The Text Message Marketing Playbook for Schools, Colleges and Universities

Whether you run a preschool, a college, or anything in between, you have one primary responsibility. You are responsible for the young people and staff members that are in your care. Communicating with students, employees, and their loved ones is an essential part of your job.

From day-to-day communications and events to minor, and not-so-minor emergencies, you have a lot of reasons to need to get in touch with everyone quickly and reliably.

Text message marketing is the solution that you need. It’s undeniable that text messages work. 98% of all text messages sent from our platform are read by the recipient. And 90% of all text messages are read within 3 minutes of being received.

We have been leaders in the text marketing industry for over a decade. During that time, we have worked with a large number of schools to help them improve communications with text messages. Keep reading this playbook and learn some of our top text message marketing plays for schools.

16 Text Message Marketing Plays for Schools

Here are 16 types of text marketing campaigns that your school can use right now.

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Special Event Reminders

When it comes to organizing school events, one of the biggest challenges that school administrators and teachers face is keeping parents informed.

Schools invest money and time into printing flyers and packing them into students’ backpacks. Administrators invest funds into automated dialing systems to send important event reminders.

This is why more and more schools are turning to text messages as a way to quickly keep everyone informed about upcoming school events.

  • Keywords can be set up allowing parents to send in a simple text message and receive information about upcoming events. "Text EVENTS to 313131 to see upcoming school events."

  • Reminders can be sent out ahead of time to make sure that everyone remembers the time, day, and location of the event.

  • Important details about the event such as dress code or other requirements can be sent out to everyone before the event as well.

  • Text messages can be used during the event to relay important information.

Severe Weather Alerts

When severe weather strikes, it can be important to very quickly notify all of your students, parents, and staff to let them know about any changes.

Text messages are opened quickly after being sent. This makes them ideal in inclement weather situations when it's important to communicate with large groups of people in a timely fashion.

You can make sure that everyone is aware of:

  • Changes to bus schedules
  • School closings
  • School delays
  • Early dismissals
  • Changes to pick up or drop-off locations
  • Power outages
  • Road closings surrounding the schools

Emergency Notifications

Text alerts can be used to quickly notify teachers, students, and parents when there is an emergency at the school or on campus. During these urgent situations, communication needs to be swift and well received.

Numerous studies have shown that people are more inclined to check text messages immediately compared to voicemail, email, or even phone calls. There are also a lot of statistics that show that people of all ages are carrying cell phones capable of receiving text messages.

After you have established your text messaging alert system, there are a few steps that you can take to help make sure it's effective.

  • Place posters around campus. Encourage the students to keep their contact information up-to-date with the school and educate them about the text alert system.
  • Segment your contact database. Organize your list of students, teachers, and parents by year, dorm, classroom, subject, or any other identifying information that would allow you to quickly send messages to the right people at the right time in the event of an emergency.
  • Prepare messages ahead of time. Considered different information that would need to be provided in emergency situations. This could include things about shelter, evacuation plans, or buddy systems.

Fundraising Drives

School fundraisers have a lot of moving parts. There is a lot of communication that needs to happen between parents, teachers, students, and other people involved with the fundraisers. Teachers and school officials often spend a lot of time answering basic questions and trying to keep everybody organized.

Text message marketing can solve a lot of these communication headaches.

For example:

  • Sharing fundraiser details with parents. You can send a message out with information about the fundraiser to all of the parents on your contact list.

  • Make information easily accessible. You can set up a keyword that parents can text to your short code to receive information about the fundraiser. "Text COOKIEFUNDRAISER to 313131 to get fundraiser deadlines."

  • Share information with teachers. A text message can be sent out to all of the teachers letting them know about upcoming fundraisers.

  • Collect donations. Sometimes parents just don't want to purchase the items available in the fundraiser and would instead prefer to simply give a donation. With SMS donations, donors can text in a keyword and make a quick donation.

Staff Updates

The average open rate for internal employee emails in the education industry is only 49%. From there, the average click-through rate is only 12%. And yet, many schools are still using emails as the primary way to communicate with their staff.

Text messaging provides a more immediate way to communicate with your teachers and other employees. You can easily send messages about:

  • Company meeting reminders.
  • Human resource announcements and updates.
  • Links to internal newsletters.
  • Changes to staff schedules.
  • Announcements regarding employee recognition.
  • Information about emergency notifications and weather alerts.

Surveys

Text message service provider really quick and simple way for school administrators to quickly and easily get information from teachers, students, parents, and volunteers.

Surveys can be used to:

  • Allow college students to share experiences about campus activities.
  • Determine overall teacher satisfaction rates.
  • Gather insights from alumni after they have graduated.
  • Learn how parents feel about their child's education.
  • Understand how volunteers feel about the activities they participated in.

You don't have to require survey participants to use any additional software. Plus text messages have a higher overall response rate than other channels like email.

Lunch Menus

Cafeteria staff can use text messaging to communicate with parents and students about the breakfast and lunch menus for the day. In just a few minutes, the entire menu can be broadcast out to everyone that subscribed.

You can also consider setting up a keyword such as "LUNCHMENU" that parents can text to a shortcode like 313131. After parents send that simple message, they will receive a reply that contains the menus.

Class Supply Lists

Teachers can easily use text messages to communicate with parents about the supplies that they need for their classroom. At the beginning of the year, teachers can send out the school supply list in a simple text message to all of the parents of the kids in their classroom.

Then throughout the year as supplies are running low, teachers can reach out to the parents and let them know what is needed. Parents that are able to purchase the needed supplies can easily respond and let the teacher know.

Text messages provide an easy-to-use communication channel with parents without requiring any additional training or knowledge for the parents.

Homework Reminders

Professor Peter Bergman at Columbia University did a study on sending SMS messages to parents of middle and high school students in LA. He noticed a 25% increase in homework completion when parents were sent regular information about their students. This also led to better test scores and higher GPAs.

In another study, Bergman and his fellow researcher, Eric Chan, found that only 27% of parents ever logged onto a learning management system to look at grades.

There is plenty of research that suggests that when parents get involved in their children's education, the children are more successful. However, many of the current platforms designed to improve communication with parents are either expensive, untested, or too complicated for parents to use easily with their children.

In the research, Bergman and Chan sent out 32,472 text messages to parents in 22 different schools. Every Monday a text message notify parents about any missing assignments from the previous week.

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Every Friday another text message alerted them about any grade averages that were below 70.

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Parents responded well to the text alert program. They contacted the schools more often, had a clear a picture of how their kids were doing, and became more involved.

Attendance Reports

In the same study by Bergman and Chan that we talked about before, the researchers also sent an additional text message to parents every Wednesday that reported on their student absences over the past week.

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These text messages increased class attendance, which in turn helps to increase student performance. Course failures decreased by 39% while class attendance increased by 17%.

Bergman and Chan also found that students were more likely to stay in their school district. The effects were actually larger for students with below average GPAs and students that were in high school. Student GPAs also improved by 1/4 of a point on a 4-point scale.

Volunteer Communications

Parent and community volunteers are a great asset to local schools. They help fill in the gaps and give children one-on-one interactions and supervision. SMS messages can help you organize and communicate with your volunteers more efficiently and easily. They can help you:

  • Reduce the number of no-shows. Text messages can be used to schedule, confirm, and send reminders about the event to the volunteers.
  • Keep your volunteers informed. You can use text messages to provide information to your volunteers such as directions, parking instructions, and other requirements.
  • Communicate quickly. While an event is happening, you can send out text messages to the various volunteers that are helping. This can be a huge time saver versus having to use the intercom system in the school or track everybody down.
  • Recruit volunteers. If you have an activity or event coming up where you need to have volunteers present, you can send out a text message asking who is available and collect responses easily.

Educational Tips

Text message marketing can be a great way to increase parent involvement both at home and at school. Stanford University started a program they called TIPSbyTEXT that was specifically designed for parents of preschoolers. This program was designed to help parents learn how to prepare their children for kindergarten.

Every week throughout the school year parents received three text messages based on child development research and state educational standards. For example:

  • FACT: Bath time is great for teaching your child important skills for K. Start by asking: What are the things we need for bath time? Why?
  • TIP: When you’re bathing your child, point out the letters on shampoo bottles. Ask your child to name them & the sounds they make.
  • GROWTH: Keep using bath time to prepare your child 4K! Ask: What rhymes with tub (cub, rub), soap (rope, hope), & bubble (double, trouble)?

A study by York, Loeb & Doss in 2017 found that parents who received these text messages spent more time on learning activities at home with their children than parents who did not receive the text.

Teachers at the school also noticed that parents were more involved at the school. Ultimately the children of the parents who received the messages gained an additional two to three months of learning in important areas of literacy.

After Hours Support

Schools are a central hub for a lot of different activities. There are a wide variety of events that are happening during the day and after hours. Text message marketing can be a great solution to reduce the number of phone calls that your front office receives during the day as well as provide information to parents after hours.

For example, if your school has a basketball program, a parent could send a simple text message like "BBallSchedule" to short code 313131 and receive a reply with the basketball schedule for that week. A parent could send that message at any time of the day or night and your text message marketing software would automatically send the response without requiring a human operator around the clock.

The same strategy could also be used for other information such as:

  • The school's hours.
  • Upcoming events.
  • School address.
  • School calendar for the year.
  • Team sign up schedules.

Through a simple text message, parents could access a wealth of information after the school is already closed for the day.

Meeting Reminders

In a school environment, there are a lot of meetings that everyone attends at various points throughout the day.

  • School officials meet to set policy and run the school.
  • Parents meet with teachers.
  • Students organize meetings with faculty chaperones.
  • Teachers meet with other teachers in their grade level.
  • Parent-Teacher groups meet together.

Text messages are a great way to send out reminders before the meeting and help encourage attendance. It’s easy to confirm, cancel, and reschedule appointments between attendees.

When you are sending a text message meeting reminder, make sure that you keep it simple and effective. A typical text message contains just 160 characters or less. They should already know about the meeting ahead of time, so you can get straight to the point and provide the information that they need in a short message. This includes things such as the date, time, reason for the appointment, and the location.

You should also consider the timing of your message. If you send it too early, you risk people forgetting about it and not showing up. Likewise, If you send it too late, they might not have time to rearrange plans and make sure that they'll be there on time. The correct timing will vary depending on the type of meeting and the people that are attending. You could start by sending your reminders 24 hours in advance and then make adjustments from there.

Course Information and Grades

SMS marketing can be a great way for teachers and guidance counselors to stay in touch with their students and parents about school schedules and grades.

  • Students and parents can sign up to get regular message alerts to keep them up-to-date on their grades and school progress.
  • In higher education, text messages can be used to confirm which classes a student has signed up for as well as alert them of any missing requirements.
  • Educators can notify their students if there will be adjustments to the course schedule, such as canceling class, leaving early, or moving to another room.
  • Teachers can also use text messages as a way to communicate personalized lesson plans with students that need more help or could use an extra push.

The effects of SMS on higher education were proven in a study at the University of Virginia. Professor Ben Castleman and his colleague, Lindsay Page, found that text messaging in a college setting boosted enrollment by an average of 3.1%, up to 8.6% in low-income students.

Anti-Bullying Messages

Bullying in schools has become a huge problem in the American school system. Kids in grades 6 through 10 are the most likely to be involved in bullying-related activities. Furthermore, 30% of U.S. students are involved with bullying on a regular basis — either as the bully, the victim, or both.

Text messaging is a “larger net for those youth that might have fallen through the cracks” according to a youth services coordinator in Port Coquitlam. His belief is that SMS provides the best solution for teens that are unable or unwilling to make phone calls.

  • Girls between the ages of 13 and 15 send roughly 250 texts per day.
  • Boys between the ages of 13 and 15 send roughly 175 texts per day.

Teens and young people tend to trust text messaging and find it comforting. Victims of bullying and the people that witness it are often worried about coming forward and facing their tormentors. Texting provides a level of anonymity and arms-length communication that is comforting for the victims.

Students can anonymously report bullying with a simple text message. So, students don’t have to be concerned about holding back out of fear, shame, or worry about social repercussions.

Thanks to 2-way texting, school counselors and relevant officials can respond to the messages and provide counseling and support for the children. Then, officials can use the information they receive to investigate and stop bullying before it escalates.

School Text Message Templates

Here are 16 text message templates that you can use in your school today. Each template is under 160 characters. NOTE: personalization tokens are indicated with {# -- #}.

Special Event Reminder

{#FirstName#} tomorrow is school picture day. Please send your completed order forms with {#StudentName#} tomorrow.

Click to Copy

Severe Weather Alerts

Severe Weather Alert: Schools will be closed today due to pending inclement weather.

Click to Copy

Emergency Notifications

Emergency Alert: Students will be dismissed 2 hours early today due to power outages.

Click to Copy

Fundraising Drives

Text “COOKIESALE” to 313131 to get information about our Cookie Fundraising Drive.

Click to Copy

Staff Updates

Staff Reminder: We will be starting our fundraising drive tomorrow, please pick up your information packets in the office today.

Click to Copy

Surveys

School Survey: {#FirstName#} - Do you feel that your child’s performance in school has improved this year? 1: Yes, 2: No, 3: Unsure

Click to Copy

Lunch Menus

Text “SCHOOLMENU” to 313131 to get today’s cafeteria menu sent to your phone.

Click to Copy

Class Supply Lists

Hi {#FirstName#} - We are out of hand sanitizer in Ms. Brook’s classroom, can you bring some?

Click to Copy

Homework Reminders

Parent Alert: {#StudentName#} has 2 outstanding assignments in biology from last week.

Click to Copy

Attendance Check-Ins

Parent Alert: {#StudentName#} has missed 3 days of Math this semester.

Click to Copy

Volunteer Communications

Hi {#FirstName#} - we have a class party going on this Friday. Is anyone available to come help?

Click to Copy

Educational Tips

TIP: When you’re bathing your child, point out the letters on shampoo bottles. Ask your child to name them & the sounds they make.

Click to Copy

After Hours Support

Text “BBallSchedule” to 313131 to get information on this week’s basketball schedule sent to your phone.

Click to Copy

Meeting Reminders

Hi {#FirstName#}. We have a meeting in the cafeteria for all first grade teachers today at 3 pm. See you there!

Click to Copy

Course Information & Grades

{#FirstName#}, Your courses for the fall semester have been confirmed. Visit [link] to view your schedule.

Click to Copy

Anti-Bullying Messages

Text “STOPBULLIES” to 313131 to let us know anonymously about bullying that you have witnessed or experienced.

Click to Copy

Running Text Marketing Plays is EZ with EZ Texting

Using the tips that we shared in this text marketing playbook can give you the confidence that you need to launch and build a text marketing system for your school. Once you have an idea of the campaigns that you'll want to run, you can test out a few different SMS marketing services to find the one that offers the right tools for you at the right price.

We know that you're busy, so we've worked hard to make our platform as easy to use as possible. Our school text marketing experts are ready and eager to help you get started on the right foot.

Sign up for a free EZ Texting trial and see how simple SMS marketing can be. After you sign up: 

  1. Send a free test text message to yourself. Our automated tour will walk you through the steps that you need to complete in a couple of minutes.
  2. Import and segment your contacts. Our helpful tour will also guide you through the process of adding and grouping your contacts together.
  3. Select and promote your keywords. You can easily reserve a few branded keywords to use when promoting your text marketing list. You will be able to use those keywords everywhere possible to grow your subscribers and provide information.
  4. Grow your text message marketing. Take the ideas that we've given you above, customize them for your school, and start improving your communications today.

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