There are so many options for communicating with current or prospective families. Do you use your school website? Parent portal? Social media? An app? We wanted to share some advice and best practices for family communication, so we reached out to Liz Feller, FACTS’ in-app help administrator. She’s an expert on reaching people where they are and engaging them with creative messaging and calls-to-action. We hope you enjoy learning from Liz as much as we do!

Q: Most FACTS users see the evidence of your job every day, but they don’t know who is behind it! I am so excited to introduce the woman behind the curtain. Can you explain to everyone what your job entails and how it benefits FACTS users?

A: As the In-App Help Administrator, I manage help messages and announcements that you may see in your FACTS products. These display as pop-ups, tips when you click an information icon, links into HubHelp for specific articles, or even starting a walk-through to do a task in a FACTS product like loading report card grades or deleting pending agreements. The work involves meetings with product and operations teams to make sure the content we display is accurate, timely, and will help our FACTS users succeed. I like to think of my work as an extension of our online knowledgebase HubHelp, so we can provide users with online help tools when they need it, and where they need it.

Q: Can you think of a specific event or instance in your role that was really rewarding or interesting for you?

A: In the SIS (Student Information System) we released a checklist for users to complete if they want to review and fix duplicates in their system. It was an opportunity to use a variety of our online help resources (the Resource Center at the top of the screen, tooltips on screens in Database Tasks and Report Manager, walk-throughs, and HubHelp links) and help our SIS users without needing to call or chat.

On the Tuition Management side, a few of our account managers suggested we release some tooltips to help users understand the difference between credits and corrections, which then directly led to corrections being used in some instances (which can help prevent errors later) instead of credits. It is exciting to see changes that help our school users, which then helps their families and students…it is a ripple effect! Both also showed our internal teams how easily we can help our schools and institutions with getting them online help when and where they would use it most directly.

Q: What are some of the biggest benefits to communicating to FACTS users contextually while they’re performing tasks in FACTS SIS or FACTS Tuition Management?

A: Building and displaying content to FACTS users in their products is especially useful because we can provide helpful tips on specific screens where it may be easy to make a mistake. We can also target messages to help specific groups of users, instead of displaying information to everyone. Another amazing benefit is we can help new users learn and navigate the FACTS products and remind seasoned users how to complete tasks that they may only do once or twice a year.

Q: One of the biggest things schools struggle with is trying to find ways to promote community engagement with parents. We offer a lot of communication tools, but it can be hard to zero in on the right channel for the right message at the right time. Let’s say a parent has just logged into Family Portal to check their grades. How do you get them to stop and pay attention to a school announcement?

A: First and foremost, be sure to communicate to your audience why you are using announcements, and what benefits they will see from opening and reading them. By consistently communicating and sharing your message, it will become the norm or expected behavior. One small way to increase reading and engagement is to use an attention grabber as the announcement title. For example, while a title like “Today’s Announcements” makes things standardized, it’s also much easier to get lost and skipped over. Parents should be able to see a reason to click or keep reading just from the title.

Wherever possible, it’s great to make user groups in your FACTS products so announcements go to the audience that need them most. In FACTS SIS you can make email groups and calendar groups, while in Tuition Management/Grant & Aid you can also make groups for notices. In FACTS Giving and FACTS Family, you can use tags to target your messages to specific users.

Q: What are some best practices you’ve discovered about how to write messages that people read and engage with?

A: I try to use fewer words that have more meaning and I put myself in the reader’s mindset so I can better imagine what the reader is trying to do in the moment. For example, several help tips in FACTS SIS display first with a question, like “Need help understanding report cards?,” followed by ways to get additional help. Sometimes just getting your reader to think “yes!” will get them to keep reading and stay engaged.

Another key piece is figuring out a way to measure your success. If your most important messages each have a call to action, like completing a task or replying to a teacher or school administrator, it helps measure the effectiveness of your communication.

Q: Event attendance is a huge deal for schools, even though a lot of events right now are virtual. But it’s still important to get online donations for virtual fundraisers or attendance at virtual school events to keep the community engaged. What advice do you have for schools when they want to promote their events in Family Portal or Family App like we do in FACTS SIS and in FACTS payment products?

A: Sometimes we worry so much about getting accurate information, we forget to keep things easy for our users. The most successful campaigns for events or donations involve communicating across all available channels at a variety of times. Releasing all the messages across all products at the same time can come across as spamming or annoying.

Messages and calls to action are more impactful when you can directly connect with your audience, they can clearly understand the goal, and see the positive impact from reaching that goal. Additionally, when they can hear from someone they already value in their school community, like a board member, established parent, or even a short message from teachers, success increases. Personalization in small ways really helps get the attention of your audience!

Q: Some schools have a tough time getting parents to fully adopt all the features of the SIS. It can be a struggle to get parents to check attendance, check grades, or just consistently use the solution that the school has invested a lot of time and resources into. What are some tips for driving feature adoption for parents?

A: If your school has recently adopted a FACTS product, it can be exciting to get your school community to start using it the right way. Experience has shown that by promoting in-product communication and online help, adoption and engagement happens more successfully and quickly. In-app guides helps to answer the question of “What’s in it for me?” for each type of audience using FACTS SIS, whether it be the parents, teachers, or the business office. Being open and available to receive feedback from your users is also important because it shows you are truly invested in their experience, instead of simply dictating how things will go.