just can’t accept the plain simplicity of the regular document, so I offer this alternative which is simply a formatted, centered table within a Google doc. The instructions to publish are the same as above, but you start with making a copy of this document.

Sample simple web page with color boxes

Whatever document your teachers choose to go with, they now have an easy way to create web pages and keep your patrons up-to-date on what’s going on in your district. Now everyone in your district can be responsible for keeping people informed. Communication is a key component of successful districts. Web pages are one of many ways that our district markets itself.

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How Social Media is Changing School Business

Posted by Devin Vodicka on February 20, 2012

Technology is impacting international diplomacy.  Under Hillary Clinton’s leadership, the U.S. Department of State is embracing 21st Century Statecraft, which it defines as “The complementing of traditional foreign policy tools with newly innovated and adapted instruments of statecraft that fully leverage the networks, technologies, and demographics of our interconnected world.”  In Secretary Clinton’s own words,

“We’re working to leverage the power and potential in what I call 21st century statecraft. Part of our approach is to embrace new tools, like using cell phones for mobile banking or to monitor elections. But we’re also reaching to the people behind these tools, the innovators and entrepreneurs themselves.”

Interestingly, the Secretary’s comments reflect changes that we also see in local politics and leadership for school districts.  Like many school districts, Carlsbad Unified is facing significant financial challenges due to ongoing revenue reductions.  As a result, our district has been forced to make difficult decisions regarding layoffs, the elimination of programs, bargaining concessions with employee groups, and other expenditure reductions.  Each of these decisions at a local level is inherently political. In the process, our school board faces genuine and legitimate pressure from numerous constituents, all of  whom have strong feelings about protecting services that they feel have the strongest impact on students, families, and the community.

If international policy is now shaped by “using social media and the Internet in combination with more traditional … tools,” what does this imply for leaders at the local level?  First and foremost, I believe that educational leaders must recognize that the impact of social media is a significant factor in shaping perceptions and beliefs.  2011 research by the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that 65% of adults are now active on social networking sites.  In addition, the research found that even controlling for demographic factors such as age and education, social network users “were more likely to be politically involved than similar Americans.”

Once we as school leaders recognize this reality, the first step is to become engaged in the social networks as a contributor.  In our district, we have been using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Blogger as platforms to share good news and to help us respond in crisis situations.  More recently, I started a blog to share business services updates, most of which focus on our current financial challenges.  Information posted to the blog is then fed into our district website, shared through the district Facebook page, and linked in a Twitter update.  These multiple avenues allow others to re-tweet, share the Facebook update, subscribe to the blog, or embed elements in their own websites.

The “viral” effect has been amazing.  Here is a screenshot of data from some uploads to the blog.  Given that we have around 11,000 students in our district, the number of times these documents have been viewed shows that there is a high level of interest from the community in these topics.

The benefits of getting accurate, timely information out to the community are tremendous in terms of ensuring a common base of knowledge.  While our challenges are still monumental, and virtually every possible option for cutting expenses remains controversial, I believe that our process of seeking financial balance would be significantly more difficult if we were not using these social media outlets to help with communications.

My strong opinion, based on these recent experiences, is that school leaders at every level should be determining the best ways to leverage social media and social networks to enhance communications and effectiveness.  If we don’t make a presence in this virtual arena, our absence will indicate a lack of engagement and diminish the relevance of our efforts.  If we truly want schools that prepare students for success in this digital age, we as leaders need to model the way.

For leaders interested in learning more about using social media in schools, I recommend the following resources:

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Facebook & Twitter Revisited

Posted by Lisa Marie Gonzales on September 13, 2010

The mere mention of Facebook makes some of us administrators cringe.  Talk about Twitter and eyes roll.  But I say to you, think again.

Facebook now has 511 million active users worldwide, 57% of whom are in the United States.  Establish your school or district on Facebook and you have an instant public relations and communication opportunity.

You have options.   You could start with an official community Facebook page for your school, accessible to anyone in the Facebook world.  It’s easy to add photos, links, discussions, notes, events, and more.  And it’s a multi-way communication tool because people can post messages on your “wall.”  One challenge with a community page is that updates don’t show up in the News Feed.  Also, community pages are limited to 5,000 “followers,” but isn’t garnering that much support a problem we’d all like to have?

A Facebook group is an alternative.  What’s the difference?  For one thing, their size is smaller.  Intended to be places for people to get together and share information, groups are limited to 1,000 members.  But a more important distinction is that groups can be closed.  People who want to participate need your prior approval.  With a closed group, you may feel more comfortable posting pictures or videos from events, working online with your PTA or School Site Council—or even Robotics or Dance Team parents.  You might also like the feature that lets you quickly send messages to group members.

Facebook can be a powerful tool for pushing information out to parents and the larger community about your events, programs, themes, and more. For example, if you have recognize character traits each month, such as caring, respect, or resiliency, you can share and reinforce examples on Facebook.  Its also a great way to publicly thank parents and other volunteers who support your events.  After all, don’t we all love to see our name in lights?

Twitter is another social networking tool that may seem silly to some but can be a loyal ally in your communication campaign.  Each day, some 190 million users send out more than 65 million 140-character “tweets.”  Why not you?  Again, this is not about letting your friends in on what you had for breakfast; this is about building community and connecting with those who you want to know about your programs in your school or district.  Some schools even use it for fund raising.  That’s right: Tweet for dollars!

For both tools, here are some tips.  Think “down to earth.”  Be personable.  Add smiley faces on Facebook—and, yes, copious exclamation marks!!!!!  These touches make people want to follow you and tune in.  Don’t just communicate when something goes wrong or when you need people to act.  Share the fun in school and the accomplishments.   “Wow!  400 students joined me at flag salute today who had perfect attendance for the month of September!  Next month we’re shooting for 500!”  Then sit back and see how many people click, “Like it!”

Too busy to mess with both a Facebook page and a Twitter account?  Not a problem.  You can link your Twitter and Facebook accounts so that when you update Facebook, the information is immediately shared on Twitter, and vice versa.  I prefer to post to Facebook because I don’t have to worry about Twitter’s 140 word limit.  My Twitter followers get a truncated tweet, like a headline, that links to the full version on Facebook.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter are not just for the kids.  These easy-to-use Web 2.0 tools can help you build more of a sense of community and share the message you want others to hear about the work you do.  Learn more from these TICAL resources!

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