Chosen because InspirED believes that faculty is under-marketed as one of the primary reasons a family should choose a school. As research-driven as today’s parents are, they generally don’t dig deep enough in this area. Help them by putting your faculty front and center, showing off one of your primary assets.
When The Gow School worked with marketing consultants a few years ago, they recommended that they feature their faculty more prominently in their marketing and communications—not only for admissions but for retention as well. InspirED echoes that recommendation for all schools. Teachers—your teachers—are a key reason your school is unique and why it’s worth the tuition you charge.
Fill-in-the-blanks Truncates the Process
Fast-forward two years. Gow’s Headmaster Brad Rogers walked into Webmaster Mary Beth Giallanza’s office and asked her to pull up the faculty page. When it popped up, Brad asked, “Can we fix this?”
While Gow’s first attempt at promoting faculty was a good first step, Mary Beth suspected no one was enticed to read the bios with the existing layout, which was dated and formal. (The first step – completing the bios - wasn’t extremely successful because we needed to complete the second – fixing the layout.) And Google proved her right. “The faculty page was the third most visited page on the website,” said Mary Beth. “Unfortunately, the average time on page was a dismal 34 seconds.”
So Mary Beth set out to change that. She researched other schools’ faculty pages and got additional funds approved to make Gow’s compelling and bring it up-to-date.
As a first step, The Gow School decided to ask all faculty to complete full biographies. (Previously, this had been optional with less the 10% participation.) With the Head’s approval, Mary Beth presented the assignment at a faculty meeting. Brad had already written a great bio for himself, so she used it as an example. To make things easy, she passed out a sheet for faculty to fill out that included fields for education, previous employment, awards, interests, hobbies, and family. She then gave everyone the option to either create their own biography or complete the information sheet for her to draft a write up for their approval. Mary Beth said, “The information sheet definitely helped move the assignment along quickly, as this option could be completed in 5-10 minutes.” (Even this project lives up to one of Gow’s brand messages: Start Fast. Finish Strong.)
Getting photos was a bit more challenging. As photographs seemed more personal than the write-ups, she decided to speak to people individually rather than to make the request through a mass announcement or email. She printed photos from another school to show as examples—one individual candid, one family photo, and one of a teacher with a student. Of course, some teachers were camera shy, but for the most part everyone was very cooperative and enthusiastic. As proof the personal appeal approach worked, there were several instances where Mary Beth found pictures waiting in her in-box by the time she got back to her office after a photo-request visit.
By giving faculty options, they could choose a style and let their personality show. “Since some of our faculty are husband and wife teams and there are lots of faculty children in the dorms, the family pictures worked great,” said Mary Beth. “A handful of people asked if they could use selfies which I thought it might be too informal. But in the end, the selfies were a fantastic representation of those teachers who chose to use them.”
A Boost for Faculty. A Boon to Parents.
While the new pages are just a few months old, faculty response has been extremely positive. They appreciate being represented in a more personal way and to be featured on the website.
Mary Beth thinks the new layout and bios are an asset for parents to identify student-teacher connections. “For example, I have a 13 year-old boy who is not as interested in school as he is in the NFL. If I knew he might have a teacher like our Tim Bailey (who quarterbacked in college), I would consider this a plus,” she said. Mary Beth often regards a teacher’s ability to relate to a child as just as valuable, if not more so, as their list of credentials.”
Mary Beth also knows that many parents look up their children’s teachers at the beginning of the school year to eliminate some parental concern. The photo is a great way to put a face with a name — especially at a boarding school.
In the “wishes” department, Gow would like to syndicate the faculty bios in blog posts and parent newsletters, but time and resources are limited. Although Mary Beth doesn’t like it that visitors have to click to see the expanded bios, she recognizes space and layout restrictions. She was, however, able to display one to two sentence personal snippets to entice users to read more.
“There definitely is an upward swing with ‘time on page,’ and increasing time on page was one of our primary goals,” said Mary Beth. “However, it will take a few more months to compile measurable stats.”