Many enrollment leaders want to communicate more with parents. And that’s good. Parents are critical to the decision process for school selection and shouldn’t be forgotten. But what enrollment leaders may not realize is that they already are communicating with parents…it’s just not as intentionally as it could be.

I recently sat with a VP for enrollment at a private college in the Midwest. She shared with me that her institution has the most success with emails that go out on Mondays. She also shared that she found this stat rather odd.

It didn’t surprise me one bit…because mom and dad go back to work on Monday. They are ready to read and receive their email then.

“Noooooohhhhh…” was her reply, thick with disbelief.

“Yes,” I confirmed.

Her school, along with countless others, are communicating with parents but they are doing so through communications intended for students.

My suspicion is that 80% of printed mail is viewed by parents and that 70% of electronic mail is viewed by parents. From that perspective, you could say that a school’s “parent-pieces” are already in place.  However, the issue is, are those pieces communicating what parents need to hear or are they missing their target?

Let’s consider two of the biggest, and most costly, vehicles for communicating – Student Search & The Viewbook.

Student Search…Timing is Everything

Schools need to realize who their audience is on every communication. And when it comes to student search communications, schools would do well to realize that they are speaking to more than one audience.

They are speaking to both prospective students and prospective parents.

Of all of our 2011 enrollment campaigns, what single date would you suspect saw the highest number of read emails? Come on, give it your best shot.

January 3rd. Why? Because January 3rd is when the majority of moms and dads across the U.S. went back to work after winter holidays. Their email inboxes were full after the multi-day break. The spikes across all of our active campaigns during that time are easily visible.

When we work with clients to plan their student search campaigns, we’re well aware that timing is everything.

Yesterday’s Viewbook = Today’s Parent Piece

A longtime cornerstone of college admissions communications, the venerable viewbook has received much criticism of late. Thought leaders everywhere are asking if a viewbook is even necessary.

I can make a strong case that students aren’t looking at viewbooks. (And the students that are looking at viewbooks are highly suspicious of the ones that look just like all the other schools’ literature.)

But I can make an even stronger case that parents need, and want, to see that viewbook. The hold-in-your-hands, content-rich production authenticates your school in a way that only your website comes close to doing.

So I offer a compromise and a suggestion.

First, the compromise. Reframe your viewbook, in your own thinking and in the thinking of your prospects, and allow your erstwhile viewbook to become your newly-minted parent piece. You’ll probably be able to reduce the number of pages – a cost savings – and redirect those dollars to create a piece that will be more effective with prospective students.

And now, a suggestion. Consider a card deck, or a dimensional piece, for reaching prospects. Do so and you’ll be miles closer to capturing the attention of your target audience…future students.