All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘K-12’
It’s always been the case, but is even more so now as the economy’s engine slowly (painfully slowly) begins to crank back to life: Patrons want value from anything they chose to – or have to – invest in.
But how do patrons decide whether or not they are getting good value? What they are telling us, via our research, is that their value equation has three parts to it:
What I see: Do the buildings look cared for? Do the students who are being educated appear to be solid citizens in the community? (Good luck with having that be viewed as universally the case.) Do the teachers, principals, administrators and Board of Education members seem to be pulling in the same, positive direction?
What I hear: Not so much from the district – although news from the Central Office and the individual schools does play a part – but more from what the neighbors are telling me. What the teachers are saying. What my kids are saying about what happens in school.
What I believe: Do I start with the general view that the school district is effective and efficiently run, or do I have nagging questions? What’s happening that’s impacting that view?
But understanding that value is not something that the majority of your patrons associate with a numerical equation will help guide your brand-building communications toward messages that demonstrate value on the patrons’ terms.
A recent trip to the bank’s drive-through was pretty revealing.
Now, this is not the slowest drive-through window I’ve ever been to (and I’ve been through more than my share), but I usually need a haircut by the time I get done. So, I had plenty of time to sit and brood. In doing so, my eyes happened upon a hand-lettered sign that was obviously meant for internal consumption only, peering at me from the window.
The sign was touting the virtues and benefits of a home improvement loan—not the benefits to the recipient, but to the bank. It seems the bank has an incentive program for the cashiers and anyone who “sells” a home equity loan gets a nice, fat bonus. The heading on the sign says “This month’s #1 priority—home-equity loans!”
It’s sort of like the signs that you see affixed to cash registers at some retail establishments, reminding the staff member to “Smile” and “Make eye contact” or to “Ask each customer if they (sic) need anything else.” These signs make me want to smile, because they suggest a rather basic approach to training and not a whole lot of confidence in the staff.
Plastering your educational objectives all over your school district’s buildings is a little like this. It’s fine to have an internal mission statement that says, for example, “Our objective is to help each student be a success, every single day” and to refer to that statement as decisions are being made.
But, remember that as you are getting your statement framed and suitable for posting that doing so takes an internal pledge and seeks to make it a marketing tool – which it isn’t. It’s little more than a promise to do your best, which doesn’t differentiate you from any other school district.
And that reminds me of the question I asked a former client in the health care field who proudly showed me the etched glass in their new hospital lobby that had the hospital’s slogan, which was (I’m not kidding) “We care.”
My question to her: Isn’t that what a hospital is supposed to do?
We have a bet around the office as to when social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, et al) will become as important a source of school district news as the district’s own website.
You see, five years ago, somewhere between 2% and 5% of typical patrons told us that they “frequently” consulted the district’s website for news and information. That number is now routinely above 10%, and often as high as 25%.
That’s where social media stands right now – about 2-5% utilization for school district news. We expect it won’t take five years to get to where district websites are right now.
There is a significant, strategic difference between your website and social media. You control your website, but you don’t control what patrons are saying on their Facebook pages and Twitter feeds. And, of course, you can’t control who might start up a niche Facebook page to either champion a cause or raise a ruckus.
So, if you can’t control what others are saying via their social media channels, what’s a district to do? Fight fire with fire. Create a robust Facebook page that provides you another outlet to channel news and information. Start a Twitter feed, but for goodness sake make certain that you put meaningful information on there. (Current estimates are that upwards of 70% of Twitter messages are akin to “I hate it when it rains” and “Great ham sandwich at lunch today.”)
And don’t worry if your “fan” and “follower” numbers are modest for a while. Your community may not be an early adopter of such channels but, as our experience with website traffic suggests, they’ll eventually get there. It’s up to you to be there with something meaningful once they arrive.