What would you rather read on your spare time: a business whitepaper filled with statistics and factual observations, or an adventure novel transporting you into an inspiring story?
My guess is MOST of you answered with the novel. Because while we often have to check out facts and stats that inform and help us do our jobs and get things done, what really pulls us in is a good, personal story. It engages not only our minds, but also our hearts.
So why is it that many organizations and businesses - yes, that includes schools - write all of their blogs like a business whitepaper?
I’m not saying that there’s no place for factual reporting in a school blog. On the contrary, this type of content - education statistics, child development insights, and the like - can be not only eye opening for the reader but can help add another notch in your credibility totem pole. The same goes for how-to and other advice or tutorial type material.
But if that’s your only menu item, your school is missing out on a prime way to engage potential parents and let them get to know your own, personal voice. You can't just offer salads; you need some hearty meat and even some desserts, too!
"We write lots of blogs, but no one ever shares or responds to them!"
Does this sound like your school? I think we can help. It all starts with writing about the right things in the right way. That is, YOUR OWN things, in YOUR OWN way.
Content marketer Benji Hyam warns businesses against creating what he has coined “mirage content.” That is, content (like blogs) that simply say the same thing 10+ other similar blogs say, only in slightly different words.
Think about it: how many kindergarten preparedness checklists exist on the great world wide web? (A lot.) How many discipline strategies for young children can you find? Plenty.
Now, for sure, these types of articles definitely have a place in your school’s content trove. But if your authors are simply finding lists online and repurposing them for your blog, or if they have no experience with the subject and they’re just waxing eloquent a la a crafty college essay, you’re going to disappoint (and lose) your readers very quickly as they realize you’ve got nothing new to offer.Here are 3 tips for schools to create blog content that stands out, speaks to the heart, and spurs engagement:
1. Let real experts author your articles
Going back to the kindergarten readiness example. Instead of having your admissions director, marketing person, or head of school write the post, go straight to your pre-K, kindergarten, and first grade teachers to get their realistic tips.
Whether you have them write the post entirely for you, or you interview them and write the post from that, get your content straight from the source.
In doing this, pull stories and real-life examples out of them - things that highlight families that “do it right” and ones that have made their job harder. Get them to provide specific classroom anecdotes that illustrate what can help a child succeed.
In this way, it becomes far more than a cold, impersonal list. It not only provides a glimpse into who your school is, but it also also offers content that parents won’t find anywhere else.
Think about what resources your school has and what insights your staff and parent community can offer that is unique and helpful.
Have your Dean of Students share Biblical discipline tips straight from his or her experience. Let your music teacher discuss specific ways that learning music has benefited students.
Ask your literature teacher review and recommend books based on their classroom discussion times.
Contact an accountant parent to give budgeting tips for families.
Get the picture?
2. Be real and conversational in your voice
When writing a blog for your school, remember that you are not composing a business whitepaper. You need to connect with parents in a personal way to make your content strategy successful. So, write like you would talk. Think about making your writing sound like you’re enjoying talking with a friend about something that inspires and invigorates you.
One of the most tried-and-true ways to do this is by telling stories. Lots of stories. Stories build connections, share experience, and evoke emotions. Stories are remembered.
Your whole post may not be a story, but challenge yourself to include a story in nearly every one of your posts. Not a made-up story, mind you, but something that has happened in your student/faculty community.
Whoever your author is, when you ask them to write on a particular topic, ask them to think about times when they say the topic manifested in their lives and then to share that illustration.
Beyond the storytelling, though, is just the simple concept of writing in a friendly tone. Read your blog posts back aloud and see if it sounds personal and conversational, and then adjust accordingly. You want to help readers (that is, prospective parents) feel like they know you...or if they don’t know you yet, then they want to get to know you!
3. Tackle tough topics with gusto
This might be a touchy one, but hear me out: don’t be afraid to address “hot” topics in your blog. All those big, bad cultural trends, political upheavals, frenzied controversies - your prospective parents are already likely hearing, reading, and talking about these elsewhere.
Many of these topics (think: gender issues, gun violence, racism, sexual scandals, etc.) impact school-age students and their families in one way or another.
Chances are, while your school may not have an “official” policy on all of these, your leaders can pull out some universal, Scriptural observations from a godly perspective that add something unique to the conversations.
Some Schola clients have bravely tackled these tough topics and gotten massive responses because of it. Sure, some of those responses were negative, but the traffic, shares, and conversations they started made for a generally positive impact.
For example, last year one client generated over 3,000 views with a post on “Betsy DeVos and the End of the World (or Not)” just after the highly controversial Secretary of Education was installed.
The same client has written responses on the NFL kneeling controversy, the Trump election, the Charlottesville rally tragedy, the #MeToo movement, the Vegas shooting, gender identity, and more.
Each time, the posts were not meant to establish an “official school position,” but rather to shed Biblical light on massive cultural issues, and address questions that many parents and children may have surrounding these issues.
You may find these these articles will be your most liked, most shared, and most viewed posts with your highest post engagement rates. Decide in advance how you will handle this engagement. It may be wise to “budget” how often you will write about these types of issues throughout the year, simply because of the time it can take to properly handle the volume of responses you may get.
Of course, your school needs to treat these topics with adequate care. It may be a good idea to run these posts past some of your key Board members and leaders before they are published, and you must ensure that you have the right leader to write about these sensitive and often inflammatory matters.
Your aim is not to offend and be abrasive just for the sake of stoking a fire, but to help mission-appropriate families see that your school is a safe place where their values will be upheld with care.
Schola's School Growth Marketing System provides training and support to your in-house staff to start attracting mission appropriate families to your school through inbound marketing. Click the button to learn more about our Do-It-Yourself System!