A guide for private schools: Engaging your local community through your website

Sam McGuire
  • Sam McGuire
  • Web designer

Good community engagement is a characteristic common to all successful private schools. A school that holds a position at the heart of the community will always attract interest, leading to those all-important applications from parents.

Your website is a prime tool for building that community engagement. It is through your school website that you can give clarity, detail and dynamism to the qualities that exemplify your position within your locality.

Use your brand

When you work with your creative agency on your website design, it’s essential that the design is built around the core values and character of your brand. It’s all part of using your website to build on a recognisable identity that many people in your local community will already feel engaged with.

Using your brand as a basis, you can develop the positive characteristics of your school that people are familiar with, giving the kind of detail and originality that will excite the interest of prospective parents.

As a private school, your history is an essential part of your brand identity.

You are history

The identity of some schools will have been built over many centuries. This is something that sets private schools apart from most other businesses and which can be an excellent tool for community engagement through your school website.

When you use your history as part of the branding on your website, you’re demonstrating strength and dependability – as proven by your lengthy track record – alongside educational vitality and advancement, as demonstrated by your website design and content. You’re also getting to the very heart of your position in the community – as a symbol of stability and progress over generations.

Think about things like your coat of arms, motto, school colours, school buildings and so forth and make sure they feature in your school web design.

Events systems

People feel part of something when they know what’s going on. Once they feel part of it, they’ve already bought into the idea of further involvement.

Your website should have a comprehensive events system that encourages the community to take action or join in. Upcoming events such as application deadlines, open days, school fetes, performances and so on should be flagged clearly and invitingly. Use an advanced filter system to enable all school website users to pinpoint the events that are relevant to them.

The big picture show

The use of video has become a must-have for all leading private school websites. A professional video with high production values can have an enormous impact on student applications. The quality of some private school videos is amazing, and it’s an investment well worth making. A school video on your website can sum up all the outstanding reasons as to why a school should be first choice to parents.

A video is an excellent place to tell your story, using memorable scenes to bring your identity to the community.

To increase applications to your school, you need to get people there and make them feel that it is part of their community. With a high quality, persuasive film, you can take the school to them: strong empathy and enthusiasm from your audience can be instantaneous.

Be social

Social media may seem an obvious way of engaging with your local community but many schools are still lagging in this area. Frequent communications and updates help make your school part of the community as people feel part of events, changes, achievements and celebrations. It’s also a great way to showcase your expertise and educational range, as you flag activities and success stories.

Your school web design should incorporate links and nudges to various forms of social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. Use them continually to reinforce the messages on your site.

No matter how strong your position in your local community, outstanding web design for your school will strengthen it. Similarly, poor web design can do the opposite, making you seem lacklustre and ‘past your best’.

Use your school’s website to show that you’re part of the community, and that community will want to be part of you. It’s a core part of any successful private school marketing strategy.