Show ’em. Share. Repeat.
- Boosted Severn School’s digital presence with weekly published web content
- Balanced the informational, procedural content on the school website with stories about school culture
- Strengthened the school’s brand identity through mission-focused content
- Doubled engagement on social media platforms across the board
When I joined the Severn School communications team, one of our major strategic goals was show rather than tell who we are and the real value we provide students and their families. It was time to start sharing our story.
The school didn’t have a blogging platform and wasn’t prepared to invest in new software so I used the school website “news channel” as a publishing tool. Previously, they used this channel for short announcements with a paragraph or less of text and a single image. I redesigned the channel to support shareable articles that get attention.
- Redesigned style and layout of the news channel detail page in the school’s CMS (Blackbaud) to mimic familiar news-blog styles
- Created an HTML template incorporating semantic headings, blockquotes, and placeholders for images using standards for SEO and accessibility
- Applied custom CSS to create an easy reading experience for our audience.
With this new layout, I could include video, quotes, and photos to lead the reader through each story.
Previously, the department relied on weekly emails asking teachers to submit quick descriptions of events and programs — resulting in lackluster responses with little detail. They lacked a cohesive system. I created a workflow to strategically plan content and measure results from year to year.
Working with the Director of Communications, I established a set of personas and content themes:
Personas by priority:
- Prospective families
- Current students/parents
- Academics Innovation
- Student Life (Activities/Athletics)
- College Preparatory
At the start of each year, I send teachers an online survey asking which lessons and activities they would like to feature. I add these to a list of major school events and evaluate each based on our themes and personas. Using that list I build a content schedule to ensure that our reach remains consistent from start to finish. With this same basic structure in place each year, we can see what’s working (and what isn’t!) and adjust.
Make Each Moment Memorable
And finally, the most important piece of our content strategy, the story. I interview every teacher, student, and administrator to be featured and ask them to share what they do best. Although time-consuming, this is the best way to get to the heart of what makes Severn a special place. It’s more than you can read in a list of dates and details — it’s the anecdote a teacher shares when talking about a memorable day; it’s the look on a student’s face when they get the chance to share their perspective. It’s purposeful and relatable.
In order to share the Severn story while also giving families details about our admissions process, I created a series of informative articles that speak more generally to the school culture. They provide essential information to families and answer the question, “I’m interested, now what?” These can be updated each year with new images and dates.
Share It. Everywhere.
Previously, the communications office published announcements to the school’s homepage for two weeks and later moved them to an archive that families could access behind a password, essentially cutting them off from public view after a short time. And according to Google Analytics, people simply weren’t clicking on them in the first place.
Now we still publish these to the homepage for two weeks, but also share (and reshare!) on social media. We distribute the stories across the website using widgets that update automatically as we publish new content. At the end of each month, we compile all recent stories and videos into an email newsletter which reaches every member of our community. Open and click rates for these newsletters steadily increase every month. We are still sharing content with our community, but with a greater focus on public distribution.
This has changed the way we use our website — it’s not just a repository of information, it is a strategic marketing tool.