Five tips to reinvent back-to-school and Open Houses

The level of excitement in schools is always at its peak in June, but this year has certainly been a special one. Across Quebec, teams are preparing for the back-to-school season and Open Houses in the era of physical distancing. These major upheavals will require effective communication that reassures and brings people together. Because the pandemic has not eliminated competition between institutions, promotional efforts will also need to be sustained. Here are five elements to guide school principals in this exercise.

No expectations of perfection

We must get used to the idea that things will not be perfect when the school year starts – there will certainly be loopholes and areas of uncertainty. This year, welcoming students will be marked by trial and error and experiencing many firsts. We will not demand a clean bill of health from principals, but we will expect clear, evolving, and empathetic communication. It will be important to demonstrate that school teams are in action, that they are looking for solutions and that they are listening to parents’ realities. Regular exchanges, frequent updates, and optimal use of all available channels (web, social media, mailings, phone calls, etc.) will be required.

Essential surveys  

A crisis on the scale of the pandemic requires us to be more in tune with our audiences than ever before. A lot of parents are on edge and many feel abandoned since the beginning of the pandemic. As schools work on preparations for the new school year, they will need to ensure that their communications are aligned with the mindset of parents. Surveys and virtual focus groups are excellent ways to test ideas or messages and adjust communications accordingly. Parents will appreciate that their opinions are considered and valued. There is also a high level of public availabilities for surveys. Our clients in the education sector who conducted a similar exercise in recent weeks have had excellent response rates.

Virtual and Open House Days

For more than 80% of parents, schools’ Open Houses are a significant factor in their decision-making process, according to a recent survey conducted for the Federation of Private Schools. Due to physical distancing, we must rethink these events. It may be tempting to replace all on-site activities with digital initiatives, but no matter how powerful and rich in possibilities they are, video conferencing tools do not completely replace human warmth. How will you recreate the proximity of the meetings with the teachers? Or showcase the passion of the school team? Do not directly evacuate exchanges in person. Think about new screen-free ways that respect public health principles.

Don’t forget the students’ voices

Creating content to support the promotion of schools is a real challenge. The staff is about to leave for the summer and will be difficult to mobilize to participate in videos, podcasts, or photo shoots. Why not consider student contribution? Many of them are eager to get back in touch with their school and the creation of digital content holds no secrets for them. Some of the schools we accompany have proposed an increased role during the summer to a committee of students who are involved in the marketing of their school, and the response has been excellent.

How will you stand out?

All schools are in the same boat. They need to be resourceful to promote themselves and stand out from the competition. It is a great opportunity to explore new possibilities, whether it’s immersive video (360), podcasting, live social media streaming, or student ambassador strategies. Institutions that stand out with more original than average projects could also attract media attention and receive unexpected coverage. Journalists will be on the lookout for new stories at the start of the new school year.

Do you have questions about your back-to-school communication strategy? Drop us a line, our experts will be happy to discuss your needs.

Jean-Michel Nahas About the author
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