One of the most powerful marketing tools your school has at its disposal is the powerful, positive voices of your current parents. Positive stories in local media, great reviews online, impressive test scores, and national recognition all demonstrate your excellence, but there’s nothing as powerful to a prospective parent as the personal experience of another parent.
A successful Parent Ambassador Program can help you tell your story and bring in new families. Here are some tips to build and maintain a successful Parent Ambassador Program.
Know your story
Your Parent Ambassadors can be your boots on the ground marketing team. They are out in the community at the soccer games, the swim meets, the grocery stores, talking to other parents about their experience in your school. And while the personal touch, the authentic nature, of what they are saying is essential to the effectiveness of your program, it’s even more important that they are all telling the same story about your school.
When you decide to launch a Parent Ambassador Program an important first step is to decide what story you want to tell. Are you a STEM school? Do you have a project-based curriculum? Does your sustainable garden provide students the chance to work with their hands while learning about the earth? Do your graduates excel at the next level?
Whatever your story is, you need to know it, live it, and arm your parent ambassadors with it. If your message is told consistently, it has a much better chance of being remembered.
Select the right ambassadors
Your Parent Ambassador Program is only as effective as the ambassadors you choose. Some factors to consider when choosing parents to help tell your story.
- Select ambassadors who can speak to the experience at each point of entry. If you tend to enroll preschoolers, 1st graders, or 9th graders, choose parents who came to your school in those grades. And did so recently.
- Choose happy parents. This may seem obvious, but you don’t want a parent with an ax to grind spreading their gripes on your behalf.
- Find parents who are active outside your school community who can reach parents who don’t already know all about you.
- Outgoing and available parents are ideal. Parents who are too busy or who aren’t comfortable talking to others will not be able to attend events and help out. And for the introverted, once there, it will be difficult for them to reach out and connect with people they don’t know.
At this point in the process, you should also identify one or two lead ambassadors, who you can communicate with and through, and who can help lead this effort while you are tending to the other important parts of running your school.
Communicate about the program
While you definitely have some ideas about which parents would make great ambassadors, there are likely many parents who would love to help sing your school’s praises. Before launching your program, let your school community know what the Parent Ambassador Program is, what the goals of the program are, and how they can become involved.
The last thing you want is for an excited and motivated parent to be turned off because they weren’t offered the chance to help.
Host an impactful kick-off meeting
This is an exciting initiative! One that gives parents the chance to help their school and share something they are passionate about. It deserves a lively and impactful start.
Your kick-off meeting should be filled with all of the information your ambassadors are going to need to be successful and the energy you want them to take with them when they leave.
Your best ambassadors are informed and excited.
Train your ambassadors
There are many ways that Parent Ambassadors can help you market your school including: talking directly to friends with school-age children about your school, posting school news on their social media as well as pages and forums for local parent groups, reaching out to feeder schools, realtors, or daycare centers, manning tables at local school fairs, and leading school tours during open houses to name a few.
As such, it is best to narrow the scope to a few specific actions you’d like your ambassadors to take, give them goals for these actions, and train them how you’d like things done. These are volunteers, not necessarily marketing professionals, and volunteers without direction can do more harm than good.
Take the time to give them the tools and training they need so they can give you the help you need.
Parent Ambassador Programs require ongoing care. They are not perpetual motion machines or an “As Seen on TV” rotisserie chicken cooker; You can’t just set it and forget it. Once you’ve kicked off your program and trained your ambassadors you need to take the time to touch base with your ambassadors regularly. These conversations help them feel appreciated, keep them engaged, and keep you connected to the challenges and successes they are experiencing.
Update ambassadors about issues or initiatives
As the school year progresses, keep your ambassadors “in the know” about what’s happening in your school community. Whether you are doing something exciting like launching a new math program, handling an unexpected expense like replacing a boiler or dealing with a difficult issue like bullying, your ambassadors can help you spread your message and explain to current parents “the why” of your decision.
A group of parents trained and capable of sharing your message, properly informed, can be invaluable in helping you celebrate the successes and manage the difficulties.
Build your pipeline
Your Parent Ambassador Program, just as with any volunteer operation, can only be helpful to you in the long-term if you take the time to develop the next wave of volunteers. Provide frequent updates to the school community about the efforts and successes of your current ambassadors. Talk to new parents as they become more familiar with your school. Identify which current ambassadors who will be moving on. This can help you develop next year’s ambassadors and ensure that the program continues to grow and help tell your school’s story.