Boost school marketing effectiveness through parent communities


Schools everywhere are fighting to maintain their reputations, to increase recruitment and retention rates as well as reduce resource costs. Here's why building your school community is a win-win for school marketing and admissions teams.

Social media is not fit for purpose

Social media has become increasingly difficult to manage.  A well-meaning post shared in a school WhatsApp group can lead to a flurry of enquiries at school from concerned parents seeking reassurance. This in turn increases the stress and workload for staff and teachers.  

Without any school input, news and rumours can easily spread and escalate. Social media platforms historically provided an outlet for a school to build its brand; however less than half of school marketing professionals believe social media provides any level of return on their investment, not helped by social media algorithms that favour paid sponsors.

This is why leading schools are investing time in offering their community a safe space that they own and control. Community management is swiftly becoming the most cost effective marketing tool right now for schools. Schools can take a leaf out of some of the world’s top companies to build their reputation, encourage more parent referrals and retain existing pupils. 

Increase brand awareness

Successful schools harness the power of community to increase brand awareness, understand their parents, improve their service and build loyalty.

Word of mouth is still the most effective way to raise awareness and -  in the case of schools - recruit new pupils. Interestingly, people are 84% more likely to trust a referral or recommendation if it comes from a friend.  Headteachers tell us that 80% of their new pupils are from referrals by existing parents at the school.

One of the main ways to raise awareness is through ‘brand ambassadors’. Schools have a ready made solution – it’s called their parent association or PTA. Giving them access to community building tools incentivises them to do more for the school. Inexpensive community management training for staff and the PTA can quickly raise their skills levels up to the leading branded communities. Remember Nike and Fitbit are doing this to recruit and retain more customers.

Communities meet expectations

School communities not only help recruit new families, but they are an invaluable source of feedback for management. Traditional focus groups and surveys aren’t so reliable. Researchers found when participating in traditional research, people suffer from the Hawthorne Effect. When people know they are being studied they change their behaviour. This doesn’t occur in closed safe communities when members are encouraged to ask and answer each other’s questions.

Parents are juggling through a lot of digital noise. So, the questions raised by your school on your community forum are an indication of how well you are cutting through this and communicating key messages. 

Some schools are resistant to hosting community wide conversations, out of fear it could give rise to negative comments. In our experience, this doesn’t happen. Comments are constructive and gated within your school’s own space on the school parent community app: Classlist. This gives you more of an opportunity to test and refine your proposition, and ultimately attract more pupils.

By parents answering each other’s questions, not only does this build a sense of belonging amongst parents but it also saves a considerable amount of admin time. Parents also respond outside of hours and on a timely basis.

Nurture loyalty

Keeping current parents happy is just as vital as attracting new families. In our experience, parents continue to evaluate if younger siblings will attend the same school. A positive and welcoming community, where families interact with each other ultimately leads to bonds forming outside of school is a significant factor. An obvious point – the acquisition cost of converting siblings is much lower than gaining first time parents!

The parent association plays a key role in fostering loyalty. By offering a parents a chance to participate in community initiatives, they invest in the school and appreciate it more. It’s called the Ikea effect – when a consumer invests time in building a product or service they overvalue the brand.

Parent Commitment Curve

The Commitment Curve Framework is a recognised community management tool, based on the idea that asking members (in our case parents) to make increasingly, incrementally harder asks builds commitment. Any given ask on that commitment curve is only slightly harder than the one before, so it never seems like a huge jump.

Using Classlist’s platform, we find school communities ramp large numbers of parents up the curve to ever-higher levels of commitment. Now that is a good return on investment!

Are you on Classlist yet?

Classlist's award-winning parent communications app is the safer alternative to public social networks. It's easy to set up! Be amongst more than 400,000 parents using Classlist in 30+ countries. Get started today!

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