Saturday, 7 May 2011

School Apps as part of a School Communication and Marketing Strategy

Schools have long understood the need to have an effective website where current and prospective parents can find key information. However, there have been two related, significant changes in the way in which people use the Internet in the past few years. First, users expect to be able to access information on the move on their mobile phones and other portable devices. Secondly, no longer can it be assumed that users are prepared to visit and return to a site to “pull-down” what they want to know. Increasingly parents and prospective parents expect relevant information to come to them. Significantly different patterns of Internet use are developing on mobile devices from PC/Laptop use. Mobile users are less inclined to use a search engine, such as Google, rather they expect to use an “App” that will provide them to access to the information.

There are a number of important consequences of this for schools. Many school websites are too slow and clunky for mobile use, so Strategic Managers need to consider how they are going to accommodate this demand. One way to do this is develop a School App.

Rather like the development of school websites in the early 1990s, I suspect that most schools will eventually have their own School App. Apps are important and they are here to stay – well at least for the next ten years!
A mobile phone App will essentially allow schools to “push” information to their target audience easily. Because of their popularity with the under 40s, Apps will be increasingly important for communication with a significant proportion not only of our alumni and our prospective parents.

Phone Apps have the advantage over email in that they don’t get lost in the inbox, they are contemporary, and it is possible to get them to do virtually everything that a website can do: school calendar, events programme, news, photo galleries, sports fixtures, activities programme. Some schools have already produced App versions of their school prospectus and school videos.

Producing a School App is a major marketing/ communication project, similar to producing a new school website – and expect to pay a similar amount. A basic School App is about £1,500 and the full works can cost up to £40k. Schools will need professional help to develop a School App. Commissioning a School App just for the sake of having one is a wasted opportunity and may even be counter-productive in the long-run. It will save both time and money if, before embarking on developing a School App, Strategic Managers decide the following:
  • How will the App contribute to the School’s Marketing or Communication strategy?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What will the App do?
  • What sort of information will the App provide? How often will this information change?
  • Who in the school will be managing the information that the App provides?
  • What will be the measures of success?
A School App that is targeted at providing information and daily news stories to current parents will need significantly different functionality to one that is targeted at providing prospectus-type information to prospective parents.

At present Apps are available for four platforms: iPhone, Android, Windows Phone 7 and Blackberry. The general consensus is that there will not be a convergence on these technologies in the near future so this means that a school will have to produce different versions of the App.

This blogpost is the basis for an article 'Using Social and Digital Media as part of your School Marketing, Communication and PR Strategies' that will be published in the ISC Bulletin later this term.

1 comment:

  1. Great article, and apps definitely make sense for schools. I was wondering what your opinion is on facilitating the availability of apps for schools to use could be developed through collaboarative development using open source technologies. This could lead to standardised platforms for schools to use in potentially a short space of time. Do you think this concept would work for schools?