Saturday, January 3, 2015

Build a Better Open House

Welcome to the season of open houses! In Austin, open houses are held as earlier as November. I would encourage you to ask a few of the schools in your area about the timing of their open houses. In the marketing world, the three p's were often discussed: product, price, and promotion (Vaugh, 2014). With the overwhelming amount of advertising in today's world, there is a rise in marketing suspicion. Therefore, schools are now focusing on following:
  • How well do perspective parents know your school?
  • How well do perspective parents like your school?
  • How well do perspective parents trust your school?
Who would you like to come to your open house? School families should be ambassadors for your schools that are involved and invested in education. As educators, it is important to understand  and provide for the needs, pains, problems, frustrations, and fears of perspective parents. Schools should be building trust through education and evidence.

How can one do this? Consider using the following strategies prior, during, and after an open house:

Prior to the Open House
  1. Family Referral Cards - Ask families to create written, audio, or visual stories about their connection and experience at your school. Create a unique URL for the family, such as: www.school.org/lastname. Give the family a business card with the link and open houses dates to share. Share the link on social media and track the data on your website. Categorize your content by family type - Transfers from public schools, private schools, homeschooling, and new families.
  2. Written, Audio or Visual Content - Provide content for perspective parents that answer their needs to build trust. This might include content from parenting classes, raising disciples, or social media with teens.
During the Open House
  1. Invite Other Talent - Host your open house during an art show, science fair, talent show, sporting event, or community event. By pairing an event, you can increase your attendance.
  2. Childcare - Provide dress up clothes for a keepsake photo, take a scavenger hunt around the campus, and make their time something they will talk about later!
  3. First Impressions - Walk through your school like an outsider, and create signage that is inviting and clear. Add music, balloons, and flowers for a welcoming touch.
  4. Engage the Senses - Rent a popcorn machine, provide cookies from a local bakery or make them onsite, provide pictures of your students on poster board, touch up the paint, roll up the garden hose, and create audio testimonials in the classrooms.
After the Open House
  1. Help, Not Hype - Parents should leave with something of value. Offer more than just your brochure. Invite the local high school to discuss funding a private high school experience.
  2.  Follow-up - Create a video or slideshow of the open house for social media, create an album of photos for parents to download, and request information from those who could not attend.
Whatever you choose, make sure your open house is an attraction, not a distraction. The aforementioned strategies should create a welcoming environment, not a circus! Share your strategies in the comment section below!

God's blessings on your week!

Vaughn, R. (2014). Nine ideas for your next open house. Retrieved from http://vimeo.com/114737460