What exactly is a communication plan?
It is a strategic plan for communicating with your families in a targeted and personalized way. Communication plans are automated actions that trigger in response to parent or admin actions. They can save time by eliminating routine tasks, as well as automatically providing useful information to applying or enrolling families as they progress through the process.
Communication plans are built around triggers and actions as defined below:
- Triggers: Completion of checklist items (application fee, teacher recommendation, uploaded transcript, etc.) or change of status (moved from inquiry to applicant or applicant to application complete, etc.).
- Actions: Send personalized communications to your families, send instructions for next steps to colleagues, or even set up internal reminders to help a family take the next steps.
Why are automated communication plans important?
As admissions and enrollment professionals, your job is focused on building relationships and establishing an emotional connection with your current and prospective families. Building trust plays a key role in how your parents ultimately make the decision to apply and enroll in your school. We know the term “automation” or “automated” can seem very impersonal; however, the data shows that when you build automated communication plans correctly, your families will still receive your personal touch, get accurate information they need, and establish an emotional connection with your school.
How to build your own communication plan.
There are two broad types of messages to use in communication plans that have a significant impact on moving families through the funnel: informational and interest-based. Both types of messages are able to personalize the experience for your families.
- Informational messages are objective and used to answer questions and help your families get through the admissions or enrollment process. Typically, these types of messages help remove obstacles that might be holding your families back from moving forward to the next step.
- Interest-based messages are more subjective and are used to connect your prospective families to your school’s story.
#2 Identify your target audience
The key to personalized communications is deciding who each message is relevant to. Obviously, there are certain messages that you will send to specific groups and other messages that you will send to everyone. In this step, take time to write out and identify the target audience for each message.–
#3 Map out the touch points
A touch point is a single step in the communication plan. It is usually a conversation or point of communication with your families, such as a phone call, face-to-face meeting, email, social media message, letter, etc.
In order to map out the touch points, you need to define each point with:
- What will we say?
- Message content (information or interest-based)
- Must be personalized
- When will we say it?
- In X number of days
- On a specific date
- Who will say it?
- Admissions Team
- Business Office
- Arts Director or Athletic Director
- How will we say it?
- Phone Call
- Text Message
Below is an example of a communication plan. If a family inquired as the first step and on their form they checked a box saying that they are interested in learning more about financial aid and affordability at your school.
As you can see, immediately once the inquiry form is submitted the family receives an email with an overview of information about financial aid from your business office. Then in seven days, the family receives another email this time from your admissions team where you share testimonials and stories of other families who have enrolled in your school. Lastly, after two weeks from when the family submitted their inquiry, you have a reminder to give them a call and to answer any other questions they might have about applying for financial aid or about your school.
How to get started
Start simple. Choose your top two or three most important informational and interest-based message and only start off with a couple of touch points per message. We recommend starting off with building messages for broad categories, such as athletics vs. a message for soccer and another for tennis, golf, swim, volleyball, etc.
Once you have these communication plans in place and you are using them, then you can gradually build over time.
Brainstorm as a team. Work together. We want everyone at the school on board with what you’re doing, so bring them into the fold, let them participate, and you’ll get their buy-in.
Lastly, blend informational and interest-based messages. The objective, informational messages don’t have to be boring. Include quotes, stories, your mission and make even the financial aid conversation fun.
If you are ready to build your own communication plan, here is a template to help get you started. However, If you are a SchoolAdmin client and need help setting up your own internal and external communication plans: Please sign in to your SchoolAdmin site and connect with our Client Services team by clicking on ‘Contact Support’.
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This post was published on November 27, 2018.
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