6 Steps in Planning the Perfect Virtual School Event
Most educators still think marketing is just another word for sales.
In fact, marketing has evolved into the sharing of knowledge with the purpose of building trust.
In today's world of advertising overload, educating parents is the best way to grab their attention, build relationships and develop loyalty.
Forget about marketing to parents.
Think of yourselves as parent coaches -helping parents make informed decisions about their kids.
In this light, educators should be the best marketers out there.
So, stop rolling your eyes at the sound of "marketing" and start educating your parent community.
Who best to become a parent coach than your school teacher who is essentially raising dozens of kids, five days a week, eight hours a day?
And how better to do it than through a series of online events hosted by your school?
So, here's a short story about how we developed a simple 5-step process for planning the perfect virtual school event WITHOUT breaking your budget.
We've been working for a school outside Portland for three years now.
Together, we grew enrollment from 350 to 430 students, doubled their annual capital campaign and hired 32 teachers and staff.
In the second half of 2018 our efforts stopped paying off; we'd hit a wall. Our copywriting stopped generating engagement, and our ad designs fizzled.
It was a blessing in disguise.
Following three months of disappointing results Terri, our chief copywriter, two of our marketers and I boarded a plane to Portland.
We spent seven days brainstorming, helping our client school with their strategy deployment, doing staff interviews, value stream maps, and alumni review analysis.
We ended up with our first ever Virtual School Event series.
It consisted of five steps:
1. Event Strategy
We strategized and designed a series of school events through a process of catch-ball with our client's admissions office.
We brainstormed about topics, aligned on objectives and defined a set of eight interesting, informative and inspirational sessions for our target parent audience.
2. Event Planning and Calendar
Having defined our event calendar, we set out to plan every single detail for each of our virtual events.
We visualized the perfect result for each of our events and worked our way backward:
- the perfect guest speaker
- the perfect guest speaker recruitment process
- the perfect online event software
- the perfect accompanying material for parents,
- the perfect parent outreach method through social media, mailers, and affiliate relationships (i.e., Public Library, Chamber of Commerce, etc.)
- the perfect script for the events' moderation
3. Guest Speaker Recruitment
We scanned every single review for experts in the community on Yelp, Google and the Yellowpages.
We built a database of 15 to 25 prospective guest speakers for each of our events including child nutritionists, parent time management experts, parenting coaches, college counselors, student athlete professionals, teen psychologists and dental hygienists.
Once we had built our lists, we wrote up our outreach script, had it approved by our client and had our call center start making calls and sending out emails.
We would pitch our volunteer guest speaker to log on for a 2hr talk and Q&A. In return, they would have the chance to present themselves and their services to between 20 to 40 parents in the community.
So they would be no financial transaction, just a good old win-win barter.
Within two weeks, we had our primary guest speaker penciled-in for each of the eight events as well as a backup just in case.
Shelly, one of our marketing assistants, was assigned the responsibility of coordinating the relationship between our client school and our guest speaker as well as preparing the talk and slides all the way up to the event.
4. Virtual Event Software
We researched and chose the best event hosting software for our client school.
We went with Demio after screening eight online webinar and virtual conference tools.
We set up the tool to host the speaking event, to allow for online questions from parent participants and to record the talk and Q&A.
This way we could broadcast the recorded version online over and over for prospective families.
5. Facebook Campaigns
We brought our marketing team onboard to plan and execute three social media campaigns for each of the eight events.
The first campaign consisted of a 2-minute Facebook video focusing on building awareness. We wanted to warm up prospective parents to the idea of attending an online event hosted by our school.
The second social media campaign circulated an infographic through a dedicated landing page about the details of the event including date, time, the online registration process, etc.
The third campaign would focus on capturing leads.
It asked parents to sign up for the event through a set of four questions.
Finally, our parent outreach team would instantly reach out to registrants as soon as they filled out the form to confirm their registration and deepen their commitment in attending.
6. Email Campaign
We built an eight-step email campaign that would automatically be sent to all parent registrants over a two week period prior to the event.
The objective here was to further firm-up each family's commitment in showing up to our event.
This week, we hosted our fourth event, which has been again a huge success.
We had 37 online participants out of which 26 stayed for the full two hours, and seven who requested a school tour.
Sometimes parents in any given community become tired of advertising and need a more concrete way to engage with your school.
In these cases, hosting online events can be hugely valuable to prospective parents and exceptionally cost-effective for schools.
No volunteer recruitment needed, no booking of classrooms, no food supplies, and no weekend overtime means that you can host an event every three weeks without exploding your budget.