True North

How to Make a Great Virtual Tour Video for Your School

With many schools closed and restrictions on gatherings and events, K-12 schools and colleges across the nation are now depending on virtual tours to show prospective students and families what their campus has to offer. If you don’t already have a virtual tour on your website, or if you have an outdated tour video, this is a great time to make a new one. 

Even if you don’t have top-of-the-line equipment or a seasoned videographer, you can still make a quality video to engage your audience. Just follow this comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts to create a video that will bolster your enrollment efforts, even after you are able to resume in-person tours. 

Read More

Your School’s Google Listing During COVID-19: What you need to know

Did you know your school’s Google My Business (GMB) may be marked as permanently closed? Despite the temporary closing of schools across the nation, we’re noticing an uptick in “helpful” strangers marking schools and businesses as permanently closed. Thankfully, GMB sends an email to the owner of the listing to confirm, and if left unnoticed, there is a way to reverse the closing.

After checking your closure status, it’s wise to make other updates to your GMB page. 

Business Hours

Let people know when your school is open, even if it’s only a few hours a week. Even though they still may not visit your school during this time, it lets them know when they can call and reach you.

Business Description

Update your business description with details about your closure. Let searchers know about your campus being temporarily closed and the digital learning your students are currently engaged in.

Example: COVID-19 Update – In order to protect our students, staff, and community from the spread of coronavirus, our campus is temporarily closed until *date*. Our teachers and staff have implemented distance learning, allowing our students to continue receiving a quality education while at home.

Posts

Add Update – Create an update post to let potential parents know how your school is continuing to educate your students through the temporary closure. Including a picture with your post will attract attention! Be sure to add a button and link to your website to your virtual tour page or admissions page. Update posts are visible for two weeks, so set a reminder to update again after your post expires.

Example: COVID-19 has temporarily shut down our campus, but our students have hardly noticed! Through innovative online techniques, *school name* has transitioned to distance learning so that our students don’t fall behind and miss out on their education. If you want to see what *school name* has to offer, check out our virtual tour!

Add Event – Promote your virtual Open House by adding an event to your GMB. Again, be sure to include a photo or video with the event to attract the viewer’s eye. Include time, date and details about your event, making it clear that it’s a virtual event and that you’re not inviting them to your campus. Include a button and link, pointing them to a Facebook event or webpage.

Temporary Closure

On March 15, Google announced an option for schools and businesses to mark themselves temporarily closed. You may see other businesses update their GMB profile with this status,  but we encourage schools to not mark their Google My Business with temporarily closed. 

As long as the profile is updated following the three steps listed above, potential parents will receive the information they need during this time.

Use these directions from Google for assistance in making these updates.

To make sure your website is communicating well with current parents and potential families, be sure to read our blog, “3 Vital Steps for Your School’s Website During COVID-19.”

3 Things You Need to Add To Your School Website During COVID-19

For schools, the ability to communicate with families is crucial during the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak. With the temporary closure of many K-12 schools, getting messages out in a timely manner to current families and being able to maintain a conversation with prospective parents will have an impact on the perception of how well your organization is handling this crisis. Here are three crucial steps you can take to pave the way for smooth communication:

Single mother using laptop together with little preschool daughter.

1. Add an Alerts Feature to Your Website

If you do not already have a notification or alert feature on your website, this feature can be added in order to help display pertinent announcements related to closings and information regarding COVID-19 in a prominent manner.

There are two notification plugin tools that North Star Marketing recommends for WordPress websites. Both of these are easy to implement and customize:

A recent article in WP Explorer also lists some alternatives that include pop ups and overlay notices.

If you are a current North Star client and find a plugin from WordPress.org that you would like to add to your website, please, submit a support ticket and we can install the plugin of your choosing. Please provide the following information in your support ticket request:

      • The notification message.
      • If you’ve created a custom page to show more information for the message, please provide the page link (URL) to the page so we can link to it.

For many sites, this process will be straightforward, meaning you may install a notice plugin of your choice, enter in the desired message, and enable the display of the notice. For other sites with unique custom themes, some CSS adjustments may be required. Some additional time from our help desk may be required to format the alert feature on our website. 

If you do not have a WordPress site, contact your website provider to see if they have resources to create an alerts feature on your website.

2. Add a Chat Feature to Your Website 

A live chat feature can help you answer parents’ questions at a time when the school office is closed. North Star Marketing recommends Olark for chat features; however, if you are looking for a free resource, WP-Live Chat by 3CX is one tool that works well with  WordPress sites. The plugin allows you to create a custom message when you are offline and sends you a desktop notification when a new chat comes in. 

If you do not have a WordPress site, contact your site provider to see if they can recommend a chat feature that will work with your website.

3. Switch to Virtual Tours

While your school campus is closed, it’s time to retool your Schedule A Tour page and CTAs to link parents to a Virtual Tour opportunity. Create a landing page or website page that is dedicated to showing photos or videos of key places on your campus, highlighting key messaging points of your value propositions for each grade level, and guiding prospective families through a potential upcoming enrollment process. Encourage these virtual tour participants to complete a form so you can contact them to answer any follow-up questions they may have.

Remember to think beyond your website for communication during this time. Be sure to update your Google My Business listing for those potential parents who are seeing your school on their search engine results page. Learn more about how to update your listing.

How to Get Marketing Support from North Star During COVID-19 

If you are a current North Star Client who needs help beyond contacting the support desk for help with alert or chat plugins, contact your marketing manager or project manager. 

If you are not a current client of North Star but are interested in additional support during the COVID-19 challenges, contact Micah Fox, Solutions Advisor, at micah.fox@northstarmarketing.com.

Working Remotely: Tips, Tools, and Guidance for Employers and Team Members

With the spread of Coronavirus, many companies are asking team members to work from home. Some companies already had a remote work option in place before the latest health crisis, while others may be new to having employees work from home. 

North Star Marketing has had a remote work model in place for several years and also serves clients across the nation using online technologies. We’re sharing some of the tips, tools, and practices that we use to make working remotely successful for both our team members and the clients we serve. While every company will need to find the practices and tools that work best for their goals, budget, and industry, here are a few of our “lessons learned” from remote collaboration. Read More

Find Joy in Work: A Perspective and a Process

Find Joy in Work both is—and is not—the end of our list of core values at North Star Marketing. Sarah Koudelka, one of our rockstar production managers and a member of our leadership team, is the perfect person to try and explain what we mean.

What Parts of Your Work Bring You Joy?

At my house, when I wake up, if the kitchen counter is clean, tidy, and perfectly in order, I am a happy person. If it is not, that is usually a pretty rough start to my day. When there is no time to tend to all the chores for some reason, I try never to let the kitchen get out of control. There is plenty of work that goes into keeping my house livable that I do not particularly enjoy, but I love wiping down the kitchen counter. There is something about that which brings me joy. 

Read More

Value Community: It’s More Than Just Being Together

Micah Fox heads our sales department and serves on the North Star leadership team. He also works to coordinate many of our company volunteer and ministry projects. The ways he pulls us together as a team has given him a unique perspective on our Value Community core value.

Value Community: It’s More Than Just Being Together

A friend of mine spent several years working at a fast-growing technology firm in Durham. We talked about some of the things his employer put in place to improve or impact their sense of community in the workplace. In the office, they supplied a fully stocked kitchen with unlimited snacks and beverages to encourage co-workers to take breaks, be refreshed, and get to know one another. Outside the office, they organized corporate outings, happy hours, celebrations, and game nights. It all sounded great. 

Read More

Push for Clarity: Paving the Way to Take Action

Chris Kindred is a veteran developer for the North Star Marketing team who gets the importance of our third core value. New growth always means new questions to be answered, but our Push for Clarity reveals something that surprises us, over and over again.

Clarity When It Counts

When you are in the center of a football stadium packed with fans, and everyone is staring at you—when the snap comes, and you’ve got that ball in your hands—in that moment, right there, you need absolute clarity about your job. Indecision or uncertainty could lose the game, get you badly hurt, or both. 

Dramatic american football stadium

I had the privilege of playing football at the University of Tulsa during my college days, and there were so many lessons that athletics instilled in me. By now they have deep roots and affect just about every part of my life. This issue of clarity is something that I see all the time in my work as a parent of three amazing kids and my work at the office as a developer with the North Star Marketing team. 

Are We Really Clear About What Clarity Is?

It might seem that clarity is just being clear and making sure things are understood. I think it is more than just transparency, or a basic understanding, though. I think it is about the will to overcome confusion, and about not stopping until you have what you need to take action. That probably means continuing to ask questions and refusing to stay silent when you still don’t have the clarity you need. Those things aren’t always easy, but they sure are important. 

I am a developer. I tend to see things as black and white, yes and no, on or off. The world and our work are complex, and there are gray areas. I get that. But pursuing clarity means we have to boil the gray areas down to the right black and white choices that will allow us to take action. What we call a push for clarity is a dogged pursuit of discernment, so we and our clients are focused on the right things for the right reasons. 

It also means making sure everyone who is a part of a conversation or project has the same understanding. It is all too possible for different people to be absolutely clear about what they heard or what was decided, only to find out later they had very different takeaways! Shared clarity is what we are really after, in the end. 

How the Push for Clarity Puts Discernment to Work 

In addition to playing Division I football, I also have some military experience. If you have not lived it for yourself, it is hard to describe just how much effort our armed forces put into being clear with instructions and orders and procedures. Obviously, in that context, a lack of clarity can have very real life or death consequences. 

Today, when I’m working, I often remember those lessons. If I do not understand something important during an internal meeting, everybody knows I am going to speak up and keep asking until I am clear. In the end, everyone on the team needs the empowerment that comes with being clear about expectations, roles, project needs, and all the other things that make our work together successful. We all know that anything less will cause real problems, so we accept and honor that push for clarity in our culture at North Star.

It is pretty amazing how this core value, push for clarity, both builds community and teaches us to really value community, which is our next core value. If you look long enough, part of that discernment I mentioned shows you more and more of just how connected to one another we are. It opens up all kinds of doors to honoring one another and what we’re working for together. 

 
X
X