Halloween is near. Have you exorcised your school communications program of its goblins?
Almost every school has them: these creeping, crawling, insidious issues that might be damaging your public image and frustrating your community members. From social media to website accessibility, there are certainly some ways you could improve your school communications this October. Make these changes now… before it’s too late (cue scary music).
1. Beastly barriers
Of all the scary problems haunting school websites, barriers to accessibility are getting a lot of attention these days. Many school website pages and website documents are not accessible to people with disabilities, hence are not accessible or ADA compliant. Website barriers are not only frightful to those with physical and learning disabilities, they’re technically against the law.
ADA law states that everyone – students, staff, parents, and the school community at large – should have equal, barrier-free access to school websites, so many schools are scrambling to learn how to make their websites accessible.
Like Ghostbusters, a good website provider who can create an ADA-compliant design for your school – and help you keep it that way – can rid you of beastly website barriers.
Once a website is rid of accessibility issues, however, doesn’t mean they’ll stay away. When new content is loaded onto your site, or pages are edited, or someone links to a PDF document, for example, you run the risk of re-introducing inaccessible content. Some web providers like Campus Suite provide training for school staff, and ongoing managed accessibility services as part of its website design/hosting package.
2. Frankenstein Facebook
For many schools, Facebook can become a hairy, frightening monster that not even the angriest mob will approach. If all of your status updates lead directly to your school website, your Facebook page has become a Frankenstein. It’s alive!
Instead, use my ‘Rule of Thirds’ for feeding the Facebook monster. Just a third of your status updates should be directly related to your school and link back to your website. Another third should be thought pieces and resources that parents will find engaging. The final third should be devoted to feel-good posts, focusing on the students and staff that make your school special. Try not to let this ratio get out of balance to ensure that you Facebook page maintains its humanity.
Instagramaphobia, noun: a persistent, irrational fear of the social media channel Instagram.
Many schools find themselves paralyzed with fear at the thought of using Instagram. Maybe it’s a daunting fear of photography or the terrifying selection of filters—whatever it is, schools aren’t fully utilizing this excellent platform to their benefit.
Instagram’s users have tripled in the last year. This platform is where your parents and students are, so it’s where you need to be. With Instagram’s simple photo sharing system, you can quickly upload engaging content and create a community. Getting started is easy. It’s time to fight your fears!
4. Walking Dead website
The zombie that is your outdated school website could be haunting your community. Like any brainless living dead, it shows no discrimination: it will attack everyone, from parents and students to staff and faculty.
There are plenty of ways to tell if your website has caught the sickness: parent complaints, stale content, a lack of mobile compatibility and consistent outages. These are all signs that your school website is becoming one of the walking dead.
But, thankfully, there is a cure! With every update and improvement you make to your website, it becomes a healthier, more functional tool for your community. By equipping your website with responsive design and a stellar content management system (CMS), you will see immediate improvements in usability. Add in some regularly updated content and social sharing buttons, and you’ve completed the cure.
5. Mummified PDF documents
Mummies are cool in a museum, but not so cool on your website. Even if your teachers are doing a lesson series on ancient Egypt, it’s time to clear out the dusty, mummified PDF links from your site.
Not only are these documents a hassle for your average user, but they also violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. All PDFs have to be properly tagged in order to be compliant. Conduct a school website accessibility audit to find all the linked PDFs on your website and clear out those old and useless mummies. Replace them with properly tagged and embedded PDFs so that your website is truly easy to use for everyone. For further help on creating and maintaining ADA-compliant documents for your website, register for this free webinar: How to Make Website Documents and PDFs ADA Compliant.
6. Witch Way to navigate now?
The poor site navigation witch will redirect innocent website users every which way, until they aren’t sure what they came looking for in the first place. Poor site navigation is the number one reason visitors don’t return to your website—that witch will scare them away far faster than any of these other troubling ghosts.
A great school website will be easily managed by staff and easily navigated by parents. There are several ways to put parents first with website design: add a quick links menu to the homepage, create a dedicated section for parents on the site and include important forms in a clearly marked space. Banish the poor site navigation witch with these tips to ensure that parents get treats – not tricks – on your website.
You’re not alone
Halloween can be scary… but it can also be fun. You’re not alone in facing these common school communications faux pas – many schools find themselves haunted at one time or another. Campus Suite is here to help. With a little patience and a lot of bravery, you can take down these monsters and ensure a fun, safe Halloween for your school community.
The Ultimate School Communications Planning Checklist
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @jay4schools.