Karen Klein’s terrible harassment at the hands of some teenagers made world news this summer. Viral videos with millions of hits and over $600,000 raised on her behalf through social media made this one of the summer’s hottest topics.
The problem: it’s summer – and no one is at your school to talk about it.
While I’m certain some administrators may react with “that doesn’t happen at our school” or “families often misuse that term“, the reality is that it is an issue on the minds of families. And news stories like Klein’s only make parents feel more concerned for their children while at school (and the target of this bullying was an adult).
This is why bullying is a marketing issue. Families are exploring where they can send their children for a quality education in a safe environment. In terms of “bullying”, here are 5 things your marketing team should address as school begins next month:
- Define It – you want to be clear on what “bullying” encompasses. It is a big term that can be hijacked easily by upset families/kids. Defining it may help you in a crisis situation when a family is eager to blast you because their child got made fun of. This may require help from the school counselor or even legal department.
- Train, Train, Go Away – the challenge I hear from school administrators is that you know “kids are kids” and you can’t PREVENT instances where kids are picked on, made fun of, or harassed. And not all those moments would be “bullying” – but the pattern of on-going abuse certainly would be. Raise the issue heavily as school begins and make sure students know what it is. Make sure families know when it’s not bullying. Hopefully with alot of teaching, training and guidance, instances of pattern bullying are eradicated from schools.
- Communicate the Policy – seize the moment as school begins to state your policy and procedures on “bullying”. Take a stand against it. But also outline what a student/family should do if they see it happening or worse, feel like they are at the target of bullies. Here’s one Christian school’s policy toward “bullying” as stated on their website. Don’t make this policy people have to search for. For prospective families searching for safe environment (or possibly trying to escape a bullying environment somewhere else), making the bullying policy easy-to-find will resonate with them.
- Make An (Marketing) Issue of It – marketing is alot about developing “know, like and trust” with families, current and prospective. While you may not want to “over dramatize” such a hot-button topic, there are plenty of documentaries and movies, social media campaigns and causes and viral videos like Karen Klein’s that validate that “bullying” is on the minds of families. So be bold and stand up to it. Beware of “zero-tolerance” language that families can throw back at you because they think it means “it will never happen.” Just communicate boldly and clearly that you take the issue seriously when it does and that you are aggressively work toward prevention. Host a community-wide event on how to stand up to bullies. Families from various public schools (all prospective families, I might add) would likely attend and your bold stance and smaller class size may be so attractive to them that they never go back! Get the students involved as well. Encourage your student leadership to write a song about it, create a video about it, and publicize it all over the place. Reward the students with a prize for the most creative video and then shop it around to all the local media who are always looking for a positive angle to this sad topic.
- Review Your Reviews – check your online reviews on Google Local (formerly Google Place Page) and GreatSchools.org sites. Peruse them for negative reviews where “bullying” is mentioned. If you see that word come up, not only let that be a wake-up call to you, but solicit additional online reviews from parents who could speak positively about your school’s bold policy or about specific examples of how your students handled well a situation where a kid was being picked on. These online reviews for private schools can often make or break you with exploring families, so ensure that your overall reputation online speaks well of how you address bullying at your school.
Bonus: here’s an article worth reading – “3 Things Parents and Teachers Can Do to Prevent Bullying at Private Schools”Buffer