Over the years I’ve done a lot of reading about what makes websites and newsletters effective. It’s why I know that if I put a link here, it’s ten times more likely to be clicked than one at the bottom of the page. And it’s why my search strategy course registration page doesn’t have menus. Those same concepts can be applied when you’re trying to get more students and parents to interact with your emails and websites.
1. One Big Purpose
The purpose of any webpage or newsletter should be clear to the visitor/ reader. For example, the purpose of this blog post is to give you tips for getting more responses to your email and or website.
In the case of this sample school open house website, the purpose is to get parents to confirm that they’re coming to the open house. By the way, I made that sample website using Canva and Microsoft Forms. A demo of how to do that is available here.
2. Call to action!
Every politician and car salesperson knows that the key to their success is making a clear call to action. The same is true when creating a webpage or writing a newsletter. If you want people to respond, you have to ask them to do it. That’s why I close most newsletters with the reminder that you can always reply to ask me questions and it’s why on this sample school open house website I wrote “Let Us Know You’re Coming” in big letters.
3. Frequency & Consistency
Today, we have more ways than ever to communicate with parents and students. We can email, text, and send push notifications. There’s also no shortage of social media channels that we can use to publish information about our classes and schools. Don’t use all of them!
If you really want to send messages that parents and students respond to, send them on a consistent schedule through the same channel each time. A simple, effective strategy is to use the scheduling tools built into Gmail or Outlook to send an email to parents every Sunday evening. Then during the week use Remind or SchoolMessenger to send critical updates (e.g. changes to bus schedules, big project deadlines, picture day reminder).
A pattern that I’ve observed from many years of sending email to a mailing list of 25,000+ is that my weekly newsletter gets opened at a rate of about 44% while my daily mailing gets opened at a rate of about 35% (both are above average open rates, by the way). The same is true when it comes to communicating with students. Whenever I’ve sent daily messages (whether via Remind or email) they’re opened at a far lower rate than when I only send them once or twice a week.
Reminder! When you send an email newsletter, the things at the top are always more likely to be read and responded to than the things at the bottom.
I should point out that the above applies to group messaging not to individual messaging. If there’s a specific student or parent that needs a reminder specific to them, by all means send it whenever and as often as needed.
What about social media?
Social media can be a nice complement to your website, newsletter, and text messages. Use it to post fun updates about things that are going on at school. However, the vagaries of social media algorithms make it unreliable as the primary means of sharing critical information with parents and students. The social media update you make today might not be seen by parents or students until days later depending on their social media use habits. Plus, who has time for making TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and Myspace updates every day? Even the Kardashians outsource social media these days.
But if you do make social media posts that you want parents and students to react to, include a call to action in those posts.
First, if you’re really curious about this topic, please let me know (email me: richard at byrne.media). Second, there are a couple of books about this topic that I recommend. Russell Brunson’s Expert Secrets is a good read even if it is a bit salesy. Ann Handley’s Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content is another on my bookshelf of recommendations on crafting clear communication.