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Small Business Freedoms Are Worth Celebrating

In this month of July, it is worth thinking about our freedoms and what they mean to us. One context for this was discussed in a recent blog post we found on CorpNet. The post talks about how freedoms are manifested in our small businesses – and how we can celebrate them. A key excerpt from the blog that was entitled: Four Small Business Freedoms That Make Every Day Like Independence Day is provided below:

 

 

 

Small Business Freedoms Worth Celebrating

  1. Autonomy to make your own decisions about the direction of your company – YOU steer the ship! As a small business owner, you decide which products and services you’ll provide. You also determine how small or large you want to grow your company and what type of business structure you want it to have. You might start out as a sole proprietor, or form an LLC, or register as an S-Corporation, or establish a C-Corporation. You have the freedom to pursue what makes the most sense for you.
  2. Flexibility with your schedule – For me, this is among the biggest advantages of being a business owner. With our four children, having the ability to adjust my work schedule when needed—especially during the summer months when school is out—is invaluable.
  3. Free will to create your own path to professional development – As a small business owner, you get to decide which skills and knowledge you want to hone and perfect. Whether you opt to register for webinars, travel to attend conferences, or pursue an industry certification, you don’t have to ask permission to up your game.
  4. Choice of whom you work with – Ah, this is a BEAUTIFUL thing. When you own your own business, you get to choose who will be on your team. That’s powerful because you can work with people who have the right skills, work ethic, and attitude to propel your business forward and make work seem, well, less like work.

It is hard, stressful work making a small business succeed. At The School Communications Agency we know that, and we work hard to make sure your partnership with us and with the schools and parents we represent provide value and help you grow your business.

 

Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash

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Why School Newsletters Still Matter

Research shows that students do better when consistent, open communication exists between schools and parents. A myriad of methods and tools are available to schools to communicate with parents such as parent-teacher conferences, websites, email, phone calls, social media, flyers, and the monthly school newsletter. The school newsletter has been around for a long, long time and remains relevant in school-to-parent communications. In fact, it has evolved into a vehicle to connect parents with local (often family-owned) businesses that sponsor schools. This connection creates mutually beneficial relationships between businesses, parents, students, and schools.

Do Parents Read School Newsletters?

Information overload is a challenge in the digital age. Marketers are constantly tracking click-through and open rates in emails. Do parents take the time to read their child’s school e-newsletter?  In a recent survey of parents of schoolchildren in Colorado conducted by The School Newsletter Agency (TSCA),

many parents responded that they refer back to the monthly newsletter three or more times per month and approximately 50% of parents read the newsletter at least two times per month. Clearly, parents are reading school newsletters and often refer to them throughout the month for relevant information.

Additionally, schools are concerned with information accessibility issues. A well-designed e-newsletter

addresses this concern and are formatted for mobile devices, tablets and desktop viewing, while also designed to easily convert to PDF, so schools that still require paper copies to reach parents, can easily print them.

Do School Newsletters Improve Parent Engagement with Schools?

Parents are busy. Well-designed school newsletters have reoccurring, organized content areas so that parents can quickly find what is of interest to them each month. Well-ordered school information, such as sports schedules, special events and testing deadlines, promotes parent engagement. Content matters and schools know it. The right content is key. Reading the school newsletter becomes a habit if done right. Additionally, sticking to a consistent day to send the newsletter to parents each month promotes parent readership.

A group of principals who serve as part of a Education World’s principal focus team, agree that newsletters are a key element in any communications plan. Newsletters offer consistent messages with consolidated and summarized information about upcoming activities, student achievements, menus, fundraiser programs, and photos from school events. Consistent communication from schools in the form of a monthly newsletter is expected and looked forward to each month by parents.

According to Frank Hagen, who has been an educator for more than 30 years, parent engagement is a key component in educating children in the 21st Century.  Parent engagement increases as a result of consistent monthly newsletters, leading to improved student success.  

Do Parents Support Businesses Because of Advertising They See in School Newsletters?

One challenge that businesses face is how to reach busy parents in the community. Advertising in school newsletters allows businesses to reach this niche market of parents, school staff, teachers and students. Links embedded within school newsletters allow parents to access additional information from the school, district, businesses/sponsors and other community stakeholders.  According to TSCA’s recent survey, nearly 60% of parents who responded click on the advertisements in their school newsletters. This click rate is well above the industry average reported by Constant Contact.

In the same survey, parents were asked if they visited or did business with sponsors after seeing the business advertised in their school newsletter. Approximately 50% of respondents say they have visited or done business with 1 to more than 4 businesses after seeing advertising in their school newsletter. Local businesses grow and benefit from sponsoring schools in this way.

How do Businesses Support Schools?

It is no secret that schools are in need of funding sources for anything from extracurricular activities to school supplies. Schools and parent organizations spend countless hours setting up fundraising events and activities and setting up family dinners at local restaurants that give a small percentage of sales back to schools.  School newsletters can be another fundraising vehicle. A portion of the advertising investment from local sponsors goes to support schools. Schools have reported using the funds to pay costs for students who could not afford field trips, prom, and schools supplies. Other schools have used the funds from school newsletter sponsor support for playground equipment, teacher appreciation, and scholarships.

School newsletter sponsorship also supports the design process and reduces the workload on school staff saving staff hours of time better used to directly support students and teachers. Businesses that advertise in school newsletters are building relationships with community parents, while supporting their local schools, and promoting their businesses.  And, many of these businesses are owned by parents who want to support their child’s school, while growing awareness for their businesses.

Is the School Newsletter Still Relevant?

Parents, businesses, teachers, and school administrators say it is. In addition to its traditional role to inform parents about school activities, deadlines, and announcements, it has become a path to parents for businesses. The school newsletter reaches parents on a regular, monthly schedule at an extremely affordable price for local businesses. These businesses are supported by parents and in turn they support their children’s schools, thus connecting communities and growing their businesses, which results in parent engagement and increased student success. While there are multiple tools and methods to communicate with parents, the school newsletter remains relevant and has evolved into a beneficial tool to connect and support the community.

 

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Three Ways Our Newsletters Create Value For Your Company

Communication is great for companies, and newsletters are time-tested communication tools. For small businesses, email newsletters can be the primary way to reach customers, brand a product, and offer company news. Even the world’s biggest companies frequently rely on email newsletters to announce promotions, announce a service, and build a bigger subscription database.

Successful successful newsletter campaigns all do something right out of Marketing 101 textbooks: market to customers without making customers feel like they are being marketed to. One of my favorite marketing emails comes from Dollar Shave Club. Why? I love their product, so that helps. And, their newsletters make me laugh. I appreciate humor during a busy day of emails. I also know it takes a lot of time to produce content that is original, thoughtful, and isnt’ preachy.

Lots of companies need results now. So, they make the mistake of being too “salesy” in email after email. This is an almost guaranteed unsubscribe. A good salesmen should never have to do any hard selling; the product should speak for itself. And so it is for newsletters.

Which makes the model used by the School Communications Agency a really strong one. Our digital newsletters indeed help drive communication – and our designers take great pride in crafting content that is highly readable and clickable. And because we have found an audience that is impacted on a very real level by the information we provide, we can have open rates almost three times higher than the industry average.

What does this mean for a sponsor? It means three important things.

  1. It means sponsoring content in our newsletter doesn’t turn away the reader since they are there for school news. They are being marketed to without feeling like they are being marketed to.
  2. It also means that your product gets delivered to a highly localized audience, so impression rates are vastly improved over bulk marketing approaches. Our newsletters contain information that is meaningful.
  3. And it means that The School Communications Agency is doing the digital marketing for you. We are your helping hand in branding your product. The more schools you reach, the bigger your brand’s possibilities. A digital marketer can easily be paid in the six figures for content creation and market exposure. We can give you hundreds of thousands of impressions at fractions of that cost.

With that approach, we can all be partners in growing your company’s value.

 

 

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In a Competitive Landscape, Newsletters Are The Best Kept Secret

The School Communications Agency works with many excellent sponsors who help us fund Colorado school initiatives. We value this relationship very much. Sponsorship is an important investment, and we are proud to continue to offer a unique way to reach over 150,000 parents, multiple times per month through our digital newsletter program.

As a channel which connects businesses to the educational community, impressions are very important to us. Sponsors have a golden opportunity to make hundreds of thousands of impressions per month at the fraction of a cost of a traditional marketing campaign.

Here’s how we do it:

  • We connect schools and businesses.
    With the ability to brand themselves to 140 Colorado schools, sponsors have direct access to a committed demographic. The number of schools who are working with us is growing all the time, and sponsors get direct access to over 220,000 students and parents in those schools.
  • We deliver newsletters digitally, with a forward thinking approach.
    Our email open rates are over 90 percent, meaning parents are getting immediate exposure to your sponsorship, multiple times per month. That’s upwards of 400 percent over the industry average, according to Constant Contact data.
  • We know education, and how to effectively market your brand to our education audience, which makes us incredibly cost effective.
    According a recent thorough analysis, the average cost per click using Facebook ads was just over 29 cents per click in 2016.  To our sponsors that reach 100,000 parents with us, you would be paying roughly $27,000 for 100,000 Facebook clicks. Many of sponsors reach far more than that. And our rates, of course, are far, far lower. And we are far more targeted.
  • We engage parents with school news that they need and can’t get elsewhere.
    For a run down of the sporting events, or a cutting edge classroom idea that can be used to help their children, parents keep turning to our newsletter. We also work directly with sponsors to specifically brand their message to the K-12 audience. And, best of all, by sponsoring with The School Communications Agency, you get to contribute funding to our students’ futures. We’ve raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Colorado schools so far with your help.

Sponsors, we thank you for your ongoing commitment to improving education. And to future sponsors, please reach out to us.

Together, we can continue to succeed.

 

 

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Why It’s More Important Than Ever For Businesses and Schools To Work Together

National and local businesses are among the most untapped school resources. Which is really interesting, because schools are in the business of fostering talented thinkers, innovators, and workers. On the business end, fostering talent at home reduces operational costs. It also helps local companies brand themselves as positive community stakeholders. For schools, creating partnerships with local businesses, from the mom and pop to the large multinational, offers a ton of rewards.

Beyond finances, there are many other ways schools and business can succeed together. When you look at the modern economy, students simply need different skills beyond what a traditional curriculum can take on. They need to understand networking, be adept at communicating strengths, and show technological savvy, among others.

And, critically, they need to have mentors teach them the world they are about to be entering. Businesses can step in and partner with schools, and some are already doing so. There are good ideas, such as internships, already in place. Beyond that, there are two other immediate advantages school/business partnerships can provide.

  1. Business leaders can experience first hand the way rising workers think, react, and generate ideas, because it’s just different. There’s a few other incentives here, too. In addition to lower potential training costs, businesses would also gain key demographic insights. A young entrepreneur could literally change a company’s vision.
  2. Schools can promote their own brand, have channels to grow, and seek vital community involvement. School branding is no longer a passing thought. Schools needs students to pay the bills and get funding. And to succeed. In a fierce educational landscape that includes private, specialized, charter, and public schools, schools have to work extra hard to set themselves apart.

Ultimately, just like schools are in need of sound communication to grow, businesses would hugely profit from interacting more directly with their future workforce. And it’s more than a trend – it’s becoming essential to build the workforce we need.

We are proud to have connected businesses and students together through our sponsor program, and are continuing to develop partnerships within the national education landscape. Thank you for working with us. We look forward to helping even more.

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Improved Open-Ended Communication Inspires Learning Communities

John Hunter is a fourth grade teacher, and he’s one of the best around. Watching his Ted Talk, I was in awe at how he expertly communicates with children. He truly believes that informed parents, engaged communities and better schools arise from high quality communication. If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s well worth your 20 minutes. One of the most impressive strategies he implements is his ability to ask open-ended questions. As a teacher, I have practiced rigorously on the best way to engage students, and being open-ended is a huge help. There’s no doubt being open-ended helps bridge the gap between parents, schools, and communities.
I overheard a conversation at Panera recently that reaffirmed the importance of being open-ended. Here’s the actual conversation:
“How was your day,” the adult asked. “Good,” the child said. Then, the adult asked, “What did you learn today?” “Ummm…Math,” was the rather uninspired answer.
Being open-ended reinforces and revitalizes. At the end of a busy day, kids are tired. Some kids don’t like questions in general and are hesitant at sharing information. But mostly, kids find closed-ended questions restricting. Open-ended questions can get kids to talk in a free-flow manner, hitting on elaborate ideas that even the most ardent question-asker didn’t even know the kids had in them.
If you want to have a fun, communicative experience, the rule is simple. Basically, don’t ask kids questions in which the answer could be yes or no. I’ll illustrate an example. I asked my nephew once, “Do you want some vegetables?” I bet you can guess his answer. It was a resounding N-O. The fault was all mine though, because what kid would want a vegetable at 3:30 in the afternoon when dinner was a few hours away? After all, he’d be getting some on veggies on his plate at that hour. So, the next time I picked him up after school, I had learned my lesson. I rephrased the question.
If you could have any vegetable in the world before you get to eat this chocolate s’mores bar (showing him the chocolate s’mores bar) what would it be?” I had him. He went silent, and thought for a few seconds, running through his list of vegetables. He smiled, and said watermelon. Well, not bad. But watermelon is a fruit, I said, but I’d take it since he’d be getting some good sources of vitamin C before he had his snack of choice. We then went on to have a fun conversation about fruits that look like vegetables. And then fruits that taste like vegetables. Remember, none of this would have been possible with my first question, because it was closed-ended. But, open-ended questions opened up an opportunity for so much more inquiry. Now, I have even this printed out for those busy moments when I forget to think of my own open-ended questions. When we communicate with our kids, they communicate back to us. That’s the lesson here. And they never cease to amaze, according to Hunter, and every teacher probably ever!
Another thing I admire about Hunter is that he encourages open-ended communication to foster inquiry far beyond our expectations. When he’s teaching his inspiring “World Peace Game,” he assigns one of the most important (and challenging) books written of all time – The Art of War, by Sun Tzu. To fourth graders! When we arm our students with these opportunities, and communicate our objectives in clear, open-ended ways, the sky is the absolute limit in what we are be able to get them to speak, write, and create. Kids want to share their positive experiences in school, but too often readily engage in negativity and gossip.
Again, open-mindedness trains them to think in successful terms. Involved communities leads to better schools, and what better way than sharing success stories? Next time you ask how their day was, it would be wise to turn that statement around and ask them ways in which tomorrow could be even better.
After all, that is the goal of excellent communication, making tomorrow better than today, and being open-ended adds another quiver in your arrow. At The School Communications Agency, we believe 100 percent in providing opportunities for success through the power of positive communication. If you are interested in learning more about what we do, please contact us for more ideas today. We would love to help in your efforts in building your community and improving education.

 

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Positive Messages Lead To Positive Results When Advertising to Parents

Sponsors, are you ready for an alarming statistic?
According to a recent report conducted by Common Sense Media, kids aged 2-11 are exposed to over 25,000 ads per year. That’s almost 2,100 ads per month. Put another way, that’s an incredible 15 ads per hour. So yes, we truly live in advertising age. While it’s true that ads are coming in fast and furious over traditional airwaves, more than ever kids are being exposed to clickbait-style media. Advertisers know this, and are good at targeting digital natives, perhaps too good.
There is no doubt that student-aged consumers are a huge target audience, and no one in the business of creating profit would be wise to ignore that fact. For years, there have entire marketing campaigns focused around this demographic. But, only fairly recently has research been squarely focused on product placement and the impact it’s having on kids, raising questions about the types of products kids are being exposed. Questions increasingly ponder whether or not kids should be burdened with purchasing decisions in the first place. As one study put it, a lot of times kids don’t have the mental capacity to differentiate between what is part of a TV program and what part of it is the ad. The same study pointed out that about 14 percent of all commercials they sampled had an overtly negative message.  That sounds small, but out of 25,000 ads, that would be 3,500 ads featuring negative content per year.
So, is there a viable alternative? The School Communications Agency believe there is. Advertising a positive message produces better results in the long run – for kids, for schools, for consumers, and ultimately, for sponsors. TSCA ads are ALL family friendly, tailoring needs that kids and parents genuinely want to attend to.
Take this list of Forbes’ best advertising campaigns of all time.  These ads have the same underlying ingredient – they are all extremely positive.
As you know, very soon “Back To School” drives will begin. Stores will be flooded with them, vying for your dollars. TSCA sees this as a chance for sponsors to hit a positive message out of the park. Why would you want to display your positive message with us?
Last year, the National Retail Foundation reported that families with children in grades K-12 planned to spend over 20 billion dollars on back-to-school supplies, and it’s trending up almost every year. Sponsors, what a great opportunity to send a message to potential consumers, while helping schools at the same time. Kids and families have so many needs, and a positive message is front and center among them.
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TSCA lets you grab a slice of a huge pie

Recently, I overheard a conversation by a group of parents enjoying the day in one of our local dog parks. They were talking about trying to find a fidget spinner at a nearby store. Fidget spinners, if you haven’t heard, have been all the rage this year in classes across the world.

As I listened to these parents chatting away, I wanted to inform them that a spinner does little to get a kid interested in learning if the material isn’t engaging. But I digress –  they said the store was sold out of them.

Among other things, the fidget spinning craze has highlighted the incredible purchasing power k-12 students have. According to at least one advertising firm, children account for 1.2 trillion in sales each year. That’s an unbelievable pie for advertisers to cash in on.

As a teacher, I’ve seen fads come and go as fast as you can say Super Mario. I’ve seen hairstyles come and go, too-cool-for-school attire vanish forever, and have witnessed trading cards fads hit the shelves with an approximate half life of a few weeks. The fidget spinner craze seems to be over, too.

The truth is, sometimes we don’t really know what sustains our children’s attention. But there are things kids simply need, like a good dentist, or an excellent sports club to discover new interests. The School Communications Agency has a pretty innovative approach to targeting the needs of children. The TSCA business model guarantees capital E, Exposure, directly to parents. And parents need family-friendly services, and it’s hard to get good family-friendly advice these days.

Here’s how TSCA works. We have a team of awesome newsletter writers where sponsors place family-friend ads. Since TSCA writes the newsletters, teachers have one less thing to worry about, because writing newsletters is hard. Oh, and schools get 50 percent of ad revenue straight away. Essentially, schools are being paid by TSCA to worry less. That’s pretty awesome, because teachers have a lot to worry about.

So, if you’re a business advertising with TSCA, you get over 100,000 views a month from parents, and it’s growing. Schools have gotten over half a million dollars. And parents, our newsletters get you involved.

TSCA can be contacted at your convenience. It’s fidget free!

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Businesses Can Help Raise Colorado Graduation Rates

Colorado is one of the most desirable states to live and work, but there is ground to make up if it wants to be a leader in education as well. According to a recently published report from the educational alliance, Building A Grad Nation, Colorado is 43rd in the nation in graduation rates. The graduation rate in Colorado dropped to 77.3 percent, while the national average rose overall, to 83.2 percent. That puts Colorado seven percent lower than the national average.

Building a Grad Nation is composed of four major educational organizations devoted to raising graduation rates to 90 percent by 2020. Unfortunately, Colorado’s recent decline is creating an uphill climb for reaching that lofty goal, particularly among diverse and lower socio-economic populations. Despite an overall uptick in graduation rates, a gap between the graduation rates of white students and minority students is only widening in Colorado and elsewhere. According to the report, 82.6 percent of white Colorado students graduated, compared to 69.9 percent for black/African American students, and just 67.6 percent for Hispanic/Latino students. Even greater is the gap between income levels, with students being labeled as “low income” graduating at a rate of 53.8 percent, while students of ”non-low income” status graduate at a 33 percent higher rate.

Though these statistics are not the best news, there are a number of states who might offer a case study on how to reverse the trend in Colorado. For instance, California has seen its graduation rate increase seven years in a row. An initiative that California has introduced includes focusing support to diverse learners, who are all graduating at a higher rate than they are in Colorado and in keeping better pace with changing demographics.

There are a number of reasons why the graduation rate is of importance. However, the bottom line is that having more high school graduates and introducing programs that support graduation are an economic boon to states, towns, and communities. According to a 2016 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, full-time workers age 25 and older without a high school diploma earned $9620 less in median earnings than those who had one.

Building strong academic communities takes, as they say, a village. Teachers, parents, and the local community all play a role. Business, too, create an important partnership, fostering much-needed opportunities for funding. In return, businesses gain important brand recognition. There are several examples that highlight this win-win proposition for all involved. One of my favorites from the article is the simple task of a local business providing a school its awards for student achievement, taking less off the teacher’s plate so they can focus on teaching.

The fact is, the School Communications Agency takes it a step further. You can support future graduates by working with The School Communications Agency, which gives 50 percent of its revenue right back to schools. We partner with family friendly, community oriented businesses who want to improve parent/school communication, reduce school staff workload and help raise money. Our schools cover a diverse demographic spectrum, including districts with high median household incomes as well as schools with historically lower incomes. Your business’ sponsorship in the form of an advertisement in the schools’ monthly newsletters reaches an ideal demographic of parents of K-12 students while providing the schools with much needed funding. Remember, while 100% of your investment helps improve parent/school communication, a full fifty percent goes directly to schools in the form of a cash donation. Be part of the solution and join our select group of family friendly businesses today.

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