5 Ways Private Schools Should Be Texting with Parents, Students (Plus Templates)
One of the ongoing challenges at your private school is communication. Parents have questions, students have needs, and you have your own messages to share.
The problem is emails, phone calls, voicemail, and social media leave your communications disjointed and unreliable.
That’s frustrating for you, because you can’t reach the people you need to reach when you need to reach them. And it’s frustrating for your parents and students, because they can’t get the information they need when they need it.
So what can you do to fix it, and connect with your parents and students like everyone wants?
We all know that if you want to reach someone quickly, you send them a text. But why?
I’m going to show you why texting works so well, and how your school can text professionally to communicate better and make your lives much easier. Take a look.
Why should your private school consider text messaging?
You’re going to reach more people more quickly through text messaging than through any other form of communication. It’s also what people would rather do. Here’s some of the research to prove it:
- Messaging is the #1 use of a smartphone
- A text is read within five seconds of being sent, on average (email is about 12 hours and voicemail may never be heard)
- Texting is the highest rated and most requested form of professional communication
- 85%-90% of parents and students say text messages prompt them to complete an action they would not have otherwise done
(Find sources for all these here.)
That’s a compelling argument! And the next question most schools ask is “How would we manage it?”
How can your private school manage text messaging?
You can’t - or shouldn’t - text from your personal cell phones. (A) It's not compliant, and (B) it creates a lot of opportunities for situations you don’t want. What you do want is:
- A shared dashboard multiple staff members can log in to from any device
- The ability to text from your computer or smartphone, preferably using your office phone number
- Compliance and security features like permanent records and timestamps
- Messaging features like 2-way texting, group messages (broadcasts), autoresponses, and others
You’ll get a better feel for how these apply to your daily duties in the five ways private schools should be texting listed below.
1. Give your admissions team an unfair advantage.
Parents do a lot of research before deciding where to send their kids, and that means they will dig through your website. What happens next?
They have questions and concerns, but are you able to meet parents where they are and answer their questions instantly?
Maybe you’re aware of this challenge, or maybe it’s something new. In either case, a great solution is SMS Chat. The video below shows you how it works firsthand, but the concept is simple: SMS Chat lets people text you from your website.
Parents doing their due diligence can chat in on both desktop and mobile versions of your site. Messages come into a shared dashboard where members of your team can handle them at any time. Your replies will go directly to that parent’s cell phone.
Parents love this, because they can quickly get the information they need. They don't have to sift through your website, stay on your site to continue the conversation, or find time to call you the next morning.
You’ll love this because you’ll:
- Start admissions conversations earlier in the decision making process
- Stand out from competitors
- Have that parent’s cell phone number that you can use to follow-up later or set up a meeting
Why wouldn’t you want all of that? Here’s a basic conversation that could happen:
“Hi, what are the college acceptance rates of your students? We are looking for a new school for our son. Thanks”
To which your admissions staff might reply:
“Hi David, thanks for reaching out. The college acceptance rate is 98%. About 70% get into D1 or Elite schools. Let me know what else I can help you with! - Marie, [NameSchool]”
2. Handle IT support with ease.
It takes a lot of tech to run your school. You hope it runs smoothly, but we all know there are going to be glitches. What do you do then?
You probably try to email IT first, but sometimes you can’t get to your email because of the glitch. Then you can call, leave a voicemail, and pray they pay attention to it.
Or, you can text tech support and let them know what’s going on. You might even include a picture or screenshot to help them visualize the problem without physically being in your office.
IT can instantly open a ticket on their end and figure out your issue without either of you having to leave your desks. This also works after hours, or if IT is away from their desk(s), because you can still text compliantly using a mobile app.
3. Allow counselors to communicate with students compliantly.
Any communication between an educator or staff member and a student needs to be recorded by the school, and be viewable by administration. As a private school college counselor who asked to remain anonymous told us:
“Students don’t check their email or answer phone calls. If you want to reach them, you have to text.”
That means you need a central location (a shared dashboard) like what Text Request provides.
This gives counselors the tools they need to schedule meetings with their students, share reminders and due dates, and offer advice.
This also makes everyone’s lives easier - students, counselors, parents, and administration - because each party can be on the same page with zero hassle.
Let’s say you want to send a text to schedule a meeting. You might say:
“Hey Jeremy, we need to talk through your college admissions process. I see you have time Thursday just after lunch. How about we meet then?”
Or you might send a reminder for an important deadline to multiple students, like this template below:
“Don’t forget! Application deadlines for UGA and GA Tech are both Oct. 15. I’m happy to help you get all your requirements in, just come by my office! - Steve the Counselor”
4. Share updates with parents and students instantly.
Sometimes you need to get the word out quickly, like if your school’s office hours change for a holiday or if there’s an upcoming event in the school year. You can send a quick text to all of your contacts, and rest assured they’ll see your text before they’d see an email. E.g.:
“Good morning! Our fundraising drive ends 9/29. Please get all your forms and checks to the office by then, and let us know if you have questions. Thanks for making our school great! - [Private School Staff]”
People can reply to these messages if they have questions.
You can also send messages just to relevant groups of contacts, like “Senior Parents,” to whom you can send out specific notices. E.g.:
“Parents, senior photos are Tuesday! Please make sure your students brings their cap, down, and check to the gym at 4pm.”
You can sort contacts into groups manually, or use Keywords to let parents or students opt themselves into updates about specific topics. E.g.:
“Text BBALL to (423) 218-0111 for the latest updates on Cougar basketball!”
And then push out updates as you have them.
There are lots of options for your communications, but the key is you’ll get your message in front of more people faster (and more reliably) by texting than by using just email or social media posts.
5. Let parents and students text your office questions.
Inbound texts are great for admissions, like what we covered in point #1. They’re also great for current parents' questions, like when are tennis sign-ups or I have a question about our bill.
What other schools have found is that parents don’t want to email for these communications, but they also don’t want to make a call. Texting is the Goldilocks solution - it’s just right for these simple communications.
It’s also much easier for your staff to handle text conversations than to field all those questions as phone calls.
One person can handle multiple text conversations at once, and multiple staff members can handle even more texts at the same time
You’ll get typing notices and timestamps on all messages, so you can see if someone is already handling a conversation.
Autoresponse will automatically reply to whomever texts in, letting them know that no one is currently available, but that someone will personally respond at, say, 8am the next day.
Escalation will automatically forward an inbound text to a staff member’s cell phone after a few minutes (or however long you want to wait). Usually an administrator or director will turn this on so they can:
- Be notified of messages that might have fallen through the cracks in the office
- Respond quickly to messages that come in after hours
There’s a lot of flexibility here, but if top notch parent communications are something you value, then this is a great solution for you.
How can your private school start texting?
The two things it takes to get started are to (A) know what you want to accomplish, and (B) find the right tool to do it. Text Request can easily do everything in this guide for you, and you can watch the short video below to get a better feel for what it’s like to roll out.