Captive audiences should never be ignored!
Ever notice families waiting in your school’s lobby to go on tour? Me too. And what do families do while they wait? They look around (hopefully at your lobby walls), maybe observe goings-on, and then what? They look at yearbook flyers or go on their phones.
It makes sense to provide this captive audience, especially those who arrive quite early, with some engaging information while they are waiting.
Start thinking about what you would like to showcase about your school...
1. Save amazing content for later. Keep in mind that what you select will not be seen by all prospective families (some will arrive right on-time or late) so save your top-notch material for the post-tour, go-home folder.
2. Keep it timeless and brief. You don’t want to have to frequently update or have your material look stale. Day-in-the-life material is probably best. Classwork/homework examples from various grades, a couple of examples of your weekly PTO newsletter and some brief student answers to the question, “What do you like most about our school?” are possibilities. Nothing wordy or lengthy here. You might also include some past programs or flyers from student performances.
3. Enlist help. If you include information like statistics or student answers or other information that potentially could be presented as a list, consider getting graphic-artist help (check your skills audit responses, ask your district marketing department or use canva.com). It doesn’t have to be fancy but the more visually-pleasing/attention-grabbing, the better.
4. Consult with administration. Talk to your administration before starting this project and also before you are finished. Ask them to look over your materials (if they want). You will also need to discuss how this information will be handled. Front desk staff can store them and hand them out to prospective families. If this is not reliable or feasible, you can keep the materials out on a side table or flyer organizer, etc. Just know they can be manhandled and have a considerably shortened shelf-life if kept out.
5. Consider the presentation. You want to set this project up and forget it. So make sure materials are durable. Use page protector sleeves, thick paper, etc. You also want the look of the materials to be very professional (lots of proofreading!). If not, it does more harm than good and don’t put it out.
6. Think about delegating. This is a discreet project that can be outsourced to an interested volunteer, if needed. You can decide content before passing it on. A professional appearance is a non-negotiable requirement.
Let's look at what our school did several years ago as an example...
We used a binder with several divider tabs and included things like a welcome letter from the PTO [too much fluff, I would skip]; favorable press clippings [nice if you have them]; research and stats backing up our claims that our school’s niche was advantageous [infographic is best but this category probably won’t apply to most schools]; parent testimonials [I would save for your take-home folder because as you know, parent testimonials are incredibly valuable]; and a couple of PTO weekly newsletters [be choosy when selecting examples].
I have noticed some schools set out past yearbooks. This is better than nothing but not my favorite. Yearbook content can be pretty dry if you don’t know the people in any of the photographs.
Just as with sprucing up your exterior, updating your voicemail message and utilizing your lobby, this is another little thing you can do that can add up to make a big difference with recruitment. What did you decide to showcase in your waiting materials? And have you considered touring other schools for ideas?