​​​​​​​Understand Your Audience

Remember, parents have choices about what their children will do during the summer—including staying at home. You'll be much more likely to create effective  messaging if you put some time and effort into understanding what your audiences think about summer, summer learning, and your summer learning program and what they would like the program to offer. You’ll have to make decisions about how and when to do it and who in your district will oversee or do the research, but it’s worth the effort.

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There are many ways to better understand your audience, from working with a research firm or local university to conduct focus groups or one-on-one interviews to having your own team talk directly to parents.

We conducted a series of focus groups with parents. You can find out more about what we learned here. You'll need to conduct your own research, though, to understand how the particular features of your existing or planned summer learning program work or don't work for parents in your community.

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Whatever approach you take, there are five types of information you’ll want to get. Create a discussion guide that covers each:

What do parents think of your summer learning program—positive and negative? What do other parents say about your program?
What do they want your program to offer their children? What would the perfect summer learning experience look like for their child?
What do their children think of your program?
What are the key details that parents need to know to make a decision about signing their child up for your program? These may include program hours, who will teach and supervise students, transportation, site selection, meals, etc.
What are the barriers that could get in the way of parents registering their child? These could include not only logistics—hours, transportation, etc.—but also your program’s reputation or “brand.”

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Here’s a “may-not-work” advisory: Surveying parentsthat is, asking them to fill out a paper or electronic form as opposed to speaking to them in person​may not be the most effective route to take. Response rates can be very low, even when you conduct the survey shortly after the program ends. Also, surveys may not yield the kind of useful information you will need to help with messaging and outreach approaches.

 The keys to success



1. Understand your audience1. Understand your audience
2. Create engaging messaging2. Create engaging messaging
3. Create a written plan3. Create a written plan
4. Be consistent and assertive4. Be consistent and assertive
5. Use personalized outreach5. Use personalized outreach
6. Build relationships with parents and students6. Build relationships with parents and students
7. Make registration easy7. Make registration easy
8. Engage directly with students8. Engage directly with students