Why do students, families, and employees choose one district over others when reviewing their options? While it may seem unusual, many school districts are applying some of the same principles Fortune 500 companies have used for years to market their soft drinks, cars, and sneakers. And few districts are doing it as effectively as Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS).
Located in central Florida, SCPS ranks first in the state for STEM education rates, and its SAT scores and graduation rates are both well above the national averages. Until just recently, however, SCPS’s tech-driven culture and academic successes were not known by many people beyond the four walls of the district. Recognizing this, district leaders made the conscious decision to improve communication efforts or risk losing families and job candidates to neighboring districts.
SCPS hired communication officer Michael Lawrence, who served in a similar role for over five years for the city of Orlando. Lawrence’s plan for raising SCPS’s profile involved introducing many of the same marketing strategies he used in his previous job to position Orlando as a top destination for vacationers and business events.
“After assessing the district’s needs, I emphasized the critical need to prioritize and strengthen the SCPS brand,” said Lawrence. Knowing that a good brand was more than just a logo and a name, Lawrence determined the following three areas were essential to creating positive experiences for stakeholders and standing out from the competition long term.
"OUR GOAL IS FOR VISITORS TO FIND THE INFORMATION THEY ARE SEEKING WITHIN ONE OR TWO CLICKS."
1. Regular Engagement
SCPS’s branding successes started with an emphasis on creating regular engagement with stakeholders through real-time communication and messaging. Skyward’s Student Management Suite, the district’s SIS, presented the perfect tool to accomplish this goal. Since students, staff and parents were already logging in to Skyward every day, SCPS was able to engage them in new ways by providing access to student fees, health records, and assignments.
“Through the many communication resources and tools at our disposal in Skyward, we’ve disseminated a variety of information to our families rapidly and in real-time as needed,” said Lawrence. By using Skyward as more than a tool for managing and sharing student data, SCPS reinforced its identity as a future-ready district that prioritized communication and engagement.
SCPS also stressed a stronger social media presence, which has skyrocketed since 2013. The district’s Facebook audience has increased from 250 likes to over 13,000 at the time of this article. Twitter, once an underutilized platform, is now at over 6,000 followers in the same timeframe. Additionally, SCPS has added Flickr, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, and a district mobile app to its toolbox to increase the reach of communication efforts.
Just as important, the district created a digital newsroom
to capitalize on earned media placement when a student, teacher, or school received recognition. This has kept the district’s many constituents up to date as SCPS’s name and brand appear in local, state, and national media.
2. Accessible Information
Wanting to be known as a tech-driven district, SCPS uses Skyward to reduce the number of digital silos stakeholders used to access information. From simplifying state reporting to consolidating processes in Family Access, a one-stop portal for parents and students, the district’s efforts have given all stakeholders a more accessible online experience.
“Skyward’s application approach means that all stakeholders in the organization are being communicated real-time information and engaging with features tailored to their needs,” explained Lawrence.
Whether it’s current or prospective families and teachers, SCPS’s defining characteristics of innovation and accessibility are apparent and start the brand experience off on the right foot. Most recognizable are SCPS’s digital media efforts. Created with the end-user in mind, SCPS’s intuitive and mobile-friendly website sets the gold standard for other districts. Specifically, an “I Want To” feature personifies SCPS’s website and directs users to the most popular destinations.
“Every individual may look for the same information differently,” explained Lawrence. “Our goal is for visitors to find the information they are seeking within one or two clicks.”
"SKYWARD HAS ENSURED THAT OUR BRAND IDENTITY AND PROCESSES REMAIN FRONT AND CENTER."
3. Consistent User Experiences
To maximize SCPS’s branding influence, the communication and technology departments teamed up to improve the district’s consistency on all digital platforms. “In many ways, the two go hand-in-hand,” said Lawrence. “The combination of our marketing strategies paired with the district’s adoption of emerging technologies have created a unique online presence that is hard to find anywhere else.”
SCPS put its name on all digital platforms ranging from its website to Skyward’s Family Access. Rather than experiencing vendor brands, the two teams focused on what mattered most, which was the way stakeholders see the district.
To personalize the user experience even further, SCPS enhanced its workflows. Third-party products once required between the district’s former SIS and parent portal were eliminated by Skyward. By improving workflows, SCPS’s stakeholders will continue to encounter consistent experiences. “Skyward has ensured that our brand identity and processes remain front and center,” explained Lawrence.
Additionally, digital signage delivery, e-communications, website development, social media archiving, and ADA compliance were improved to increase uniformity online and make connecting to the district effortless.
“SCPS branding and marketing efforts now reflect the same level of quality representative of the high-achieving district we are known for being,” stated Lawrence.
While SCPS’s branding has set the standard for school districts, the process didn’t take place overnight. Districts looking to take the next step in their marketing initiatives will want to start with the same mentality SCPS applied.
“It’s important to have a vision of what you want to accomplish with technology when it comes to branding and culture,” stated Lawrence. “The vision must take into account the current culture and climate within the organization and set a well-defined goal of where you want to go with the new initiative.”
Follow-up resource: Student Management Suite
Ready to put your district's brand front and center? Check out the Student Management Suite.