In the world of political consulting, most people talk about their experience working for political campaigns, on Capitol Hill, or on K Street.
Add to that list: Applying to pre-school.
Like lots of cities these days, parents can choose to start sending their children to “school” as early as 18-months. (Good framing by the way!) My older daughter is approaching 3, and this past fall I started the “process” of applying to pre-school.
And a process it is. Parent visits, lengthy applications, fees, play dates, and the spring delivery of – yes! – thick and thin envelopes.
After a lot of hard work my husband and I were pleased that our daughter was accepted to her (I mean, our) first choice. And while I suspect it was largely fortuitous – I can’t imagine any of the applicants were unfit for finger painting and circle time – I think it’s fair to say her acceptance had something to do with my work in communications. Or, if it didn’t, I certainly learned a lot about good communications from the process.
The fact is pre-schools are inundated with applications from eager parents. But they can’t take all of them, and short of a boxing ring, it might actually come down to your message. How are you going to make your toddler stand out? What’s going to make your application different than the next?
It isn’t health care legislation or tax reform, but a pre-school application is a lot like a speech or op-ed. The first step is determining what you want to say. And sometimes – like when it’s your child – there are many, many points to be made. (I know I could go on for pages about all my daughter’s wonderful traits. But let’s be honest, so could all the parents.) It’s important to choose one or two points that really capture your message, or child.
This is where the age-old adage “show don’t tell” came in very handy. Instead of listing all our daughter’s wonderful qualities, we tried to show her to them. We wrote about the things that interest her, what she enjoys doing, what activities she’s engaged in, what questions she asks, who her friends are – in short we gave them a portrait of her personality, not a litany of her best tricks.
And like a speech, it’s important to draw your audience in right away. A good speaker might start with something personal – a story, a joke – and the same is necessary with an application. So instead of the stale, typical head shot most people attach to their applications, we sent in a picture of our daughter lying in the middle of a pile of leaves with a smile on her face a mile wide – who wouldn’t want to read the rest of the application after seeing that?
In communications, we have to think a lot about our audience, what we’re saying, and how we’re saying it. And while a pre-school application isn’t exactly competing for airtime or column inches, it’s still necessary to find a creative way to make your voice heard.
And just remember, it’s only pre-school – you can always apply again next year!