The New Back To School

This article was originally posted to AllAccess’ “Consultant Tips” series, written by Charese Fruge on July 14, 2020

As our country tries to figure out what to do about sending our kids back to school in the midst of a global pandemic, we as an industry need to be proactive and creative when it comes to all possible scenarios. It’s going to be different for every state, county, city and school. The options are going to vary, so we need to break down what they are, and get started on a plan to approach all of them. Before you know it, the summer (if you can call it that) will be over.
Gone are the simple days of back to school clothes and backpacks. Supply drives were easy, fun and exciting back then. And the reliance of schools to feed the kids through breakfast and lunch programs were not only a convenience, but a safety measure to help those less fortunate than others. Don’t forget school has also been a form of day care for working parents for a long time now. Gone are the simple days of what we needed to do to prepare our kids and ourselves for another year. There will be no more normal routines. We may be forced to home school our own children again, and let’s face it, teachers were already underpaid and forced to buy their own supplies before COVID-19. Now we have to think about helping educators who will be in the classrooms not only with their supplies, but also with their coronavirus cleaning supplies which will be very expensive to maintain on a regular basis.

In addition to that, there are so many things we need to consider and prepare for now, like mental health for children, whether they are going into school during the pandemic or home schooling, and the education (in and out of the classroom) about wearing a mask and maintaining social distance. If you have kids, you know they have no concept of social distancing. We’re going to have to “preach it” and preach about mask wearing every day, especially if they are going into the classroom.

We also need to think about the health and mental wellness of our educators, they too are under serious pressure and are taking a big risk. I have several friends who are teachers and there are so many mixed emotions about safety and whether or not going back into the classroom is a good idea. I’m also seeing a lot of buzz on social media about mom’s who are considering home schooling in small groups. Safety will have to be maintained there as well.

I’m sure you’ve learned by now that people are looking to radio for comfort, and for its talent to be community heroes. That’s why it’s time to examine as many possible scenarios as we can and take a stab at confronting them and helping head on.

The first thing we need to do is go back and find out what we all learned when the pandemic first hit the United States. Think about how you approached trying to help small businesses and your local clients. Think about the creative brain storming sessions and campaigns you had for them and see how you can turn that into more creativity, but this time direct it toward parents, teachers and students of all ages. Many have complained about the inconsistencies of distance learning. Some kids were productive and learned, and some kids weren’t able to focus. College kids complained they didn’t get their money’s worth on tuition. Regardless of the situation moving forward, we should be considering all possible scenarios now so we can prepare.

I’ll give you a head start. We need to figure out virtual drives for normal supplies for teachers as well as cleaning supplies. Do you have partners or clients who can help? It’s great exposure, great charity and makes you look like a hero. What about show talent developing exclusive mommy (or parenting) groups on Facebook to provide info and discuss topics that will be top of mind for parents who are home schooling or parents who are sending their kids to school too? What about volunteering on a regular basis to teach an easy virtual lesson plan to keep the kids excited about school? You could even help in person if you mask up and visit a class that is physically in session. You would be perceived as a good example on teaching children the importance of wearing masks and social distancing.

Think about the things that are going to be important now more than ever due to the pressure caused by the pandemic: day care, transportation, school lunches, access to computers both in and out of the classroom. How can you help those who don’t have access to the kind of technology needed to home school? You are bound to have a wireless client who may be willing to help you provide internet services where you can. “Educating America’s Youth” comes to mind as a good campaign slogan. Or localize it: “Educating Vegas’ Youth.” What about an electronic retailer who could help provide lap tops for home schooling? Do you work with a loan company that would help teachers buy supplies?

These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ideas. You’ve got about a month to figure out your plan so get started now. Don’t be the only show in town who hasn’t changed their approach to “Back To School.” It’s gonna need to be a little more than the traditional “Birthday Game” to move the needle with your audience right now. If you are doing a cash contest and you target anyone between the ages of 6 and 54, make it about going back to school (both in and out of the classroom).