Why parental engagement is NOT all about apps, apps, apps

Parental engagement apps are brilliant. They provide a way for schools to keep parents informed day-to-day about what is happening in school and updates on their children. Parental engagement apps have the power to be transformative in supporting the parent-teacher partnership.

They have the power to message individual parents or groups of parents. They can be used to bring together important information and tools for easy access. Furthermore, they can be a true asset in keeping engagement firing along nicely and help parents feel part of the school community.

But, they are often not used to their maximum potential. Nor are they always used in the best way to ensure your parental engagement strategy is at it's best.

Let's look at where your parental engagement apps fit into the broader engagement flywheel. Then, we'll look at the best things about apps and how you can make best use of them in your school.

Where your parental engagement apps fit into the engagement flywheel

The engagement flywheel is a powerful concept. In our previous post, Parental Engagement is Not Good Enough, we explored how effective parental engagement could be. We talked about how the engagement flywheel drives your parents to engage more and more by considering a few simple things.

Firstly, it's vital to understand that it is your school website that sits in the centre of the engagement flywheel, centred around your audience.

Your school website is THE place that parents go to find the rich, detailed information about your school. Prospective parents look there for everything they need to know. Current parents use your school website to access information about your school more than anywhere else. Prospective staff use your school website to find out more about you. Inspectors use your school website as a part of their evaluation of your school before they even arrive.

That means that everything else you use to engage the community sits in the periphery of your school website. Then, your parental engagement apps exist, yes to inform and update, but ultimately to drive your audience to where the rich content is. That is your website.

All your parental engagement apps should be viewed with this in mind.

The best and worst things about parental engagement apps

At their best, parental engagement apps are effective in providing short, snapshots of information. They are perfect for the quick hits that parents need to know day-to-day. They are great for accessing your contact information and your social channels. And, they are fantastic at giving you a way to share all the best things that go on in your school every day.

But, they are not great at providing information that is indepth or for anyone other than your parents.

Think about that for a moment. If your chess club (I went to school in the 90s, I've no idea if anyone still plays chess!), wins a tournament and you publish that wonderful news on your app, but nowhere else, who will see it?

Your parents will. Nobody else.

Not your prospective parents who want to know about all the 'extra' things you do in school. Not inspectors who are looking for a broad and balanced curriculum and want to know what else goes on. And certainly not the geeky new history teacher who happens to be a closet chess master. None of these people will see this information.

This is where parental engagement app all too often fall down. Hard.

How to make the best use of your school apps

So, how do we resolve this? How do you make sure that your parental engagement app, that you've spent good money on, is being used to it's potential?

The main question to remember here is "what is the purpose of this app?"

All too often publishing content to your app or sending a push notification is where it ends. You need to approach everything you publish via your app in a different way.

Think about who this content could benefit. If it is information that is useful, helpful, even inspirational and news-worthy ... always think website first.

That again ... WEBSITE FIRST.

Publish the article on your website as News or Event or Blog post. Whatever is the best format for the content.

Then, share the information via the app with just the title, image and a short intro to the article. When you do, make sure you link back to your website where the parent can read the full article.

By doing that, you have driven your parents to the website, where they know they will find all the information they need. And, you have made some fantastic news available to all your audiences in a format they can all use.

This approach is true of everything you do when you're trying to improve parental engagement.

Get to it!

If you want to go further, enrol on The School Communication Strategy Course where we explore this and a whole lot more. As always, any questions, drop us a line at hi@schudio.com.

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