Parent to complaining to another parent: “I just didn’t think we mattered to that school. My kids never showed up on the Facebook page nor anywhere on the website. They were not the top athlete, the 4.0 scholar, nor the best in theater. It seemed like it was always the same “pretty people” kids that got their pictures taken. I just got tired and transferred to nearby school where we feel just as important as everyone else.”
This was what one parent told me at a private school last year in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She regretted leaving the previous school because she had graduated from high school from that same school). But her pain and frustration was real.
I can see some of you rolling your eyes as you think: “There are just some people like that in every school that are never happy.” Perhaps you are correct, but unnoticed families rarely are referring families. In order to cultivate an expectation that every family be a raving ambassador for your school, you can do a few intentional things to curb the problem of some families going unnoticed:
- NAME IN LIGHTS: While it is quite often the same students that get a shout-out in the email newsletter for great grades or athletic performance, be intentional about mentioning the unsung students who serve quietly, consistently and often unnoticed. Strategically think of those families who are facing transition years or financial strain (when they are likely tempted to not re-enroll). Make it a point to find out how they contribute best to the school and feature them in your newsletter. Call the parents and give them a heads-up that their student will be featured. Major points scored.
- IMAGE IS EVERYTHING: Certainly images are everything in today’s social media world (do you have a visual content marketing strategy for your school?) While you may not please every family every day, it is always endearing to families to see their kids in pictures. With their permission, capture the students in action (helping, serving, encouraging) but also in group shots with their friends. This warms a parent’s heart and reminds them of the relationships that are so important within your school. While some students may not grace the homepage of the website or latest capital campaign brochure, intentionally look for images that showcase every child. And diversity in your photos is not always about race – it is capturing a variety of students from varied interests from all over your campus. Prospective families will notice because your school won’t look like a stock photo factory.
- IMAGES DON’T TAKE THEMSELVES: Images are simply snapshots of the activity at your school. Another creative way to engage some unacclaimed students is to ask them to actually be the photographer. While certain students are not comfortable being in the lens, they could just as easily be featured behind the camera. Whether still shots or video, seek out students who could document a photo essay about a “week-in-the-life” of a student at your school. Give them the equipment they need or let them use their own – and then turn them loose. While certain students always seem to know where the camera is, these quiet types can often be the perfect person to capture the unique perspective and captivating candid images you need for Facebook or Instagram. Then when it is time to post, give these students FULL CREDIT for the amazing photos they have captured. Some students do not seek the fame of being in every yearbook photo, but they love knowing their eyes are valuable for what they see.
End-of-year programs are great opportunities to showcase the faces not always captured by the paparazzi of your marketing and yearbook staff. Make sure that the recap announcements feature more than just the top award winners, but also other unsung heroes (perhaps the graphic artist who designed the awards assembly booklet or the crew that helped with dinner cleanup after the big night). Group events or activities (theater, team sports, or academic meets) give you ample opportunity to showcase students not often featured in the headlines. Write articles, blog posts or press releases about each member of the debate team or graduating senior. Give them prominence and these families will remember the recognition for along time (and they will likely tell a friend)!
While I have mentioned the importance of recognizing the unsung students, the same goes for staff members, too. While everyone’s favorite teacher and the popular head coach get a lot of accolades on social media, never neglect the often unrecognized. One Christian school recently posted a picture of a 12-year veteran of their school’s maintenance staff. In less than 48 hours, the Facebook photo had garnered 67 comments and 230 likes!
Listen to a recent school marketing podcast episode called, “School marketing podcast #14: Does Your School Have a Visual Content Strategy“