Putting the WOW into Your School’s WOM — Top 5 NYSAIS Websites

NYSAIS PresentationLast week I had the opportunity to present a keynote presentation at the NYSAIS Admissions Conference at the Mohonk Mountain House (see my Instagram account for pictures of this incredible place!).

My presentation, entitled “Putting the WOW into your School’s WOM,” was recorded and is available on the NYSAIS website lifestream link (it was recorded and posted in three sessions–Part 1, 2 and 3).

In preparing for my presentation, I reviewed all 194 NYSAIS school websites.

My goal was to identify the best websites that provide a strong first impression and tell their school’s story in engaging or innovative ways.

I was surprised by what I found in my review:

  • Some bright spots but many schools need a website overhaul
  • Similar look and feel of school websites
  • Some poor first impressions
  • Limited storytelling focus
  • Homepage doesn’t tell the prospective parent about the school
  • Static copy and not engaging
  • Out-of-date blogs

While I actually presented the top 10 websites, for the sake of this blog post, the following are the top five (you can watch my presentation on the NYSAIS website by viewing it in three parts) or you can view my Slideshare slidedeck to discover the other schools):

5. Darrow School — Darrow School is one of my top five picks for a great first impression website with engaging design and a story telling approach. The site draws you in, is very creative, and is very different from any other independent school websites I have seen. The website features a section on “What Makes Darrow Unique?” by showcasing six values of the school portrayed in video vignettes and a campus tour that tells the story of each building.

4. Staten Island Academy – Staten Island Academy tells the stories of six extraordinary faculty members, showcases parent testimonials and student quotes, and highlights distinguished alumni. In addition, the website features a community blog network to communicate content about the school including a news blog, photo blog and student blogs highlighting articles from the student newspapers.

3. Friends Seminary – The admissions section of the Friends Seminary website showcases different events and their respective stories in the header section which are described as “Aha” moments for students. In addition, their principal, Bo Lauder, provides his favorite photos in his “Bo’s Eye” scenes taken from his everyday experience as a leader on the campus as well as regular Vodcast’s to communicate important news and stories about the school from his perspective.

2. Millbrook School – Millbrook School uses their website to showcase stories of students, parents and alumni in their “Millbrook Voices” page in the admissions section. They feature a section highlighting a week in the life of their students at the school that utilizes video. In addition, the “Millbrook in Motion” section features videos that highlight events throughout the year.  In all, their approach brings Millbrook to life in a compelling and engaging way.

1. Emma Willard School – Last year I discovered the Emma Willard School website in a review of AISAP schools. Once again, their website rose to the top in my review through their effective and compelling story-telling approach. From their “I am Emma” campaign which profiles 12 of their girls to their admissions section that features a blog on helpful content devoted to advice, information and inspiration to inspire today’s girl, the Emma Willard School website stands out above the rest. You can read my blog post from last year in which I highlighted “Ten things that I like about the Emma Willard School Website.”

I also presented this session at the ADVIS Admissions Retreat last week. I reviewed the ADVIS school websites and will feature the top five in my next blog post.

If you want to put the WOW into your school’s word of mouth, you should take a look at these schools and consider how you can tell your story on your website. It will make a difference in your marketing effort.

How are you putting the WOW into your school’s WOM and website?

Which of these websites inspires you to enhance your your online story-telling strategy?

One Response to Putting the WOW into Your School’s WOM — Top 5 NYSAIS Websites

  1. Regina Lulka says:

    Rick, we are about to start the process of renewing our website and this is most useful – as a small school we do not have the resources to conduct this kind of research or to hire a high level web developer. Thank you for your good work and for your generosity in sharing this with schools.

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