A detailed plan or roadmap that outlines your communications with different target groups. Your communication plan should address 6 crucial questions: who, what, when, where, why and how.
Who: Which population are you targeting? Interested families, applicants, registered students, returning students, etc. Effective communication plans address the different stages of the student lifecycle.
What: Which communication tools will you be using? Parents and students these days use many forms of technology to communicate, including web, email, social media, texting, etc. It’s important that you vary your communication tools to keep them engaged. If your parent population will be using the mobile app to access SchoolMint, plan your communication campaign accordingly.
When: This refers to the frequency and timing of your communications. How often will you send out your communications and on which days and times? Also consider when you tend to receive the most calls, emails and voicemails from parents. Do you know which days/times your emails are most frequently opened?
Where: Where do your communications originate from? In this case we’ll focus on SchoolMint communications.
Why: Remember to include a call to action in your communications. It could be a registration deadline reminder, for example, or an invite to register to for an upcoming Open House. Something that urges the recipient to take action and explains why you’re contacting them.
How: How are you going to build and personalize your communications? Here we’re really drilling into the nitty-gritty details. Which variables will you be using and what will be the content of your communication?
Steps to creating effective communication plans.
- First you’ll have to figure out a broad plan that ties in with your overall communications strategy and decide which communication mediums you will use. Will you be sending emails, text messages, letters and/or will you use voice calling?
- Think about the content of your communication piece. Make it interesting and relevant and take the opportunity to engage your audience by including a call to action. It could be as simple as including a link in your email to your school’s website with more information about the application process, an upcoming event or a video that shows what a typical first day of class looks like. You’ll definitely want to personalize your communications, by inserting variables. That could be the guardian and or student name, the school/grade, access code, student ID, etc. As a best practice, emails with shorter subject lines will increase your open rates. Less than 50 characters is recommended. Also try catchy subject lines but avoid using spam words like free, congratulations and apply now.
- Decide on the sequence and timing of your communications. Is it a one-time communication or will you be sending it out with regular frequency? Know your target audience and consider the best days and times to send your emails. According to a GetResponse Study in 2012, the best days to send emails, to achieve maximum open and click rates are Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Best times to send your emails are mornings and early afternoons. Of course, if you’re dealing with international applications or students, you’ll have to consider time zones as well.
- Next, you’ll need to build the filter you’ll attach to your communication piece. The filter will determine which contacts will receive your communication. You can specify different groups, schools, grades, statuses, etc. for your filter.
Your SchoolMint Communication Toolbox
- Custom Messages: Instructional and informational text that appears on screen to parents as they move through the account creation and application process. These are highly visible text areas that are editable and that you can easily change and customize.
E.g. Sign Up Message: This is text parents see on the page where they log in with their credentials to access their account. It’s the ideal place to post a word of welcome, a link to your school’s website or general instructions regarding account creation.
It’s important that you regularly review and update your custom messages to ensure the information is up-to-date, relevant and that you are getting important messages across to your parents. Every school is unique so we recommend you customize your text to reflect your school’s image and tone. Take advantage of the flexibility that the system offers you.
- Email Communications: In SchoolMint there’s a distinction between automated system emails and ad hoc email communications.
2.a. System emails are emails that are sent out automatically, triggered by certain actions. For example, if a parent submits an application, accepts an offer or completes registration, they’ll receive a confirmation email. You can customize these system emails via Settings > Manage Templates.
2.b. Ad hoc emails are emails that you can send out to individual parents or groups of parents. If you’d like to reach out to individual parents, you can do this via the application index. For groups of parents you can use Communications > Send Message. For example, you might want to reach out to parents of new students to attend an information session or follow-up with parents of returning students to complete the re-enrollment process before the deadline.
SchoolMint also keeps track of sent communications, which you can access via Communications > View Log or by accessing a specific record and clicking on Communications Log.
- Voice Calling
Voice calling allows you to send an automated voice call along with your email or text message. There are two types of voice messages: text converted to speech and a recorded .wav file.
- Text Messages
When sending ad hoc emails within SchoolMint, you’ll also have to include a corresponding text message. This ensures that parents whose contact preference is text/SMS will receive your communication as well.
You can print letters to mail to parents and students by selecting Communications > Mail Letters from the main menu. This can be especially useful in case you don’t have email addresses on file for particular parents or would like to send an official letter along with your email.
Best Practices in Communications and Avoiding Spam Violations
CAN-SPAM Act of 2003
The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 requires that you offer recipients 2 ways to opt out:
- Hyperlink to unsubscribe.
Parents can opt out or unsubscribe from your email communications by clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of the email. This unsubscribe link is automatically inserted in your emails.
Parents can also unsubscribe from text messages by replying "STOP" to your text message. The text "Reply STOP to unsubscribe" is automatically added to the end of your text message.
* Please note that this only applies to ad-hoc email communications, not automated system messages. You can find a list of these automated messages under settings > manage templates > notification type.
- Physical address listed in the email.
Your message must also include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
SPAM Words to avoid
What if you write a perfectly legitimate message, and it is flagged as SPAM?
The content and subject title of your message may trigger an anti-spam filter. Specifically, you may be using words that work as red flags in many popular anti-spam systems. Avoid using these “spam words” (especially in the subject of your messages) and you can reduce the risk of having a legitimate message being blocked or delivered to the SPAM folder.
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