by Katie Pesha
FAITH Catholic Marketing Consultant
The year 2020 has presented major challenges to our society and world, and Catholic schools have experienced this in a singular way. Despite these challenges, now is not the time to back off of your mission. Catholic schools must do more than simply try to maintain the status quo or just keep their heads above water as they attempt to navigate back to “normal.” In my consulting with Catholic schools, I encourage them to seize this moment to redouble their efforts to live their Gospel-oriented mission. You are called to be the beacon of excellence in education that Catholic schools always have been. By staying atop your game, you can engage effectively with your communities and continue advancing the mission you’ve always had. Here are some recommendations for how to do that in your school.
1. Communication is not just key, it’s care
Our understanding of the coronavirus changes every day, and it seems as though our plans for back-to-school in August change even faster. Despite this hectic atmosphere, keep getting the word out! Your school families will appreciate regular updates that are up-front and honest about the current state of the situation. Even if you’re simply telling them about the process of navigating the coming year, that is much better than no communication at all!
The age of social distancing means people have increased their expertise in digital media. You can offer weekly newsletters, consider the possibility of a Zoom town hall to inform parents, and keep social media up-to-date. Short videos, such as this example from the Archdiocese of Chicago, require no special equipment and can take fewer than five minutes, yet go a long way to instilling hope simply by reaching out. Regular updates will offer the stability many are seeking and demonstrate that the school is taking families’ concerns seriously. Effective and thoughtful communications tell your families you care.
2. Showcase success
Solicit pictures of students who love digital learning, and share them on your social platforms. Get the word out about the variety of safety measures being prepared. Remind families of what Catholic schools do well. Parents choose Catholic education for many reasons they cannot find elsewhere: the focus on faith, the sense of community, the well-rounded academics, plus much more. Catholic institutions obtained more than a billion dollars in stimulus aid to retain valuable personnel and maintain our standards of excellence. These funds are being put to use to ensure our schools are safe for the fall. Make sure your communication showcases what your school is doing well and reminds families why they sought Catholic education to begin with.
3. Prayer is paramount
Ultimately, Catholic schools are defined by our faith — our days are framed by prayer and the love of God. Lockdowns last spring disrupted many institutions’ shared prayer lives, and many schools experimented with live-streaming as a substitute, especially to start the day. In preparing to re-open, principals and teachers must keep prayer, the core of Catholic education, in the forefront of our minds and hearts.
But of course, faith starts with the family. Communication efforts should, in addition to the regular administrative and marketing messages, shine a spotlight on how our community is rooted in prayer at home. Encourage families to explore daily prayer time in the form of the rosary, or praying with the daily Mass readings. Consider learning the Liturgy of the Hours, the daily prayer of the Church that sanctifies each day with prayer (an instructional video is available here). By focusing on our daily relationship with the Lord, we re-center our schools’ mission and maintain our hope in the Kingdom of God amid our ongoing communication with our families and students.
These are uncertain times but that uncertainty should not cause us to react in fear. By focusing on our mission as Catholic educators and making it a priority to communicate effectively, we can continue to promote success and celebrate the good things that are happening in our schools — no matter what our learning looks like in the fall.
by Dawn Doerr, Marketing Consultant
Many Catholic schools face uncertain futures and tighter budgets, with marketing being one of the first expenses to be set aside when funds are limited. Yet, marketing is a necessity, especially now, when enrollment is threatened by the unknown path forward in the coming school year. The good news Even without a robust marketing budget, you can take affordable and effective measures to promote your. Some of these ideas won't cost a thing!
Focusing on families with school-age children who already are registered in your parish is the most effective strategy now. Simply increasing the number of registered parishioners who enroll their children in the parish school by two or three families could make a significant difference.
After the chaotic and unexpected end of the last school year, your school’s strong community, excellent academics, and Christ-centered environment may hold a new appeal for the coming year.
Here are a few creative, low-cost ways to deliver more good news to the families who already call your parish home:
By Betsy Hicks, Marketing Consultant
You've created exciting new messaging to share with potential families. You've scheduled a Virtual Open House to showcase your incredible faculty, staff, and students. But how can you get folks to sign up for your Zoom event so they can consider enrolling in your school for 2020-21?
Put Facebook advertising to work for your school enrollment campaign! While the list of benefits of Facebook ads is long, three major advantages stand out:
1. Choose your advertising objective.
Navigate to your business page from your computer and click the blue button on the lower left. Then choose what you want your ad to help you do. The Facebook ad objectives are pretty straight-forward, but some common choices include:
2. Add images and text to your ad.
Next, add images and text for your ad. Facebook might suggest an image and text, but you’re free to change them to the most relevant and interesting photos and headlines. Keep in mind that text for your ad should be short, simple and catchy.
3. Create your audience.
In this step, you tell Facebook who you want to reach. Be sure to think about things like age, location, and interests that are common in your audience. For example, if you’re promoting a Catholic elementary school, target a 10-mile radius from your school’s location, younger parents ages 28-45, etc.
4. Choose your budget and duration.
The next step is your budget. Facebook ads can be successful with a modest budget, so don’t feel pressured to spend a ton of money right away. In fact, if it’s your first ad, try a smaller budget as a test. You'll never be charged more than the budget you choose, and you can even see an estimate of how many people your ad may reach. Then, select how you want to pay.
You’ll also need to choose an ad duration. For boosted posts, try a 7-day duration; if you’re running a event or page promotion, or going for website clicks, you might want to consider something that runs a little longer.
5. Launch your ad.
Once you complete your ad and press “Promote,” it will go through a review process to assure that it doesn't violate any Facebook ad policies. If it's approved, it should start running right away.
Be sure to check back once it’s live to see how your ad is performing. Remember that if you're not happy with the results, you can pause and edit it.
The Facebook ad process can be used in very sophisticated ways, but it can also be a simple and effective tool for your school or parish. Just be brave, get into the platform, and give it a try -- you’ll be surprised by who your ad can reach and what it can inspire!
All images courtesy of Facebook.
by Dawn Doerr, Marketing Consultant
We’ve learned a lot during these difficult times about how much can be accomplished “virtually” when we are intentional about our presence online. Take some time to strengthen your digital home. Tips for creating a Virtual Open House to use on your website and social media:
Create a Virtual Open House Video
A sure way to help showcase your school is to create a video "open house," giving visitors to your website a tour of our building and a chance to "meet" your teachers and staff. But how to do this when the building is closed and your staff is not working together? Here's how:
Host a Virtual “Live” Open House
Don't let the circumstances of the crisis keep you from bringing prospective families together with your teachers, staff, and students to learn more about your school. Invite prospects to a live virtual open house! Here's how:
Virtual Open House Follow-up
Marketing actives such as creating a virtual open house are meant to generate leads. The key to "making the sale" — enrolling new families! — is ongoing communication. Be sure to read all the way to the bottom of this list — it's the key to success in recruitment marketing! :)
by Marybeth Hicks, Director of Marketing
In a normal school year, early March ushers in the spring break season. This year, due to the outbreak of coronavirus across the country, more than 50 million public and private school students learned that the 2019-20 school year would be upended by St. Patrick's Day. With no alternative but to close school buildings for the academic year, Catholic schools across the country drew on their dedicated teachers, smaller class sizes, and tight-knit family communities to pivot quickly to distance learning programs that have allowed them to keep teaching and to finish out the school year.
Usually, the primary marketing messages that compel parents to seek out information about Catholic education focus on faith-based education, overall excellence, a safe and nurturing Christian environment, and affordability. But is there a way to capitalize on your school's response to the COVID crisis in your marketing efforts? Consider how your school has responded and whether you can tout your success to prospective families:
As you consider how you'll frame your marketing messages in the coming weeks, start by making a list of all the ways your school and community have rallied together and demonstrated the strength of your educational program, your faith-based environment, and the competence and commitment of your teachers. Be sure to include any creative and inspiring ways in which your students have responded, too. Then, write a corresponding message that conveys the essence of each response.
It's likely you have many positive stories to tell about how your teachers, students and families are adapting to the new reality of the 2019-20 school year. Be sure to tell those stories on your website and share them on social media!
Many Catholic schools have not only survived the transition to distance learning, but are thriving despite all the challenges. Strength in adversity is a marketing message you can and should employ!
by Marybeth Hicks, Director of Marketing
While the coronavirus pandemic began to effect our communities in drastic ways, Catholic schools already were in the midst of enrollment campaigns for the 2020-21 school year. Now, many schools will face lost enrollment due to new financial hardships for their school families. Retention now may be your most important enrollment priority. Fortunately, there are effective things you can do to promote retention for next year:
Assess your school's enrollment status for 2020-21 and the toll of the crisis on families.
by Marybeth Hicks, Director of Marketing
In addition to obvious and tragic public health concerns, the COVID-19 crisis has created many other challenges. For Catholic school administrators, one of those is the challenge of enrollment and retention for 2020-21 at a time when many families are facing economic hardship and uncertainty.
Catholic school marketing already is a difficult task without the added weight of a post-pandemic economy. However, many Catholic schools have excelled through the crisis in ways that other educational institutions have not. The ability to be facile and responsive, to tap into the power of the Catholic school community, and to mobilize families who already view themselves as educational partners of the school has made a tremendous difference. These successes offer great opportunities for positive and appropriate messaging despite the current circumstances.
We've created free resources for Catholic schools to achieve two goals: getting parishioners to fulfill their obligation to support their parishes, thus supporting their parish schools; and encouraging families to enroll and look forward to the coming school year. Check out what's on our COVID-19 Resource page and feel free to download the content there. We hope it's helpful!