How Admiral Farragut Academy is Using Faculty Blogs to Tell Their Story

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Heather Lambie is the Advancement Senior Associate at Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg, FL. I have known Heather for several years, working with her at her previous school and now following her in her new work at Farragut. She works along with Alison Lescarbeau, Advancement Director, whom I have also known for several years.

I always like to keep my eye on schools like Farragut and marketing professionals like Heather (and Alison) to see what they are doing. In a recent conversation over coffee with Heather and Alison at Starbucks, I asked Heather to write a guest blog post on something innovative they are doing to tell their school’s story online.

The following is Heather’s guest article about how she has recently implemented faculty blogs at Admiral Farragut Academy to share their classroom stories online:

Rick talks a lot on this blog about relating personal stories as an effective messaging strategy for reaching—and tugging at the heartstrings of—prospective parents. I agree wholeheartedly. As a parent, for example, I don’t want to just hear a list of words your school uses to teach character development. Scroll your local private and parochial school websites and you’ll see a litany of phrases like, “Our school is committed to teaching your child perseverance, responsibility, respect, kindness, trustworthiness, loyalty…”

Right. I get it. But how, exactly? Give me an example. How is this school doing it differently?

This is where the one-two punch of faculty storytelling and parent testimony comes in. At Admiral Farragut Academy, we’ve strategically used this combination on our website in the form of faculty blogs for each classroom in the Elementary School (PreK – Grade 5). (Click on the Classroom tab to view their blogs.)

We started these blogs with only our Elementary teachers writing these blogs, not our Middle or High School teachers, because we felt that parents of little kids tend to be more involved and interested in what’s going on in the classroom day to day. It is easy for us to require this of one division and not the others because we actually have two separate websites, one for Elementary School and one for Middle/High School.

We’ve split our website because our Middle and High Schools both have military and boarding components (we offer boarding for students in grades 7-12), and we didn’t want to complicate offerings or confuse Elementary parents who may see images of our upperclassmen in military-style uniforms, living in dorms, and think that our little guys are expected to dress or participate in anything like that (they don’t).

This separation is also calculated for SEO and Adwords purposes, since it is unlikely that someone will be searching for a 3-year-old PreK program that offers a military-style boarding school—it’s probably one or the other. Though admittedly, there were times when my son was three that I wished he could sleep and be fed somewhere else for the week.

Anyway, this summer as I reviewed the content under the CLASSROOMS tab of our Elementary School website, it occurred to me that listing our offerings of Handwriting Without Tears, Everyday Math, and Mandarin Chinese for all children didn’t really separate us from our competition. Even our Engineering curriculum, which begins in grade 3 and is a differentiator for us, can’t be truly explained in a bullet point on an Academic Offerings page.

So, with the help of our webmaster and the support and training of our Elementary School faculty, we decided to change each of our static classroom pages on the website—which previously only listed a bulleted curriculum—into blog pages. Each teacher has her or his own blog on the website and is asked to post a minimum of twice a month (but more if they’d like to or have the time) the story of their classroom.

We used to have a Grade 1 Classroom page that said:

Science:

  • Practice how to be respectful citizens of our planet
  • Explore animal and plant life and learn the basics of Animal Kingdom classifications

Now, I get to see pictures of students holding a bearded dragon brought in by a parent during Reptile Week. I get to read about (and see through photos) students being little scientists, asking questions about ear holes and dry scales. Also, I get to see what’s coming up in that class, which is Tour de Turtles—a themed week which includes a field trip to a sea turtle rescue—in case I might be interested in sending my prospective little guy to shadow at this school that week.

What’s better than specific stories and photos of adorable faces loving what they’re learning? This blog format allows parents (or alumni or anyone) to comment on posts. So now, not only can prospective parents see exactly what their child’s classroom experience will be like, they can read what current parents think of that experience as well. If your parents have been educated and asked to be evangelical word-of-mouth marketers, this format is a home run.

All comments are moderated and published by me, and I’m still working to educate and remind our parents about commenting on this new blog format. My policy is to eliminate only comments with inappropriate or unkind words. Everything else will be published, good or bad. Though we’ve had none so far, even a disgruntled parent comment would give our teachers a chance to illustrate how professionally and compassionately they handle parent communications and resolve conflict, so it’s still a great storyteller for what parents can expect from the “Farragut Experience.”

My one caveat about the public classroom blog is to be certain you get 100% buy-in from all faculty involved. Because it is public, it will be easy for web visitors to see which are the strong—and the not-so-strong—teachers by how elaborate, frequent and involved each blog is. The good news is, your teachers are probably already doing some form of parent communications (paper newsletter or external classroom website, for instance), and they can repurpose what they’re already writing and the photos they’re already using with some minor content tweaks (for privacy or clarification) to target prospective instead of current parents.

These blogs are just one more way we can tell our story, illustrate our differentiators, and promote public pats-on-the-back from parents.

Heather, thank you for sharing your guest article on how you are using your elementary faculty to write classroom blog posts. This is a great strategy to tell the Farragut story online through real classroom stories. If you want to contact Heather directly, you can write her at: hlambie@farragut.org.

What do you think about Heather’s idea of using faculty to write about their classroom experiences in a blog? 

Are you using faculty at your school to write blog posts on your website?

How can we help?


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