Key points:
  • Many school marketers struggle with engaging parents on email, despite great content
  • Parents have to jump between different platforms like email, a website, and newsletters
  • An app solves both problems, making all communication channels available in one spot
  • A good parent app is custom branded and can send urgent messages so your parents instantly feel part of your community
  • Rolling out an app to your school is a great way to show value to your families

How do you know you’re ready for a parent app? 

Like in many other industries, school marketers struggle with the challenge of low engagement rates on traditional communication channels. Simply put, not all parents are reading their emails or newsletters. While the actual content of your emails and newsletters is likely to be engaging, timely, and of high quality, parents might not engage for a variety of reasons. Busy schedules, a multitude of different communication platforms to check, and general information overload all contribute to low engagement rates - any school marketers’ nightmare!

To understand engagement we should look at who we are trying to engage with.  Millennials now make up the bulk of parent populations at schools. They're digital natives, and use apps for everything from banking to booking travel. They expect any business they buy from to be digitally savvy - including their children’s schools. There are a few reasons why the number of app downloads is in the billions each year: They’re a daily part of life we all rely on. 

As apps have become embedded in our daily lives, it follows that parents expect your school to be at the digital forefront too. This is where a parent app comes in. With an app, your parents have access to many of the important information pieces they need - all from one convenient (and school-branded!) spot. Digistorm Apps offers a variety of modules, so parents can access your newsletter, your website, timetables, calendars, and more. You’re also able to send targeted and urgent push notifications straight to parents' phones.  

If you’re wondering which sort of schools are eligible for a parent app or are in the right stage of getting one, the answer’s simple: every school should have one! A parent app comes with a heap of great benefits for parents and your school and starts working to connect and engage your community from day one. 

How can parent apps help build and connect your community communication strategy?

Over the years, we’ve developed apps for over 400 schools around the world. In fact, we were the first to develop an Australian parent app, and since then, schools have really come to value all the positives of a branded app. Take for example Ambrose Treacy College, which we helped back in 2020. They told us how their parents were swamped with emails, which naturally resulted in low-open rates. This made connecting with their families very hard and ineffective, hurting their ability to reach families with their marketing efforts.  

It was also a struggle to send out urgent messages, with the constant threat of them being lost with all the other messages. That’s when they decided to introduce a Digistorm App for their school, as it was specifically designed to help with their situation. Because it was custom branded to reflect their school, parents immediately felt at home on the app.  Since then they’ve streamlined all their communication, and have had much more success getting through to parents. In just six months their app had over 200,000 views and became the central hub for their communication.

Besides the family-facing benefits, Ambrose Treacy College, also found that its app freed up time for staff members. The app is run on a very simple Content Management System, and the legendary Digistorm support team takes care of things like data security and app updates. 

How do I introduce an app to my school? 

If you’re on your school’s marketing or IT team then you’re likely seeing the potential of a parent app already, but you still need to convince your stakeholders. A great way to do this is through a product demo. A personalized demo will run your stakeholders through all the potential features they’ll have access to, and show how easy it is to use the app. However, there’s always the chance that some stakeholders will question why they need an app if they already have a website, especially if that website’s mobile-friendly. 

Here’s where it’s crucial to point out the different benefits that both channels provide. Schools have two distinct markets: prospective families and existing school communities. Websites are great for providing that important first touchpoint for your school and introducing people to your unique selling points, and can also nurture parents from leads to enrolment. 

An app, on the other hand, keeps your existing community fully connected and in touch, and lets you engage with families on a deeper level. Apps provide a daily source of news and information for your parents and students, so they’re always up-to-date with what’s going on. As improved communication generally leads to higher satisfaction with parents, many school marketers also look at their parent app as a tool in their retention strategy.  

Another great tactic is to look at competitor schools, and how they engage parents with their communication.  If they don’t have an app, it might be a great opportunity for your school to create a competitive advantage with a stronger digital experience for families. If they already have a well-established app, it might mean that your school might already be slightly on the back foot.  

How does onboarding work?

There are three distinct phases when introducing an app into your school: the behind-the-scenes setup, the parent-facing roll-out plan to drive parents to download the app, and the ongoing monitoring and improvement of your app.  

Setting up your parent app

When onboarding a school with a new app, our team spends time to understand your school’s needs, and then make suggestions on which modules are best suited to help you reach your communication goals for the app. A bespoke app is then developed with the school’s own branding, with open communication and checkpoints during the onboarding process. Once the app is ready for roll-out, we offer training, backed up by ongoing support for all the team members involved at your school.  

Rolling out the app to your community

Now comes the exciting part, getting everyone on to the app! Your marketing team is pro when it comes to getting your community involved, and launching an app is an exciting time for the school. Parents love to see their school making this kind of progress, and getting families interested shouldn’t be too hard. 

Continuing improvement

A Digistorm App comes with a built-in data dashboard, that can help you monitor user behaviour, the number of downloads and other key data insights. You can use these insights, alongside the metrics you use for other communication channels, to monitor and improve your engagement levels. We see long-term success when schools stay vigilant with their app and keep an eye on their performance. This approach is your key to revolutionizing your school’s communication plan and improving the image of your school in one fell swoop.

Published March 23 2022