At this point in time, your school needs to be doing some type of eNewsletter or iZine communication. In fact, just doing one publication probably isn’t enough anymore. You need at least two, but, optimally, four.
“FOUR?” is what just ran across your mind. “I don’t even have time for one! How would I do this?”
I’m glad you’ve asked, since I can tell you how, since “how” seems to be the word that connects “what” to “why.” There are three things you need: the right tool, a schedule, and the ability to “essentialize.”
Before getting into that, we’ll do some baby steps. The two types of monthly communications you need are, first, for current parents and guardians of your school community, and the second, for those who are “outside” audiences of the school.
As for the first, if you’re still printing papers and putting them into students’ backpacks or large brown envelopes, trusting students to deliver the messages to their parents and guardians, chances are the paper is just sitting on a table or desk somewhere…if it’s not still in their backpacks. Remember that your parent/guardian eNewsletter is different from your Marketing newsletter since parents/guardians are dealing with the day-to-day realities of the school – events, deadlines, activities, etc.
There are a number of eNewsletter services that will help you create great-looking email messages that help to support your school’s brand identity, but I’m going to recommend one to you later in this article. For now, keep in mind that the eNewsletter should just be a short “teaser” of what’s happening at your school. Each news item should have a “Read more about this” or a “Continue with the complete article” link that connects to the full story or article which is posted on your school’s Web site.
If you’re saying, “But our Web site is very difficult to edit, and we don’t do a whole lot with it,” it’s time for that mentality to change, too.
The second eNewsletter should be geared toward those who are “outside the school.” Parents and guardians to whom you are marketing today for enrollment purposes represent the end of the Generation Xers and the beginnings of the Millennials. They communicate via email, use the Web for all information research, and are connected through social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.
This eNewsletter needs to go to FIVE constituents – Board members, Alumni, Businesses, Prospective Parents, and Friends of Your School. Some of these constituencies could be grouped together, and that’s where the two additional eNewsletters come in:
- Alumni, Businesses and Community members could comprise one group;
- Parents of prospective students would be another; and
- Board members and others interested in your school.
The nice thing is you would only need to “tweak” the eNewsletter sent to each of these groups to appeal directly to them.
You should also create an additional group – Unsubscribed – since you need a place to put the contact information of those that request to be removed from your email list. A constituent should never be deleted from your list unless they are deceased. At that time, their name should go on a list of past constituents. It’s where your CRM (Customer Relation Management) software comes into play. Those that are “related” to that person could be approached to memorialize their loved one…which is a function of Development. Just another example of how all the processes of the DREAM impact one another.
Now that you have your four groups, here are the 3 essentials for “how” you do this.
The Right Tool: While you may be using something like Constant Contact, iContact or other tool, I’d like to recommend you check out Outstand (http://www.outstand.com). It’s what I’ve been using for a number of years under the title “Ace of Sales,” but the company has changed its name since there are a significant number of organizations that could use the tool’s functionality (non-profits, schools, and membership groups) which didn’t like the reference to “sales,” even though development, enrollment and other necessary functions have processes that are congruent with the sales process in the for-profit world. The cost is incredibly reasonable…$20/month to start out. Since you may simply need to tweak eNewsletters to appeal to your different constituencies, you can “clone” eNewsletters and tailor them as appropriate. Of course, making the link back to your Web site trackable
The Right Time: So “when” do you do this? If you’re doing the four eNewsletters, don’t do them “all at once.” That’s where things become overwhelming. Take one day per week (perhaps reserve an hour on Monday afternoons, or on Friday mornings) and do one version per week. If you use Outstand, simply clone a previous email from the month and tweak it.
The Right Mindset: “Essentializing” means reserving the time to do this task, and sticking to it. Mark it on your calendar, and consider creating and distributing it an “essential” activity for that day. It’s not that this is just “something nice if we can do it.”
More work? Certainly! But it needs to be done to ensure your school is still around to serve families and their children as we advance into the future.
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2010-2015 (Original Publication Date: 20101101)