Met with a great Christian school for the first of our 6-month engagement together. When we do this, we always customize our marketing strategy planning to each school. There is no such thing as a cookie-cutter marketing strategy. It’s got to be focused on their unique location, situation, challenges, opportunities and where they are headed.
But one of the first areas we always tackle is obtaining online reviews. While this is only a sliver of what comprises your social media system (see graphic above), we often go into quick attack mode because there are ALWAYS prospective families searching and investigating your school.
They may be:
- following up on a postcard in the mail or a ad they saw in a magazine about your school – now it’s time for them to start their investigative process to determine if your current “customers” (your current families) are as excited about your school as you say they are in your printed piece
- frustrated with the public schools and “just looking” into what other choices they might have
- moving to the area and needing to find out what are the best schools in the area (watch this video where GreatSchools.org gets national attention)
Whatever the case, trust that there are always people investigating your school – so what is your school’s brand reputation online?
Here’s your 3-phase approach to making sure your positive brand reputation online:
- Optimize your Google Place Page – this works in tandem with GreatSchools.org to display your reviews. About every 6-8 weeks, Google imports the most recent reviews from GreatSchools.org and displays on to your Google Place Page. While some families know to go to GreatSchools.org when researching school, others will simple Google your school’s name (or a more generic search like “private schools in ____(your city)_____”). You can optimize your Google Place Page by following some simply suggestions.
- GreatSchools.org – Assuming the information on your GreatSchools.org page is accurate (if not, go here), find the “REVIEWS” tab and look at what reviews have been posted. The general rule is that any review that is over 1 year old is really irrelevant. Plus if you don’t have reviews in the past 12 months, that gives the investigating family the idea that no one at your school is really that excited about your school. While that may not be true, the prospective family doesn’t know any different.
- Start obtaining great 5-star reviews from your very best families. I would NOT recommend a mass email out to your school’s database, asking everyone to rate the school. Because inevitably, there’s a parent who has a gripe but wasn’t aware of this public forum in which they could vent their frustrations. If you do have a family that is disgruntled, be sure and offer them an open forum for airing their frustrations, but in a way that will end up offline and not on GreatSchools.org as a 1-star review. You might publish something called “Improve Our School” that allows families to leave voicemail messages to make suggestions or gripe about something they don’t like, or post a unique email address that is set up to go directly to your school’s headmaster’s inbox (create “firstname.lastname@example.org”). But now you have to focus on securing positive reviews! My suggestion is to gather a list of your families that are most satisfied at your school and those with great stories to share. Look at getting 5-10 reviews each month to ensure all inevitable negative reviews get buried. You’ll have to follow-up with these families, because many will “say” they will do it, but life gets busy and they’ll forget. You might send an email to them directly (in addition to a phone call asking them to write the review). You might even copy/paste some words of a recent negative review about your school and say “we know you would agree that this person’s unhappy experience is not indicative of your experience. Would you like to share your point of view?” Displaying venom of one angry family can often motive your happy families into sharing their experience.
On our small business marketing site, we have written often about how businesses need to understand their online brand reputation as well. Click here to read several past articles we have written about online reviews.
Be diligent, systematic and intentional – and take care of your online brand reputation!