Teachers are the front line of a schools’ relationship with its parents. They are key influencers. Leveraging the impact of faculty members is an absolute necessity for the success of enrollment and marketing efforts.
However, teachers are often uncomfortable with marketing efforts and sometimes even find them objectionable. Talking to faculty about marketing and enrollment matters doesn’t always result in the team-building moment you hoped for. The key to fostering the involvement of teachers in school marketing is to build their trust and confidence. Here are 13 ways that you can do that.
There are two essential introductory points to this discussion. One is that securing the involvement of faculty requires the humility of understanding that school marketing, in many ways, is nothing more than putting the amazing work of teachers on a pedestal. Second, you will need the active involvement of your head of school. Even the most effective director of enrollment management or marketing and communications won’t be able to accomplish this alone.
By the way, many of the suggestions below come from a series of Peer Mastermind Meetings that I recently convened.
Involvement in decision making
If faculty play a critical role in the success of marketing efforts by delivering the school’s message and helping to shape the parent experience, they must also be involved in the development of key initiatives and important decision-making.
- Faculty first. Many schools ensure that all key developments are communicated to faculty before they are communicated to parents. This is often done in a forum where teachers can ask questions, express opinions and have impact on what is being planned.
- Calibration meetings – one school holds regular high-level meetings with faculty members inviting them to consider their role in helping the school reach its goals. A recent meeting focused on, “communicating effectively about what we do, understanding what we do and why we do it, and identifying and implementing our core practices.”
- Key initiatives. Faculty involvement in key initiatives heightens teachers’ sense of inclusion and often enhances outcomes. Examples include:
- Portrait of a Graduate (POG) – done well, this is much more than a marketing project. The POG is a road map that defines the goal of the educational process and how it is going to be realized. In many ways, the POG is the bridge between academics and enrollment/marketing efforts.
- Brand building and messaging: examples include involving faculty in the development of pillars – a school’s defining characteristics – and elevator pitches. In any of my school brand development projects, the voice of teachers plays an integral role.
Faculty often feel that their involvement in marketing or enrollment efforts is outside the realm of what teachers do. However, advancing parent engagement is an accepted area of focus for teachers and requires almost the same approach as marketing activity. In fact, in promoting parent engagement, teachers contribute to the parent experience and to the success of marketing efforts. The communication necessary to maintain parent engagement is strikingly similar to what might be expected of teachers in contributing to marketing efforts. For example, Ed Surge advises teachers to “make every day Open House,” and to “communicate frequently and purposefully with parents.”
Teachers might be surprised to know that their opinions and actions have tremendous influence over the decision-making of both prospective and current parents. Efforts at many schools to highlight that impact include:
- Reminders that every faculty member is effectively an admissions officer and that something as simple as wearing their school hoodies to the grocery store is a marketing activity
- Homework is marketing – the homework that students are asked to complete makes a statement to current parents about priorities and methodology
- Home-school communication – helping teachers to understand the broad impact of their conversations (voice and via other platforms) with parents and exploring ways that it can be consistent with the school’s brand and messaging
Expecting teachers to accurately reflect brand messaging in their school-home communication may not be reasonable. Schools have developed alternatives.
- Rather than being overbearing by critiquing their efforts, many schools provide teachers with the school-wide messaging to be included in their communication to parents. In that way, they can ensure that teacher communication is on message by managing its content and cadence
- There are many apps like Homeroom that allow teachers to easily post photos and videos from their classes to a limited social network of relevant parents. Beyond its ease of use, it removes the responsibility for appropriate messaging and allows administrators to be a part of each network.
Make parent experience part of the culture
Parents love to hear about their kids’ progress and activity at school and they especially love it when it’s unexpected. That kind of surprising communication creates validating moments for parents. Schools had a number of ways of encouraging teachers to provide that unanticipated feedback.
- Expect teachers to be on the watch for exemplary activity by students and then send a “caught doing something good’ or a “way to go” note to parents.
- One school challenged teachers to find a particular student based on a number of criteria (not including their name and grade), make a connection with them, and then send note to parents talking about how lovely it was to meet their son or daughter
Make it easy to share their wisdom
Requests for teachers to write blog posts or provide photos along with descriptions of what they are teaching become unwanted extra work.
- One school’s creative solution was to produce videos of individual teachers talking about a particular subject and then distribute the video to parents. A bonus is that the videos become great content for the website and social media.
Whether you implement any of these suggestions, or they just become a source of inspiration, whatever you do to foster the involvement of faculty will make your marketing and enrollment efforts more successful.
Note: Peer Mastermind Meetings
bring together a small number of those working in admissions, enrollment and marketing to tackle challenges and share ideas on particular topics. If you are interested in participating in upcoming Peer Mastermind groups, please send me an email.