Michele is a writer specializing in education, and family health and wellness. A former K-8 educator, she has ten-years-experience working in schools with wide range of socioeconomic backgrounds.
Use these effective open house strategies and win your next open house9 min read
Effective open house campaigns once meant filling the halls with artwork and dusting off your PowerPoint disk. Today, that dated approach is turning prospective parents away.
Parents are no longer content to send their child to the most convenient school. They want to know how your school will benefit their child.
An ineffective open house strategy will send parents to your competition. Follow these tips to turn your open house into an effective recruitment tool.
Adopt a marketing mentality
Identify your own brand. Define who you are, what you offer, and what sets you apart from your competitors.
Know your competition. Parents need to know why they should select your school over another. You need to know your competition in order to know yourself better.
It all comes down to having a defined message that will appeal to prospective parents who come to visit your open day.
Identifying your competition
Have a look around at schools in your area and analyze their offerings. Check on their enrollment rates and compare them to yours. You might have a few things to learn about their strategy as it relates to yours.
A good idea is to also do interviews with parents of students who have left your establishment. Be tactful and polite, as it could sometimes be a sensitive issue. Understanding these motivations could be essential to your marketing campaign.
Define your brand
Your brand is the element that sets you apart from your competition. If a competing school has a nationally ranked math team, don’t mention your third-place award. Your brand must be unique. Instead, focus on what your school does best. Include any accomplishments in your marketing message, and display these proudly at your school.
Analyze the demographic and pattern of your student intake. Where did they come from? What are their motivations? Your current students are at your school for a reason. Knowing what that reason is can help you to promote effectively and attract further enrollments.
Involve your staff
Once you formulate your brand message and decide on a strategy, make sure the entire staff knows how to communicate this to the public. Give your staff a script to use when speaking to parents. Ensure everyone presents the same message to prospective parents.
Your staff is invested in the success of the school, make them a part of the marketing plan. Once they are informed of the brand message the school is sending out, encourage them to include their own elements. They should include a list of their accomplishments in the classroom, and be specific about displaying specific student’s achievements.
Remind staff that parents are essentially coming to evaluate them, and they should treat every parent interaction like a job interview.
Rethink your advertising
Weekly advertisement in the local bulletin isn’t going to generate enough traffic. Consider other avenues for advertising your open house. Many local magazines publish an annual school report issue. Make sure your information is correct and consider placing an advert in that issue. If budget is a concern, ask if you can send photos for the issue. Invite the staff reporter or photographer to the school for a photo shoot.
Consider your online presence
Is your website regularly updated? How about your social media pages? Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram looking like a ghost town? Update these at least one month before your open house.
Prospective parents will search your website and browse your social media before deciding whether to visit your school. Anything outdated will send a signal to parents that your school is not current and perhaps understaffed.
Choose the date carefully
Having an open house at the end of a long week will hinder your efforts. Tired staff members may subconsciously drive parents away.
Consider moving your open house to the beginning of the week ensuring your staff is well-rested and feeling their best. They will naturally be more positive, more enthusiastic, and more eager to engage with parents.
Check your schedule. Make sure that your open day isn’t during a particularly busy school period, such as exam time and big sports tournaments.
Does your open house fall on the same day as your rival school? Years ago, every Catholic school in Cleveland had their open houses on the same day. The Diocese believed that Catholic education was the product, and parents should choose their local parish. School shopping was not a consideration. As a result, parents had to choose which open house to attend. This meant that parents had to make their decision before they even visited the school.
This is obviously not ideal, and if your open house falls on the same day as your rival’s, consider changing it. You want as many prospective families to visit as possible.
The catchy slogan won’t work on its own
That giant poster in the gym isn’t going to convince parents to choose your school. Parents aren’t only interested in anecdotes or slogans. They want to know how your school will help ensure their child’s success. Focus your energy on creating a cohesive message of benefits that your school provides, and instead promote those achievements.
Update your presentation
Are you still using the same PowerPoint from 2005? You may not realize that a parent who came to last year’s open house will remember seeing those slides. A recycled presentation will reaffirm their belief that your school is not right for their child.
Create a new PowerPoint every year with slides emphasizing your school’s current accomplishments.
For more visual impact, consider an animated presentation, such as Prezi, which has a free account for educators. A fresh modern format gives the impression that your school continues to evolve with the times. Be sure to include your new brand identity in your presentation.
Keep your presentation in line with what your school is doing now. Highlight current programs and emphasize the results. Every school has Smartboards and a mobile lab.
Which innovative and effective ways are you using them?
What are the results of the new math approach?
It isn’t enough to say you have these programs. Focus on results, and use real statistics to back up your claims. Parents don’t want to hear about the programs, they want to know how your school will benefit their child.
A successful open house is more than a simple meet-and-greet.
Treat it as a sales opportunity.
Identify your brand and involve the entire staff in the message. Focus on the results of your programs and the benefits these programs will have for students. Emphasize the unique opportunities your school offers.
Follow these steps and your next open house will showcase an integrated and successful school.