It’s no secret that influencers are all the rage with agencies and brand communicators, as companies seek to capitalize on large audiences who follow “stars” on YouTube and Instagram. For those not in the agency life (PR/marketing/advertising), you may have heard the term “influencer,” but not be entirely sure what it means. In short, influencers reach consumers via their blogs and social networks, helping brands build relationships with audiences they’d otherwise have trouble connecting with on their own.

Straight Outta PTO

While leveraging influencers appears to be a recent trend among consumer brands, those of us in the education industry have known about the power of strong, popular personalities for years. In fact, one could say that the “OG” influencers come from the education world. You know who I’m talking about: PTO moms and dads.

For years, PTO/PTA parents and guardians have served as influential voices in their school community—generating support for school programs, fundraisers, bond millages, afterschool activities, teacher appreciation events, and more. Frankly, given all this network does for their children’s schools, I’m surprised it took so long for other industries to figure out the power and influence this segment holds among their peers. It’s no wonder connecting with mommy bloggers for product reviews and endorsements is now a key tactical element for major marketing efforts across industry lines.

While influencers may have originated in the education industry, I believe most schools could do more to maximize these voices—especially on social media. With the ubiquity of smartphones, storytelling and content development has never been easier, so why aren’t schools tapping moms and dads to amplify the names, faces and programs that make their district shine. Building relationships with parents will add a new stream of content with very little work on the part of the school communications team—and that is invaluable.

Perhaps the local high school theater department is showing “Little Shop of Horrors” for the community to enjoy, and a theater parent would be open to capturing rehearsals or cast profiles on video to share on social media. In another example, a district may be celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week, presenting the opportunity for a few classroom parents to show their gratitude through videos of their child/friends saying, “thank you.” Sure, it’s simple content, but it’s the kind of content that other parents will share to help strengthen school pride and connect the school community.

Obviously, when discussing photos and videos, schools’ first priority is the safety and well-being of their students. Encouraging your school family to partner in sharing stories should not come at the expense of your students. Be sure to take the same precautions that you follow with other communications initiatives, such as your district newsletter and media outreach.

Parents’ voices have never been stronger than they are today, thanks to Facebook, Instagram and other digital platforms. It’s time that schools leverage these dedicated advocates as well. Activating the OG influencers can help everyone—including business owners and empty nesters—realize your school truly is the heart of the community.

For tips on how you can engage your school’s parents to maximize your reach, contact Joe DiBenedetto.