In a School Choice Environment Who are Your Ambassadors?

Across the state, there are a multitude of news stories detailing the efforts of public school districts to market themselves. Billboards; newspaper, radio and television commercials; YouTube videos, and brochures have been some of the more common methods.

On their own, how effective are they in determining parents’ decisions as to where to send their child to school? While these advertising methods may create awareness and peak interest, I would argue that it is really your school’s formal or informal ambassadors or perhaps lack of, that play a critical role in how parents choose a school.

Brains on Fire blog wrote the following:

Maybe you’re not in a formal ambassador program or even consider yourself an ambassador of, well, anything really. But when you start thinking about it, you might be surprised that you choose or not choose to be an ambassador every day.

Case in point, if you’re a runner and like to run outside in public places (like downtown), more than likely you’ve been stopped and asked directions by pedestrians or even drivers. At that moment, you have a decision to make. Because in that moment, you can choose to be an ambassador for your city. You can choose to take the time to stop and get them where they need to go and wish them well on their way. You just became an ambassador. You just gave that person a “customer experience.”

My point is that you don’t have to be involved in a formal program to be considered an ambassador. You don’t even have to be a loud and proud evangelist to be considered an ambassador. We make decisions everyday when we interact with others. And many times, brands are a part of those interactions. So take the time to become aware of your conversations. Because those are the same ones your customers are having. And each and every one of those are an opportunity to make both your lives better.

Does your staff serve as ambassadors of your schools? When out in the community does the staff speak positively about the schools they work in? Do the conversations the staff have with friends and family enhance or improve your brand, or do they create or reinforce negative perceptions of your schools?

Beyond staff, parents and community members also serve as ambassadors of your district. Do your parents speak well of your schools? Have they and their children had positive experiences in your schools? If a parent had a complaint was it dealt with to the parent’s satisfaction? Do you seek feedback from parents so that you are aware of existing problems, or does everyone else know except you?

While advertising is a way to get the message out about what makes your schools great, it needs to be supported by the conversations happening in your schools and communities. How can you impact those conversations?

About the author

The Wisconsin School Public Relations Association (WSPRA) is a professional association representing schools, school districts, educational associations, consulting agencies and organizations. WSPRA is a state affiliate of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA). 4797 HAYES ROAD | SUITE 103 | MADISON, WI 53704 | PHONE: 608-241-0300 | WSPRA@AWSA.ORG