In this session, Michael Barber and Ashley MacQuarrie discussed specific enrollment marketing tactics for schools over the summer. They talked about social media content, planning events, website updates and how to balance all these things with getting some much-deserved time away over the summer break.
Michael B. (00:12):
Hi everyone, and welcome back to our weekly series on all things enrollment marketing for charter school leaders. My name is Michael Barber and I’m joined by my ever-present weekly co-host, Ashley MacQuarrie. Ashley, how are you doing today?
Ashley M. (00:26):
Doing well, thanks, Michael. How are you?
Michael B. (00:28):
Good to hear. I am well, thank you. We’re going to hop right in. We’re right on time today and going to give ourselves our 10-minute countdown timer and talk about all the things. We’re getting into what, we’re in the first week of April. It is May 4th for all the Star Wars fans out there. May the fourth be with you. We’re getting down to the last few weeks of the school year. Depending upon where you are in the country, you’ll likely be wrapping up the year in the next couple of weeks, maybe into the first parts of June if you’re in California or other states. So I wanted to turn the topic today to what should school leaders be thinking about as they’re heading into the summer to make sure they’re prepared for the fall? So we’ll start there. Tips and tricks that school leaders can think about right now as they’re heading into the last few weeks of the school year to get them prepared for fall.
Ashley M. (01:23):
Yeah. Well, something to think about is getting ready for the content that you’re going to publish maybe on your website or on social media during the summer leading up until the start of school, and making sure that you have what you need while you have folks on your campus. So with some of the schools that we’ve started working with a little bit later in the season, we’re making sure that we have video shoots scheduled, photo shoots scheduled, so that we can capture that content while there’s still kids and teachers on the campus. So that’s really important because if you don’t have summer school, we’ve had challenges where we’ve had to use stock photos through the summer or we use older photos, which isn’t-
Michael B. (02:02):
Such a good point.
Ashley M. (02:04):
And then stockpiling teacher profiles. We’ve said before on these that these are some of the best performing content that we see, but it can be hard to get that while teachers are hopefully unplugged through the summer. So trying to get some of that content, that Q&A content from your teachers just kind of ready or having them do a little short interview on video. And just capturing that so that you can roll it out throughout the summer and introduce folks on your social networks to the people that make your school special.
Michael B. (02:39):
Yeah, it’s such a good insight to make sure that you’ve got your photo shoots or video shoots scheduled before you break because any of that content, you’re going to want to make sure your school captures the essence of that school, and it’s certainly going to feel different if your students, teachers, and leaders are not there. When it comes to school leaders and potentially queuing up content for social media or for blog posts. Is it a good idea to preschedule things to help them maybe find some efficiencies through the summer? Do you see school leaders doing that?
Ashley M. (03:14):
Yeah, definitely. We’ve seen schools starting to adopt more of the social media scheduling tools or just using the built-in tools that Facebook offers for Facebook and Instagram. That’s definitely a great idea. And then just building out your content calendar so that you don’t have to think about it, oh no, I need to write a post today. Just start to plan that content ahead and think about summer topics. So what kinds of content would you want to publish around back to school prep or summer learning loss? Things like that. Educational type summer activities, that can all be great stuff that parents really like to see, and so starting to plan for that content now is a good idea.
Michael B. (03:54):
Yeah, such a good point. Question on timing as it relates to fall enrollments. If I’m a school leader and I haven’t spent a significant amount of preparing for the fall, is it too late? What should I be doing if that prep hasn’t happened yet? Things that have to get started, maybe things to think about if you’ve got a few weeks or a few months.
Ashley M. (04:18):
Yeah. Well, it’s not necessarily too late, but it is late. So definitely making sure, I mean, hopefully you have some pre-enrollment already of people who have expressed interest or a list of leads. And so you’re going to want to be following up with them consistently and have a plan in place for how you’re going to communicate with them through the summer, maybe plan events. I think events and getting people on your school campus or getting out into your community is going to be really important if you’re starting late. So a kindergarten roundup, an ice cream social, a movie night, meet the principal and teacher nights, anything that’s going to get newly enrolled families excited about their choice of your school and hopefully encourage them to bring their friends. I think that it’s just going to be more important that you’re on the ground working to generate that word of mouth in addition to the digital activities. You’re just really going to have to hustle a lot more at this point.
Michael B. (05:16):
Yeah, for the schools that we’ve worked with over the past few years… What are some trends that happen over the summer? Do you see schools’ website traffic dip? So what are the things that school leaders should expect to see from an enrollment trend perspective. That website traffic goes down? Does sort of the social media shares go down? How can they buck those trends if that’s the case? What happens from a enrollment ecosystem as we head into the end of May, beginning of June and into the hot summer months?
Ashley M. (05:48):
Yeah, definitely. I always prep our team and our schools of, your website traffic, everything is going to take a massive dive around the 4th of July. We see it just consistently the last week of June and the first week of July. Parents are totally disengaged, they’re not thinking about school. And honestly, our teachers and our staff and our school administrators are also just tired and they’re pretty-
Michael B. (06:14):
They’re disconnecting too, yeah.
Ashley M. (06:16):
It’s going to be quiet. And then it builds back up in July and we see that interest come back up, and then it really spikes in August. So August tends to be the biggest month in terms of website traffic. And it does also depend on the area, so it depends a little bit on whether your school goes back in the first couple weeks of August or maybe closer to Labor Day. It also depends on just the community that you serve. So there are some parents, some schools where they have more families who are really engaged in the spring and through the spring and early summer in that back to school. And then there are families where maybe they don’t even realize that school is starting so soon until they see the sign on the building that says, school starts August 4th or whatever. So you want to be engaging with both of those audiences. But it’s definitely not unusual to see really low traffic at this time of year.
Michael B. (07:16):
Yeah. Does that present an opportunity for work to be happening on the website, for school leaders to take a step back and maybe make some improvements? And if you have a couple tricks on what could be improved in a short amount of time, I’m all ears, and I’m sure our school leaders are too.
Ashley M. (07:35):
Yeah, it could be a good time to do some website work while traffic is low. If there’s development work that needs to happen or major updates, that could be a good time. I mean, ideally you will want to have updated your website or if you’re building a new website, you would’ve wanted to do that work sooner. But I think there’s swapping out photos, making changes, things like that. Definitely if you enroll year round, a lot of our schools are still enrolling ’22, ’23 students right up until the end of the school year. So making sure that everything is switched over to that ’23, ’24 language, removing those old forms that might have still been capturing year round enrollments so that there’s no confusion for families and making sure that everything is geared towards the fall enrollment. And then maybe just embracing the quiet a little bit and taking a break before the rush. Sometimes we see that our school leaders just really need that little bit of a lull.
Michael B. (08:39):
Yeah, I mean, we know some of the biggest struggles that school leaders have talked to us about that, and that is certainly mental health for their teachers, that is teacher and school leader burnout and wellness. And maybe that summer provides a little bit of a respite and maybe we shouldn’t be recommending that they work on things in that moment of respite, but certainly an opportunity to, if there is a little bit of time to put a fresh coat of paint on something, make sure things are working on the site, being prepared for those traffic spikes as you head out of July into August. Not a bad idea by any stretch of the imagination.
Let’s turn to social media for a second. Is there a right or wrong content calendar for social over the summer? I would imagine that if your website traffic is going down, I would imagine maybe the school’s engagement comments, like shares likely go down during the summer. Is that the case? And if so, do school leaders stop posting? What do you advise school leaders over the summer to either continue to do or discontinue during that time?
Ashley M. (09:46):
Yeah. I don’t think we see quite the same dip on social media because people are at home, they’re on their phones still on social media. I think it gets harder for school leaders to find things to talk about on social because you don’t have the events and activities going on. That sort of community building, here’s what’s happening on our campus content gets harder to come by. So it does become more about maybe sharing content that you have built up a bank or re-sharing content that’s relevant. Again, more evergreen stuff. Again, dripping out those school teacher profiles, highlighting your alumni who just graduated. So that kind of thing. But it gets a little harder because you can’t just say, we went on a field trip, here’s some pictures. That kind of stuff isn’t happening on campus. As far as right or wrong… Oh, sorry.
Michael B. (10:38):
No, no, no. Continue, continue.
Ashley M. (10:40):
I don’t think there’s a right or wrong schedule. I think whatever you can… If your calendar shifts a little bit in the summer and maybe you’re only posting twice a week, I think that’s okay. Whatever you can do to be consistent though.
Michael B. (10:52):
Yeah, for sure. And I think you sort of touched on a potential recommendation, which is make sure you’ve got that content either queued up or you’ve got enough to get you through the summer, because you certainly don’t want to be getting to certain times of the year and start to figure out, hey, we don’t have anything to post as we get through those summer months as well.
Ashley M. (11:15):
Michael B. (11:17):
Ashley M. (11:17):
The worst thing would be to just go silent, right?
Michael B. (11:20):
Yes. Yeah, I mean, you and I both have seen recommendations from all of the major social networks that say, to the best of your ability, don’t change your cadence because typically the social media networks will adjust their algorithms and your organic reach if your regular cadence isn’t consistent. So if you’re an everyday poster, continue that through the school year, continue that through the summer, I should say, and just keep that cadence up and make sure you’ve got that content prepared.
Well, hey, we are at now the 12-minute mark, so we’re going to wrap things up, but I did want to give a big shout-out to Ashley, we are on episode 17. We’ve been back here basically every week since mid-December, which has been just incredible to have her voice here. And also wanted to tease out that both Ashley and I will be at the National Charter Schools Conference. Charter School Capital is the diamond sponsor for that conference, and you will find both of us in the leadership lab inside of the exhibit hall talking all things enrollment marketing. We’re going to be having a little preview of what we’re bringing to the national conference over the next few weeks, so stay tuned for that here.
But did want to say a big thanks to Ashley for continuing to come back and answer all our questions and bring in her team members in here to talk all things enrollment marketing. So thanks for making it happen over the last few weeks, Ashley, we greatly appreciate it.
Ashley M. (12:53):
Thanks, Michael. It’s been fun.
Michael B. (12:55):
Always a pleasure. We’ll wrap it up there. You’ve got tips for getting you through the summer, and look out for our next episode right here on youtube.com/charterschoolcapital. We are here every usual Thursday, 10:00 AM Pacific, 1:00 PM Eastern talking all things charter schools and helping school leaders get where they’re going. So would love to see you here in the future. For now, take care.
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