Parents take their children’s education very seriously.
They know that sending their child to the right school can make all the difference in the world when it comes to preparation for life. The internet now makes it easier for parents to evaluate and rank schools according to a variety of different criteria. Many parents are doing this for all schools – from preschool through post-secondary institutions.
Your online reputation can impact inquiries, enrollments, and retention. It’s important for you to take an active role in managing your online reputation by addressing any possible information that could impact the perception people have about your school when they search for you online.
In addition to academic ranking, prospective parents will be considering every aspect of your school, including your reputation. Social media makes it easy for students, parents and even teachers to share their experiences, opinions, and thoughts online, some of which may not be the most flattering. Complaints and reviews especially tend to be subjective and often inaccurate. Smartphones make it easier than ever for people to take photographs and videos and share them on social media, some of which may portray your school in a negative light.
Unfortunately, not all stories that rank high on a Google search page are true. Sensational stories, even if false, still may go viral. Even if complaints represent a small percentage of what’s being said about your school, they still will have a big impact on how future prospective parents and students perceive your school.
Here are 3 strategies you can use to protect your school’s online reputation.
Develop a response plan
Try to respond to complaints or issues as quickly as possible. Being prepared is critical for defense. Start by talking to your admission office. Chances are, they’ve heard most of the complaints and questions parents commonly ask before. Take the information you gather and write sample responses to the common things people ask or say about your school. This gives you a response library that can be accessed at any time.
Most of the time it is better to respond to a negative comment, story, or review. Stay professional and try to address any further concerns out of the public eye (ask to take the conversation to a private message, email or even a phone call).
You should plan to respond in the following scenarios:
- When the author or publisher of the comment or review has a high profile/reach and is likely to get a lot of buzz
- The story, comment, or review could change the perception of someone forming an opinion about your school
- You can help answer a question or clarify a school policy by responding to the comment
- The comment or review is positive, and you want to say thank you
You should NOT respond in the following circumstances:
- The comment or complaint comes from a troll. Don’t feed the trolls!
- The comment, review or story is laced with profanity, rage or satire
- A response could get you into legal trouble
Use social media
Maintaining a presence on social media allows you to participate in and influence conversations about your school. A careful, sincere response on social media can change how people view your organization and squash potentially negative stories. Engagement on social media can encourage brand advocates that can help address negative comments.
A big part of managing your school’s reputation is to be aware of what is being said about your organization. You can’t proactively respond if you don’t know what is being talked about. Here are some tools to use to monitor mentions of your school. For more tools, click here for 10 Tools to Use to Monitor Your School’s Online Presence.
Free or low-cost social monitoring tools:
Recently I interviewed Brian Kaplan of BrainKap Communications for the SchneiderB.fm Podcast. Brian specializes in Crisis Communication Planning and recommends the following listening tools: Reddit Keyword Monitor Pro, Reputology (Hootsuite) and Crisis Response Pro.
Your online reputation is important. You can be certain that people are looking up your social media profiles and searching for information about your school online.
Unfortunately, uncontrollable events or staged attacks can give your school a negative online reputation. Take the time to protect your school’s name with a positive, authentic online presence. Establish yourself as an authority in your niche across social networks and professionally respond to negative and untruthful comments.
Online reputation management is not a “get out of jail free” card or a quick fix for bad press. It’s a way to showcase your school’s best accomplishments and take control of your school’s narrative.
Have you had negative comments, complaints or stories told about your school online? How did you handle the situation? What would you do differently if it happens again in the future? Please share in the comments below.