When School Markets to Mom

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Hey Mom, the School Called!

Last week I had the pleasure of speaking to the School Public Relations Association — the PR people representing school districts. Just like brands attempting to sell you their products and services, your kids’ school is a brand that wants you to buy in to its reputation, faculty, services and tools.

The PR folks there strive to communicate with you in a way that makes you “buy in” and want to tell other moms what a great district you live in.

Does your kids’ school communicate well? Do you get a lot of papers/letters in your kids’ backpacks? How about phone-tree voicemails? Do you like your school and your district on Facebook? Follow them on Twitter? Receive text messages from them? Do they use social media or mobile at all to reach you?

“As a mom and a marketer, what do you like or dislike about the communications you get from school?” one of them asked me. 

“TOO MUCH PAPER!” was my first thought. It seems like it’s disorganized, disheveled and constantly spilling out from my child’s backpack or Friday folder. It’s loose, nothing seems to have a particular rhythm or rhyme and sometimes not even much context. And? The communications that come home on paper also are the ones I least want to read. They’re usually paragraphs long and laborious. The voicemails seem to be redundant to the 36-page monthly newsletter, so I tend to (gasp!) delete them without listening (don’t report me to the principal)!

Am I spoiled by the bite-sized, visual content morsels that come across in my Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest feeds? Probably. But is it also the place where those brands wanting me to buy their products are reaching me? Yes. (As one mom in our study put it, “It’s their access point to me.”) Is it the way I’ve come to expect to receive communications, nicely integrated into my multi-tasking working-mom lifestyle? You bet.

I shared with the group of school PR pros that moms in a recent study we conducted told us email is the most likely place to catch them. In fact, 98% of the nearly 700 moms we talked to said they receive emails from companies and organizations, and a third of those moms receive more than 20 company-pushed emails. And Facebook was noted as the social space moms both prefer and trust the most. Granted, per our study, the type of content we moms expect to receive in social media is first and foremost information about coupons, deals and promotions. And schools aren’t necessarily selling products they can discount. Or are they? What if your school posted a Facebook-fans-only deal for a couple dollars off admission to the next high school basketball game? Or did a retweet-to-win promotion via which one family could get free admission to the school carnival?

And moms say they’re not only looking for discounts. They spend more time engaging with videos and photos online. So, hey school communicators, how about posting on Facebook a video snippet of a fun 5-question interview with the art teacher about how to foster creativity in a child?

One school rep mentioned that she understood that moms trust their peer moms most (yes!) and that she realizes many moms are blogging or at least reading their peer moms’ blogs (yep!) and acknowledged that a lot of the moms in her district may even have a blog (sure!) but she wasn’t sure how to find them. My suggestion? Ask! And before doing so, figure out exactly why and how you’d like to engage the local blogging moms.

When it comes to ways they communicate with you, and the content they share, what does your kids’ school do well? What would you like them to change?

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