In this unprecedented time of center closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, how can you best maintain relationships with your customers while they shelter in place with children at home, endure stress around job changes or loss, and deal with the daily struggles around isolation and uncertainty? Now, more than ever, it’s important to connect with your families in multiple ways that communicate your image as the knowledgeable, helpful resource they can trust. Done well, it will help them through this difficult time, bond them to you, and make it easier to re-enroll them in your school once it opens. Though traditional communication is good, taking it a step further will give you a competitive advantage.
Virtual Learning and Play
Many centers are providing online learning and play opportunities through videos, YouTube posts, and social media. Though parents may not be able to do all of it, just knowing they regularly have it available from you can give them a sense of control over their child’s learning at a time when so much is out of their control. It also helps keep both children and parents feel a connection with the educators they love. Whether it’s saying the pledge in circle time, lessons and instructions for learning activities that get children and parents outside, or games that challenge older learners, parents are looking to you and your staff for what will best keep their children developing and learning.
A step further: Make it interactive, such as having them share project results on your social media.
Whether it’s snack ideas, family workouts, links to virtual children’s museum tours, etc., think in your prospect’s perspective. Ask them what resources they need most right now. Here are a few to consider…
https://bookshop.org/shop/childrensbookworld – Reading with your child is one of the best ways to keep them engaged and learning. This independent children’s bookstore helps parents select the best books by age or topic, and has them shipped direct.
https://www.education.com/resources/preschool/ – A wealth of at-home learning resources for preschoolers through elementary age children to use during school closures.
https://www.eyfshome.com/resources – A site that compiles activities, resources, and support for parent and families, shared with me by UK-based colleague, Laura Henry, early years consultant and author of the Jo-Jo and Gran-Gran book series, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A step further: Provide resources of interest to parents, as well as children. https://www.travelandleisure.com/attractions/museums-galleries/museums-with-virtual-tours is one that lets them experience virtual tours of the best museums and galleries from London to Seoul in the comfort of their homes.
Refer parents who want to better manage family routine, resilience, and behavior during this time, to sources like https://askdoctorg.com/parenting-blog/, written by parenting and youth development expert, Deborah Gilboa, MD.
Facilitate Ongoing Communication to engage families with you and each other.
You can become a lifeline to your families for answers, a feeling of community, and maybe even some sense of sanity. When you are the source, you build loyalty, even though they are not currently enrolled.
Continue your newsletter or Monday Morning Memo, adding to it a focus on supporting families through the coronavirus crisis. Create your own version of what Exchange Every Day, https://www.childcareexchange.com/eed, posts in their “Monday Morning Support” column offering inspiration and resources.
Remind families of any special programs you are offering to hold their children’s spaces, provide tuition incentives upon their return, increase your referral rebates, etc.
Keep your social media active and monitored for topics of greatest interest, on which you could provide further information there, on your website, or through your other methods of online family communication.
Host a weekly Q&A on Zoom. With the Zoom invitation, notify recipients of the week’s topic and ask them to submit questions for discussion. At the end of each session ask what support they need most at this point, and use that information to develop discussion topics for future virtual gatherings.
Enlist your Parent Ambassadors to activate a phone tree, calling families to check in, offer a center family connection, share ideas, and seek out needs for support.
A step further: Send these communications and invitations to more than your current customer list. Include prospects in your enrollment pipeline, qualified lost opportunities, and your best referral sources from alumni and community marketing partners.
Email me with any creative strategies you want to share about how to communicate with your target audiences while your centers are closed.
Watch for my next blog, COVID-19 Support – Part II – Business Recovery Strategies to Take Now to Build Enrollment Faster Once You Reopen.