Parents typically show up in the list of audience gateway pages on most .edu websites, right alongside prospective students, current students, and faculty and staff. Before social media, an audience gateway like this one for parents at the University at Albany were the extent of communication with parents. You created a web page with convenient links to information that parents and families would need, and you called it a day. Now in a time of social media as mainstream communication, University at Albany also offers a Facebook page for parents. Meaning that in addition to the audience gateway web pages that provide categorized sets of links customized to the transactional needs of parents, colleges and universities are also devoting resources to social channels specifically for the parent audience.
Social media is not the only influencer of higher ed audience gateway pages. More and more audience gateway pages include marketing to parents about outcomes and the value proposition. And, many gateway pages introduce the idea of parents making donations to the institutions their children are attending.
My exploration of audience gateways pages for parents included a review of 19 university websites. I found that:
- 13 (or 70 percent) have a parents gateway link from the homepage
- Two of the six that have no link for a parents gateway from the homepage do have a parents page on Facebook
- Five of the 13 parent gateway pages included the option for giving
- About half (six of the 13) parent gateways included marketing language and messaging
Gems I found as I explored.
- I like the “Popular Links” for quick access to the academic calendar and tuition and fee information on the University at Albany gateway.
- The additional segmenting of the parent audience is strong on the Montana State University gateway. Note “Becoming a Bobcat,” “First Year Information,” and “Final Year Information.”
- The University of Minnesota gateway offers messaging to parents about appropriate involvement. I like the “Step in or bow out?” feature.
- New Mexico State University’s gateway includes a direct request for donations that is tied to the university’s success as an institution where students graduate with less debt.
- The Old Dominion University parent gateway includes a mix of marketing and resource links. The information for parents opens as a tab, keeping you on the homepage.
- The parent gateway for University of Maine uses straightforward categories like “Money Matters” to organize sets of links.
- University of Tennessee at Knoxville gateway is heavy on marketing to parents but also includes resource links. I like the attention spent on describing the top three reasons to join the parents association. Too many sites don’t make the benefits of membership apparent.
My favorite gateway for parents.
The most engaging gateway I found was on the Virginia Commonwealth University site. The site includes strong messaging about the value of the Richmond location and the copy is warm and appropriate. (“The college landscape can be difficult to navigate — all those applications to fill out, campuses to maneuver, courses to sign up for. We’d like to make it a little easier on you.”) VCU’s “Let us show you the way” page for parents is marketing-focused but includes the concrete through “How do we get started?” and the practical through “What resources does VCU offer its students?”
Generally, the parent audience gateway page creates an opportunity for more strategic communication with parents. When colleges and universities use this web real estate to its best advantage, strong messaging and content that engages families will appear alongside lists of links.
More on communication with parents: