Donovan Group Insights

Integrating PR Strategies into Campus Events

Many leaders share the same mindset: campus events are for school community members. You wouldn’t have football games, choir concerts and ice cream socials if it weren’t for your students! Because of this mindset, school leaders often market events toward students, staff and families. As a result, the general public’s attendance is lower than it could be.

Why can’t school events be for everyone? The public deserves to be part of your school community just as much as students, staff and families. There are crucial benefits that come with public participation, both for the public and your district. But before they can get involved, you have to identify community-wide events and market them effectively.

Identify campus events the public can enjoy

When school leaders plan events, their main priority is engaging the people who are directly involved with their schools. They’re always coming up with event ideas that would pique the interests of students, teachers, staff and parents. That makes sense—after all, a school leader is meant to serve the school community!

However, these stakeholders aren’t the only ones who would enjoy attending campus events. Events are an opportunity to engage members of the public as well. Many community members want to get involved with your schools but don’t know how. Many more don’t even realize they can get involved. Events open the door to community involvement, even if it’s something as simple as watching a school play or baseball game.

Take a look at your academic calendar. Which events are open to the public? Once you identify community-wide events, you can create marketing messages that speak to the public and grab their attention. Students, staff and families already know they’re welcome at campus events. The general public might not, which is why you have to put extra effort into engaging them.

Start planning your communications now

You’ve created a list of events that are open to the public. Now, it’s time to start planning those communications! The sooner you create communications, the sooner people can learn about the events. It’s important to promote events early and often, especially if you want more members of the public to attend. Consistent communication is the key to boosting attendance rates. Promoting an event well in advance gives community members more opportunities to hear about it and mark the event in their calendars.

Planning communications well in advance also gives you more time to choose the right language for your marketing messages. Again, members of your school community already know they’re allowed to attend concerts, silent auctions, track meets and many other campus events. Your marketing messages need to emphasize that members of the general public are welcome, too. By getting a head start on communications, you can put more thought and consideration into your words, making your engagement efforts more effective.

Highlight the event’s importance in your marketing

As you promote campus events, always keep the “why” front of mind. Why would people want to attend this event? The “why” for students, staff and families is pretty obvious. They attend fundraisers, pep rallies, concerts and sporting events because they want to support their school community. They take pride in being part of something bigger than themselves. These stakeholders are already so involved with your schools that attending events just feels right to them.

The “why” for members of the public is a little less obvious. Why would they go out of their way to attend events for a community they’re not a part of? People outside of your schools are more likely to attend campus events if they believe it’s important to do so. Your PR messages need to highlight why it’s important for the public to attend, so you can boost engagement levels and enjoy a greater turnout at your events.

There are several good reasons why the public should attend campus events. It gives them a chance to see who will become society’s future leaders, innovators, doctors and educators. By attending school events, the public can support your district’s goal of helping students achieve their full potential. Education lays the foundation for who they will become, and your PR messages need to make that apparent.

Emphasize that supporting your schools is one way to support the community at large. The support people give will ultimately circle back around to them. Students are future members of society, and the better education they receive, the more equipped they’ll be to serve their communities. Drive home this message when you communicate with the general public.

Share event recaps for those who missed out

The communications following an event are just as important as those leading up to it. After successfully completing a school event, share photos, videos or a brief recap that highlights the event’s best moments. The purpose of this is to encourage future involvement. If someone chose not to attend a certain event, the recap can get them excited for the next one. Show people what they’re missing!

Your district’s owned media channels provide plenty of opportunities to recap school events. Blogging is a great medium for storytelling, whether it’s a district-wide blog or one that’s dedicated to a specific school. You can use that blog to share anything you want, from homecoming week events to a debate team’s victory at their regional conference. You can also drive traffic to the blog by sharing individual posts on Twitter or Facebook.

Social media itself is an excellent storytelling medium. On Instagram, you can post event photos on your district’s story, then save the best ones to a highlight reel. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are ideal for sharing a collection of photos or a brief 60-second video—two visual mediums that are highly effective at grabbing people’s attention. Social media has become the go-to platform for event news, so use this to your advantage.

Keep your eye on the overarching goal

Your goal is simple: win the public’s support. School leaders should encourage the public to attend campus events so that they feel like welcomed members of the school community. When people are part of something, they’re more likely to support it. They get to experience all the incredible things your students are doing, and you get the reassurance that they’ll support you when it really counts. It’s a win-win!

The power of campus events cannot be understated. All it takes is one board meeting or one gala concert for someone to understand why your schools deserve their support. After just one event, a person can go from knowing nothing about your school community to feeling like they belong there. But they can’t attend an event if they don’t know about it! School leaders like you need to engage the public and let that end goal drive your communications.

How will you get the public involved?

It may seem like campus events are just for the students. If you look closer, you’ll see that engagement opportunities are hiding in plain sight. Why not invite the public to that bake sale or open house? An event shouldn’t just be open to the public. The public should know about it, and you should encourage them to attend. There’s always room for more people to join your school community!

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