Sharing the Story of Your School

Recently, I asked Teri Rash to write a guest blog post on storytelling. Teri is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Grace Christian Academy in Knoxville, TN. I had the opportunity to work with her and the GCA team a couple of years ago though my Enrollment Catalyst Program. Teri is passionate about telling the story of her school. Thanks Teri for sharing your expertise and experience.

“Storytelling” has become the catchphrase in recent years to describe the effort to share the heartbeat of a school’s environment.  When done effectively, the storytelling effort at your school can help draw prospective parents, engage and retain current families, and build your school community to a deeper relational level.

So how can a school effectively share its story?  In any school community, there are many dynamics and elements that you’ll want to capture to accurately display the “heart” of your school.  Between classroom activities, extracurricular opportunities, fine arts, athletics, and a host of other events going on at your school every day, trying to cover and communicate it all can be a daunting task.

Consider the message

Before you dive into a new school year, you’ll want to thoughtfully and purposefully consider the message that you are striving to achieve.  Does your school have a remarkable fine arts program?  What is unique about your school?  Where is enrollment lacking, and how can you positively showcase the academic and other opportunities in those grade levels to draw prospective families?

At Grace Christian Academy, we offer a uniquely designed division to meet the needs of students in 5thand 6thgrades. As any educator would agree, the transitional grade levels between elementary and middle school are a significant time of maturation and development.  When our administration first developed this program, we suddenly had a niche unlike any other school in our area.  Classroom activities, a new and age-appropriate weekly chapel, and many other carefully designed elements for this division have been important benefits worth sharing.

Vary your platforms

Social media is a powerful way to share the story of your school, but don’t stop there.  If your school doesn’t have a blog, consider the creation of one.  A school blog offers the opportunity for longer, more in depth written pieces and a fantastic way to engage your audience.  Don’t feel comfortable writing?  Ask your teammates to write about a topic in their area of specialization. Your Guidance Counselor is the perfect candidate to write a piece about navigating the college admissions process. Your principal could write a piece explaining the academic philosophy of your school, and a kindergarten teacher could serve as a resident expert on kindergarten readiness for students.  Your Head of School is a powerful voice to include, and a blog offers an effective platform for just that.  Reach out to your teammates well in advance, provide “due dates”, and ask for their help.  Most will be glad to offer their expertise if you make a strategic request in an area in which they feel comfortable.

Once you’ve posted a new blog post, make sure to share the link on your social media pages, which will effectively drive traffic back to your website.  Additionally, a school newsletter or regularly occurring publication and your website provide invaluable tools that you should capitalize on to share your school with constituents and the community.

Enlist your team

Through conversations with marketing and communication professionals across the country, I’ve learned that this is an area that is frequently understaffed at most schools. At our school, with an enrollment of approximately 800 students, I am the point person on our social media accounts, blog, website, newsletter, and general communication.  With over 55 classrooms in action every day, a plethora of fine arts, athletic, administrative, and parent activities happening all around me, it’s impossible for me to catch every valuable moment.

Get your team on board! Ask for and utilize time during your Back to School preparation to “sell” the concept of storytelling to your teammates and ask for their help.  When faculty and staff members understand the value of and efforts to showcase your school, you’ll have lots of support.  The teachers and staff members on my team do a fantastic job of taking pictures, sending me highlights of class activities, and making me aware of noteworthy events and lessons.  If I can’t personally attend an activity or unique lesson, they actively share great content and details that make it easy to share the story of campus experiences.

Look for the unexpected

In keeping with the traditional motto of the Boys Scouts, “Be Prepared”!  I don’t ever leave my office without my phone (and camera/video capabilities) in hand.  You might be en route to a chapel service or a meeting on campus when you happen to walk by a compelling group activity going on in the hallway.  I can’t tell you the number of times that I’ve unknowingly happened upon a powerful moment between a teacher and student, a creative activity, or a relational moment that I had the opportunity to capture and portray on our social media accounts.

As I was leaving the cafeteria one day and rounded the corner to my office, I walked upon a sweet moment where two first grade students were helping their classmate on crutches.  It was a totally unexpected moment, but I had my phone and quickly took a picture.  When I posted the emotion provoking picture and a caption about friendships at Grace Christian Academy, it had significant engagements (“likes” and “shares”) within just a few hours.

Reuse great content!

Don’t be afraid to reuse, rework, and revitalize great content.  I solicit feedback and quotes from families, staff, and students throughout the year.  As it often happens, I may receive a lengthy paragraph or extensive verbiage from someone describing how our school has positively impacted their life.  From there, I may post their entire “story” to our website, share the link to our Facebook page, use smaller quotes later for a social media series, or choose an applicable portion of their quote for a specific website page.  When used creatively, great content goes a long way!

Sharing your school’s story offers an opportunity to create thought provoking, compelling, and creative content that will connect people with the heart of your school.  By enlisting the support of your team, using a variety of platforms, and looking for the unexpected, you’ll be better equipped to effectively share your message.

Identify what makes your school unique and what sets it apart from your counterparts.  Celebrate it, share it, and engage your audience through creative storytelling.

If you would like to further explore how Teri is involved in telling the story of Grace Christian Academy, please check out the following (You can also email Teri directly at teri.rash@gcarams.org if you have a question for her):

GCA Website Story Section

Facebook Page

Recent example of storytelling through video (this had over 6K views within a week and highlighted our new Head of School)

Video from a recent 2018 grad

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