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Catholic Schools Office uses social media to build community

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February 1, 2001

By Eilleen Connelly, OSU

 

ARCHDIOCESE — The archdiocesan Catholic Schools Office recently launched new marketing strategies geared toward facilitating communication and building community among teachers, parents and students at schools in Cincinnati, Dayton and the northern Miami Valley.

Laura Meibers, archdiocesan deputy superintendent of Catholic Schools, has coordinated the effort, working closely with Jim Riggs, superintendent and director of educational services, and representatives from U.S. Digital Partners, a Cincinnati-based design and technology firm. It has primarily involved the increased use of social media, in particular a Facebook fan page at http://www.facebook.com/MyCatholicSchool. Launched on Dec. 14, the page had 8,349 fans at press time.

“We decided to move away from TV ads and billboards,” Meibers explained. “We have limited funds and wanted to get the most bang for our buck. We wanted to reach more people, and Facebook accomplishes that.

”I think young families, especially, are looking for information right away and the internet is where they’re going for it,” she said. “Even if we have a billboard in the best spot on I-71 or 75, we’re not going to reach as many families as we will via the internet.”

The hope, she said, is that the Facebook page will be a vehicle from which to announce news about area Catholic schools, for parents and teachers to share ideas and support each other and increase enrollment and retention.

“We want to make people aware of how large the Catholic school community is. The intent isn’t to create competition. It’s to show everyone all the different reasons why people value Catholic education,” Meibers said.

“We wanted to build a community around Catholic schools, a place where parents can communicate and talk about the education their children are receiving and their own experiences with Catholic school,” said Jesy Herron of U.S. Digital Partners.

 “It’s been exciting to see people communicate and ask questions,” she said. “There have been discussions about faith formation and graduation rates. One mom got on the Facebook page and just wanted to know how to save money for Catholic education and prepare for the future. Students have posted, too. It seems like a genuinely engaged Catholic community that we’re building.”

“There really is long-term value in this for Catholic education,” added Herron, a 2000 graduate of Bishop Fenwick High School. “I want new families to come to the Facebook page and see what Catholic education has to offer. I think the community we’re building will help get the message out there and create a positive experience for others who are considering Catholic education.”

Catholic Schools Week Fascebook campaign
A banner at Cardinal Pacelli School in Mt. Lookout encourages votes for the school. (CT photo/Eileen Connelly)

Another goal is to promote Catholic school spirit. As such, the Catholic Schools Office has kicked off an iPad giveaway on Facebook. Individuals who “friend” the Catholic School Office’s page are entered to win one of three iPads. The contest ends at the closing of Catholic Schools Week, at midnight on Feb. 6.

A new campaign was also launched on Jan. 3 that enables parents, students, grandparents and graduates — all Facebook members with an interest in Catholic schools — to show their school spirit and vote for their favorite Catholic school.

Both grade schools and high schools are included in the contest. Voting can be done daily at http//apps.facebook.com/ cath-schools-vote/.  At press time, more than 11,000 votes had been cast.

The top three winners will be announced at the end of Catholic Schools Week. Students attending the two Catholic schools that show the most school spirit will win a dress-down day, school-wide pizza party and a trophy. The second-place school wins a dress-down day, school-wide ice cream party and a certificate. Third place earns a dress-down day and certificate.

Meibers said the school spirit contest has generated a great deal of excitement and that feedback on the Facebook page has been “incredible. Principals, teachers, parents and students are responding very positively,” she said.

A few changes have also been made to the Catholic Schools Office website (www.valuesforalifetime.com), said Herron, specifically updating the logo, adding an email opt-in to stay up-to-date with school news and a link to Riggs’ Catholic schools blog.

Meibers said she will soon be meeting again with Riggs and U.S. Digital Partners to determine next steps. “We want to keep the momentum and interaction going as people show why they love Catholic schools and value Catholic education,” she said.

“We want to reach that next tier of people who are curious, but have made the choice not to attend Catholic school, and make them aware of why they should.”

 

Sister Eileen Connelly, OSU can be reached at: [email protected].

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