Wired for engagement – the Schoolwires blog

How do you keep your K-12 community in the loop? Take our survey!

Posted by Debbora Woods on 6/25/15 1:17 PM


We want to know how you’re keeping families engaged.


At Blackboard, we’re eager to understand the tools and strategies that you use to keep your K-12 community members and families on the same page.


Can you take a moment right now to take our very brief survey on your approaches and preferences when it comes to communications in your school or district?


With your answers, we can do more to help your school or district keep parents and community members engaged—something that’s so critical to student success.


We know how busy you are, and we truly appreciate your time!


Take survey now >>

Topics: K-12 Communications, Survey

Why Blackboard? K-12 Communications Leaders Share Real Results

Posted by Debbora Woods on 5/27/15 9:00 AM


We're excited to announce our new eBook, written just for K-12 Communications Leaders!


You know parents and students are driving change in your schools, demanding that education keep up with the ever-changing world of technology. So, take some time to read through this new eBook to explore what K-12 experts say about keeping your community informed and safe with a comprehensive communication plan that includes web hosting, a district mobile app, social media management, and mass notification system.


In this new eBook, you'll discover critical information about:


Parent Engagement

"When we talk about being linked to learning, we're talking about engaging with families in a way that will support the learning process for each student"

Karen L. Mapp, Ed.D., Harvard Graduate School of Education


Website Services and Hosting


District Mobile Apps

"The mobile app is a way that we can send updates without parents asking. We're being proactive, and that is how we want to keep our parents involved."

Treva Emter, Supervisor of Instruction in Charge of Technology, High Prairie School Division #48


Mass Notification


Social Media Management

"Since implementing Sociability, our parent and community following have both increased. Parents have noticed the difference in the response rate, it's much quicker, and our school admins and principals are much more comfortable using social media."

Annette Eyman, Communications Director, Papillion La-Vista Public Schools


And much more!


We believe engaging family and community members leads to creating successful students and stronger communities. To explore more of your peers' success stories and discover how they've created comprehensive communications strategies that keep families and their K-12 communities informed, download your eBook copy today!








Topics: K-12 Communications

Congratulations, you’ve got competition. Five ways to win in the new competitive K-12 environment.

Posted by Marc Rubner on 10/14/14 9:12 AM


Guest Blogger: Marc Rubner, VP of Marketing, Schoolwires

Part 3: Messaging and Marketing Communications

In the first segment of our five-part series on the new competitive K-12 environment, we discussed how to effectively position your K-12 district to compete effectively in the new era of school choice. In Part 2, we continued the discussion with a focus on segmentation and targeting. In Part 3, we’ll focus on developing effective messaging and – bonus time! – the best way to select the channels through which to deliver your messages so they reach those clearly defined segments.

I was meeting with the head of communications for a large urban high school district in a highly competitive market. Charter schools, private schools, and state-wide open enrollment were seriously impacting his enrollment numbers. In an effort to understand why students and parents were choosing other districts, I asked him, “What is your biggest challenge that keeps you from attracting students as effectively as you’d like?” Without hesitation, he replied “Mythbusting?”

“Mythbusting?” I asked.

“Yes. Mythbusting,” he reiterated.

He explained his research indicated that despite outstanding safety records, new and modern school buildings, and rising standardized test scores, parents and students who should be attending his district chose not to because they believe the myth that urban public high schools are unsafe, falling apart, and produce fewer students who meet state academic standards.

I was fascinated. “So," I asked, “What are you doing about it?” He responded, “We’ve initiated a marketing and advertising campaign to raise our profile and attract more students.” And he proceeded to share with me the direct mail postcards, print advertisements from the local newspapers, and billboard ads he was running in town.

What I noticed was three things:

  1. This communications pro did his research to find the optimal messaging opportunity - bust that myth!
  2. He knew who he wanted to reach: Parents and students across his district who were unaware of the facts about his schools’ safety, modernization, and academic achievement.
  3. He had the appropriate channels of communications scoped out. He even worked out a pro bono deal with the billboard owners to secure the billboards at a significant discount.

But why wasn’t his approach working? When I reviewed the materials he provided, it quickly became obvious: none of the post cards, billboard ads, or newspaper ads mentioned anything about his district's fantastic safety record; or their new facilities; or the students' test scores, graduation rates, and college acceptance rates. In other words, he didn’t align his messaging with his target. It was an opportunity missed.

The three steps to effective messaging and marketing communication are:

  1. Research: Identify the needs, information gaps and perceptions of your audience. If you’ve already identified your target, talk to them, listen to them and find out why they choose your district and why they don’t.
  2. Use Clear and Concise Language Backed by Facts: The goal of your messaging is to convince your target audience that your district is the best choice for them. Stay focused on this. Use as few words as possible. Support them with facts. In the example above, one effective messaging approach would have been a billboard featuring a simple stat: “Our standardized test scores and graduation rates have improved by more than 25% over the past five years. That’s better than 95% of districts in the state.” A message like this cuts through the myth and offers a point of comparison that’s credible and impressive. Use Carmine Gallo’s Message Mapping as a guideline for developing concise, effective language.
  3. Use Testimonials from Credible Members of Your Audience:  To bust the myth of underperforming schools, a quote from a recent graduate could offer “More than seventy-five percent of my graduating class went on to college. Thanks to the challenging courses and great teachers at my high school, I got a scholarship to my first choice!”

Above all, connect the dots all the way through to the end messaging.

Finally, even if you’ve managed to get the messaging right, failing to identify the right communications channels that reach your audience will render all that work moot.

Again, there are three steps (there’s a theme here…) to ensure you’re investing in the right channels.

  1. Research: Here it is again. Start with research. Poll your audience to find out what media they are using. Get insight into online channels (your district website, email, text messaging, pay per click, etc.). Schoolwires clients often use the Forms and Survey tools within Centricity2 content management system to survey their constituents.
  2. Test, Measure and Adjust: Invest modestly in a variety of channels. Measure what works and keep doing those while eliminating those that don’t. Online channels are typically easier to measure than offline channels (newspaper ads, billboards, direct mail), but not impossible. Using response codes and measuring incoming phone calls or response rates based on the timing of offline campaigns can provide insight.
  3. Network: Use the power of your teacher, administrator, and community networks. Make sure you ensure success via word-of-mouth. Neighbors talk to neighbors. School choice is a referral business. Ensure your network is working for you and not against you by joining the conversations and providing accurate and timely information to help your network spread positive news and reviews about your district.

As marketers in competitive product industries know, connecting effective messaging with the right communications channel improves sales. K-12 school district leaders can achieve similar results by utilizing the same approach.

Topics: K-12 Communications, K-12 Competition, Messaging, Marketing Communications

Reach your K-12 community where they live: Email

Posted by Jeff Windsor on 10/9/14 9:00 AM


Guest Blogger: Jeff Windsor, Schoolwires Product Specialist

I just finished watching "Getting out the good word on your district" by David Meerman Scott (http://offers.schoolwires.com/realtimepr). I encourage every district public relations officer to watch this, and consider the multi-faceted approach to keeping your K-12 community informed. One important facet of your overall communication strategy should include email - that pioneering digital delivery medium that has endured the test of time and continues to be an effective way to get the good word out.

As Product Specialist for Schoolwires, I have the privilege of working with many school districts across the country as they look for a communications solution. In almost every meeting, I demonstrate how the Broadcast E-Alert feature of Centricity2 - our website and content management system platform - provides the ability for districts to use attractive email newsletters to keep their constituents informed and engaged. The editing tools provided in Centricity2 allow even novice users to create compelling email newsletters with images and graphics, links, and layouts that will display well in all email systems used by your community. Once the layout has been designed, it can be used as a template for future editions of your e-newsletter, making it even easier to provide a consistent brand-reinforcing message. These email newsletters can then be sent out to a variety of groups, from the entire registered user base, to specific groups of users, or even to a list of email addresses entered for this specific publication.

While I can certainly show these features in our Lake Park demonstration site (http://jeffwindsor.lakeparksd.com/newsletter) I always prefer to show client examples. Barrington Community Unit School District 220 located about 35 miles northwest of Chicago has used the Schoolwires Centricity2 Broadcast E-Alert feature to send out a variety of e-newsletters for many years. From their "About Us" tab, their E-Newsletters section (http://www.barrington220.org/Page/12119) features an archive of their District Newsletters - an exact copy of the email newsletter sent out to those who have subscribed to that particular content. Barrington 220 also provides similar archives for two other content areas - Board Newsletters and Superintendent Newsletters. Clicking on those navigational links takes you to the archive of those content collections. There is also a link to a Centricity2 Form that can be used to subscribe to these email newsletters.

As you can see, Barrington 220 has fully embraced the idea that email communications are an integral part of their overall communication strategy. You, too, can easily add this media delivery option to your daily or weekly flow of information as you get out the good word on your district. For more information on Centricity2 Broadcast E-Alerts and how you can start reaching people who live on email, get in touch with us today !

Topics: K-12 Communications, e-Newsletters

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