Part of our Summer Series: Jewish Early Childhood Marketing Tips
Shariee Calderone and Susan Remick Topek
When it comes to joining the technology age, we’ve come a long way baby! Jewish early childhood centers today typically have their own websites (or are housed on their organization’s website), have launched public facing Facebook pages, and may even have a Twitter handle. Imagine that! But are we really keeping up with the times when it comes to a more sophisticated and targeted marketing approach to our Web 2.0 activities? One that matches the interests, needs and habits of parents today?
So here I need to first defer to the experts. Luckily we have organizations like Darim Online and JVillage who are dedicated to helping Jewish organizations and educational leaders become successful in a digital age. They offer services such as webinars, consulting, technology support, curated content, training, and long term project initiatives that can help staff and lay leaders play more active roles in increasing your school’s visibility and getting your message out there. They have helped hundreds of schools and communities (perhaps you are one of them) through their direct services and resources and have tremendous insight into the habits and internet engagement of parents today. If you don’t know them you should.
So what are we talking about? Two things really…
Getting your school’s message and values out there, and
Knowing the difference between that message and an actual ask or offer
About your messaging… Even if your Facebook page has a zillion likes, is that really translating into getting your message across to others about your school’s values and culture? Is it helping you establish a sense of brand recognition? And, is there a connection between you and your community via your social media presence?
If you read between the lines above you will see that there really needs to be some goal setting when it comes to how you are going to use social media to benefit your enrollment numbers. Yes it’s important to be on Twitter and to be on Facebook, but there’s more to it than that. You need an intentional strategy. Take for instance what Tali Benjamin and Robyn Faintich are doing to help revamp or “amplify” their school’s social media presence and “message”…
“So, we decided to hold training sessions with targeted groups of our volunteers to recruit them as social media amplifiers. We trained volunteers in our leadership program, on our advancement committee, and our PTO leadership. We customized the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) portion of each training to help our lay leaders understand how social media can help them achieve their goals for the school.”
Prior to the training sessions Tali and Robyn learned that there were lots of misconceptions about how social media works and doesn’t work, how it can benefit current parents and lay leaders, and how social media can connect them to the community at large. Now they’re noticing “a culture shift toward embracing social media” at The Epstein School among everyone involved. Parents are contributing more, commenting more and generally extending the schools voice farther than the school would be able to do on their own. You can read more about their strategy and outcomes of their efforts here.
BEING SEEN AND HEARD IN YOUR COMMUNITY
So how does a parent with children still too young to attend your school get to “know” you or your school ahead of enrollment time? We already know how important it is to be found on the map (see the 1st tip in this series) but to get your voice out there it comes down to being seen and heard out in the community on the issues and areas that will have parents taking notice, and potentially talking to one another too. One strategy might be to blog for your local paper. Not sure what to say? Start by considering the things you care most about…
What does my school stand for?
Do I have a particular approach or philosophy?
What are my school’s policies?
How are the school’s policies changing to meet the needs of families today?
What special training or awards are my teachers receiving?
What’s new in my school in general?
How is my school population reacting to current events or hot topics in the world or locally?
How are WE reacting to current events or hot topics in the world?
What type of expertise or advice do I have to share with parents?
These are important questions to ask yourself and if channeled through the comments section of local parenting pages and list serves, through your own blog post, or on Facebook, it will attract parent attention!
For example… during a group visit I was part of to a preschool in Owings Mills, MD two weeks ago we learned about their school’s healthy choices campaign which is focused on providing only
healthy eating options in school and educating families so there can be a more aligned approach between home and school. But this messaging doesn’t stop at current parents. There’s chatter in the community about this topic because both the school’s director and the nurse heading up the project are passionate and outspoken advocates for childhood health. You can bet that this gets noticed by community members and more importantly by the parent community too!
If thinking about writing a blog post is already giving you hives, remember that your parents and staff might be very interested in doing it for you. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. And you might be pleasantly surprised how passionate your parents can be on different subjects – including your school and their experiences. Here’s an example of how this blogging gets showcased at one Long Island Jewish day school that has been involved in a project called Parent to Parent. In this case everyone wins. Parents are honored and respected for their individual interests and involvement and the school is able to provide a unique window in for perspective parents.
TAPPING INTO YOUR CREATIVITY
But if you’re the creative type, perhaps you can use Pinterest in a somewhat similar way. Pinterest is a website and an app that looks like an online scrapbook. School directors can easily establish a school Pinterest account and begin to post pictures and links that will reflect themselves and their school. This can be photos of equipment and materials you’re using (think organic soy paints!), documentation of learning (in your new mud kitchen!), quotes about family and home (a healthy start to the day begins with breakfast!), gardening activities (bird feeders the children made!), and even tips for busy parents or things to do on the weekend in your area! Ask parents to “follow” your school’s board and before you know it you are sharing a part of what your school cares for and values.
ABOUT THE ASK
In a recent post from Daycare In Demand, blogger Jennifer Carsen reminds us that no matter how good our messaging is, we need to remember to actually ask parents to enroll. Marketing in this sense is about “putting an offer out there that people can choose to accept or reject.” This Carsen says is “marketing” in its truest sense of the word. To illustrate she says, “Note the difference, for example, between “Check out our Facebook page!” and “Enroll by May 15th and get one week free!” The later has more immediate potential to boost your bottom line and your enrollment numbers.
Using social media more intentionally can have a tremendous impact on your school’s visibility and on the number of parents you serve. Are you ready to harness the power of social media yet?
*We gratefully acknowledge the permission we’ve received by Matt Harrell, CEO & Co-founder of MemberHub, to reference Childcare Marketing Tips: 10 Mus-Do Marketing Tips to Grow the Enrollment of Your Early Childhood Program (July 2012). The e-book was coauthored by Matt Harrell and Kris Murray, President and Founder of Child Care Marketing Solutions.