Earlier this spring, before the pandemic, Kalix Marketing began publishing the results of its first-ever, proprietary study on millennial parents and the impact of this important generation on independent schools. Titled, Demystifying The Millennial Parent For Independent Schools, the Kalix Marketing Millennial Parent Market Research Study surveyed more than 1,000 millennial parents.
Now more than ever, the insights and findings from the Kalix study can help your school forge a more effective communications strategy. We spoke with Donna Balinkie, Kalix’s Marketing Strategy Lead and co-author of the study, on how millennial parents’ characteristics and their expectations about independent schools are playing out during this period of remote learning – and what schools can learn from this moving forward.
Q: Now, schools need to pivot in how they are communicating to their parent community. What did you learn from the Kalix study that can offer direction for that pivot?
Donna: Although we created our survey well before the crisis, the findings are even more relevant. Certain trends that we saw in our research are now amplified. For example, we learned that millennial parents nationwide whose children ranged from Kindergarten students to upper schoolers wanted and needed frequent communication from their child’s school. That’s even more important right now as we are all living in a virtual world. Anecdotally, millennials seem to be joining their kids on Zoom calls for online classes, to inspect how teachers are doings. This is so different from Generation X, who tend to step back and let the kids manage it themselves.
Right now, schools should be focused on frequent, deliberate, careful, transparent and empathetic communication. You can’t overcommunicate to parents right now. I would recommend using the same media that schools are using with their students: video conferencing. Use Zoom calls to keep parents informed and together in addition to video updates from the Head of School.
Q: What other suggestions do you have for better communication during this crisis?
Donna: My daughters’ school recently sent a survey to all current parents asking for feedback on how satisfied they were with the school’s communication, creating a sense of community and, of course, providing education. Millennial parents more than any other group need an opportunity to provide feedback. As this crisis continues, I would recommend polling your community on a periodic basis to understand their needs, wants and concerns.
Q: Any insight or tips on prospective millennial parents and preparing for the spring admission season and for next fall?
Donna: We know from the study that millennial parents do their research online and they are on their computers and phones now, more than ever before. Since they can’t visit your campus in person, you need to create authentic ways for them to visit online through virtual open houses and interactive experiences. Consider online personalized tours and touches, such as student and teacher videos (from their homes) about being part of your community, a favorite class or tradition, etc. Get creative. If you have existing video footage of your campus or still shots, edit a virtual tour with a voice over that can be placed on your website.
Q: Many independent schools are facing difficult financial decisions as a result of the pandemic. Knowing what you do about the millennial parent mindset, how would you approach this messaging?
Donna: We learned that millennials are a big advocate of independent schools in general and are open to thinking differently about tuition. Schools should think about out-of-the-box strategies for tuition and be forthcoming about those discussions. Just contemplating innovative tuition strategies will reflect very well on a school brand. Schools who proactively innovate around their tuition strategy will be better positioned to emerge from this period of uncertainty stronger.
Q: Kalix’s in-depth research on millennials offers a lot of great information for schools, now and as they shape what happens post-pandemic with admissions and enrollment. What inspired you and Wayne Jacobs, Kalix’s Research Lead, to undertake a national survey?
Donna: A year or so ago, our Kalix clients began asking us to address the statistical and anecdotal differences that we were seeing between millennials and Generation X parents. As we started to slice the data, we saw meaningful differences, especially around communications and attitudes toward independent schools. What was interesting to us was that many more millennial parents had attended independent schools themselves vs. non-millennial parents. Millennial parents were even more likely to consider boarding schools.
Millennial parents want more than other generations and demand everything in a bigger way. Millennials are less focused about the educational components and more about what a school can bring to the whole child. Another issue even more important to millennials is safety. When we surveyed millennial parents across the country this past fall, that was defined as bullying and the physical safety features and protocol on a campus. Now, we can assume that it will include how a school will keep their children safe as we think about moving back towards classroom learning.
Get your free download of Demystifying The Millennial Parent For Independent Schools, the Kalix Marketing Millennial Parent Market Research Study.