5 Steps to Launch a Parent Ambassador Program

Grassroots marketing
I am still surprised that more school admissions and marketing leaders do not utilize parent ambassadors to create a grassroots marketing effort that will expand their reach into the community.

During the past three months, I have traveled to 15 schools across the United States and have spoken to admissions and marketing professionals in Minneapolis, Cincinnati and Orlando (this is why I haven’t written a lot of blog posts lately!). While this has been a very busy time, one thing stands out. Most of these schools have not launched a parent ambassador program.

In fact, in all three of my speaking opportunities, I asked the groups if they had a parent ambassador program and less than 20% had one in place.

This is a great opportunity for school leaders to consider this strategy.

In three of my school visits, I had the opportunity to provide training to three Jewish Day Schools in Boston, Minneapolis and Winnipeg. These schools are part of a strategic enrollment initiative led by the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE). As part of this initiative, they are working to launch parent ambassador programs in their schools.

I believe that a parent ambassador’s program can be a key part of your enrollment and marketing strategy.

The following is a recommended five-step approach to launching a parent ambassador’s program in your school.

1 – Identify Parents

A Parent Ambassador is a selected member of the enrollment and marketing team. Chosen because of their passion for the school, credibility among peers, connections in the community, and desire to advance the school, Parent Ambassadors are instrumental to expanding the reach of the school in the community and growing the enrollment.

I typically will recommend that a school leader should identify approximately 10% of your parents. This will provide a strong parent base to target for your parent ambassador program.

2 – Invite Parents to a Launch Meeting

Once you have identified your parents, you will want to invite them to a launch meeting. You will want to send a personal invitation to the parent and then call to follow-up. It is important for them to know that they are not committing to this program for life. It is always a good idea to include a description of the parent ambassador program so that the invited parents have a basic understanding of what to expect.

Meetings at some of the schools I have worked with have occurred on and off campus. I prefer a more informal environment in a parent or administrator’s home. At one school, the head of school invited the parent ambassadors to a brunch at her house that she prepared. At another school, the meeting was planned over a cookout during the evening in a parent’s home. Other schools have used their own facilities and have scheduled meetings in the morning and evening to accommodate their parent schedules. The key is to schedule what works best for your school and parents.

3 – Inspire Parent Ambassadors at the Meeting

During the launch meeting you will want to inspire the parents by sharing with them the importance of their role as word of mouth ambassadors. Realizing that they are already in the role of a parent ambassador, your goal is to increase their involvement intentionally in key areas.

Every parent ambassador will be encouraged to “nudge” two to three friends to consider the school. I originally heard this concept of “nudge” from Peter Anderson when he led the enrollment effort at The Episcopal Academy. In addition, every parent ambassador will help with open houses and mentoring relationships with new families.

4 – Initiate Efforts in Focused Areas

Once you have inspired your parent ambassadors and discussed the roles mentioned above, you will want to highlight other areas of focus. Parent Ambassadors can help you reach your feeder schools, neighborhoods, churches, community organizations, realtors, and your internal community, as well as help to facilitate a steady stream of parent reviews on school directory sites and active engagement on social media.

By highlighting these areas, you can ask your parent ambassadors to select an area that they would like to focus on during the year. Then, parents will be able to form teams based on their area of focus to help you expand your reach in the community.

5 – Involve Parent Ambassadors

Once you initiate the efforts of your parent ambassadors, you will need to facilitate their involvement throughout the year. However, make sure that you do not make your program about a bunch of meetings. In fact, I discourage admissions directors from scheduling additional group meetings. Instead, the parent ambassadors can be encouraged to be involved in their area throughout the year through personal contacts and team meetings. In addition, it can work well to set up a closed Facebook group for your parent ambassadors to connect in real-time. You can use this as a tool to encourage their involvement throughout the year.

These five steps provide an overview of how you can successfully launch a parent ambassador program at your school. You might also be interested in reading a blog post from a few years ago about how the admissions director at Covenant Classical School launched their program.

Have you launched a parent ambassador program at your school?

If not, then what are you waiting for?