These are extremely valuable marketing currency. Treat them with the utmost respect.
What current parents at your school have to say about your school is very important stuff to prospective parents. People nowadays put a lot of trust in testimonials, and school selection is no different. As such, you need to collect testimonials from parents in a smart, effective way. This is a great project to tackle, even if you're new to school marketing.
Getting them may sound easy, but sadly, it's not always so. The good news is that unlike review sites where parents have to compose their own reviews, with testimonials you can be strategic and have more of a hand in things. Here's a good way to go about successfully getting quality testimonials:
1. Brainstorm. Consider all of the important points you want to address through testimonials. Think of pros and cons of your school. Try to play up each pro and note glaring cons in a positive light. Also consider the parents you want to reach, knowing you can't be everything to everyone. Try to hone in on what they would want to hear, and address concerns you suspect parents may have.
Example: A neighborhood school with no obvious niche (but will have one once they work on branding!) knows they need to focus on the parents in their boundaries. Here are some of their considerations: They want to focus on parents who: want their children to go to school with neighborhood kids; value the diversity of the area; and want the continuity of being with the same kids through high school. These parents may be concerned about the quality of education since the nearby charter school says they offer a "rigorous" education so that should be addressed. Also, some may worry about individualized attention because class-size is bigger so emphasizing leveled learning and classroom aides is smart. The school has an expansive campus and test scores are good and on the rise.
2. Thoughtfully draft. Create the testimonials with the results from your brainstorming in mind. Goes without saying: don't lie or be misleading. Be specific and vary the length. They cannot all be the same in style or tone. The more, the better. Aim for 15-20.
Example: Public School wants to highlight the school's leveled learning options. So they've drafted this: "My kids love Public School and I do too. One is in the honors program and that is his favorite part of the day. The puzzles and special projects they do enrich his day and challenge him. Another is in the 'mainstream' program and I so appreciate the hands-on curriculum Public School uses. Both are getting individualized attention which I love. They are really met where they are at and that was very important to me."
3. Ask for help. Reach out to parents willing to have their names attributed to these testimonials. Ask friends, fellow enthusiastic volunteers and board members. You want parents representing a variety of ages and aim to get mothers and fathers. Send an email, listing the quotes, asking if they would pick one to be attributed to them. Tell them they can alter the quote as they see fit, or draft their own instead, on the topic of that testimonial. Then list their first name and last initial, as well as children's grades, after the quote.
Example: "As a parent coming from a private school environment, I was concerned class size would be an issue at Public School. Luckily, with aides and parent volunteers, the student-to-child ratio is really good--and the teachers are veterans so they do such a great job managing and helping everyone in the class. I know my child doesn't feel neglected and I'm very pleasantly surprised." --Mary J., parent of first grader
4. Use them. Remember these testimonials are very powerful and convincing to prospective parents. Utilize them everywhere that works in your school's situation--social media, website, brochure, prospective family packets, newsletter, everywhere!
5. Pro tip: Whenever you encounter a super-enthusiastic parent, ask them for a testimonial and/or to post a review on a review site. You will get some great testimonials this way, too, and these will round-out your collection. Remember, you can never have too many.
Getting parent testimonials for your school can be a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating task but fortunately, once you get them, you can use them for a while because there's no date attributed to them. Woo-hoo! Once you have them set, consider tackling other recruitment-related challenges like your school's review site strategy or tour. Or, if you need a super-quick win, you might consider upgrading your school's voicemail message.