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Preparing for Back to School Opportunities.

Avatar photo by Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator | July 15, 2021
back to school

Summer is racing by and back to school is right around the corner, so it’s not to soon to start planning for the school year. I know you are probably tired of us writing this, but “this year will look a little different.” The “little different” applies to welcome events, school supplies, preparatory activities, worker involvement and more. So, instead of waiting until August to have this discussion we thought we should provide a little more prep time for local businesses and organizations.
Here are some things you should think about as school approaches:
Some students are probably behind.- This means that extra assistance through tech, study areas, and other assistance platforms may be attractive. If your business acts as a great place to study, if your business offers extra student assistance, or if your business type aligns with a specific emphasis area at ESU or FHTC, you may want to add those elements to traditional marketing or social media messaging.
Socialization may be a bit strange.- People have been getting out and about over the summer, but we haven’t seen a “normal” school year in over a year. Getting people involved with local businesses (and inside the community) may take a little more match making than a normal year. We are guessing that once students get in a groove, if we can keep cases low, socialization will resemble a more normal local experience.
We are still in a pandemic.- People are still skittish about certain types of contact heavy environments, and that is understandable. Our local vaccination rate isn’t exceptionally high, and new variants of COVID are in the region. Businesses will need to watch infection rates and respond accordingly. The Welcome Back Block Party (August 23rd) will exist as a hybrid location event for Emporia Main Street members and student organizations.- This year’s event will have static spots for student groups and businesses, as well as passports to encourage direct business interaction. This hybrid approach was suggested by area merchants and members of the Promotions committee. So, businesses will have some choices to make regarding the best ways to reach their intended audiences.
Workforce outreach to the student population, and parents of K-12 students will be important for businesses.- We have new jobs board tools that you can access (CLICK HERE), but remember that you have multiple sources of potential labor coming available. New students, parents that can work during the school year, and new individuals that move into the community as part of spousal relocation. Each one of these groups require different marketing outreach and may be available different time frames. The more work you do now to make your business attractive to new hires, the more likely you are to land quality employees as school starts.
Even established businesses will need to focus on introductions.- One of the major mistakes businesses make is assuming that people know what you are and the products/services you offer because you’ve been around a long time. New students may not be familiar with you at all. New residents don’t always feel comfortable going into places that they are not familiar with. You have to welcome people to your business with a clear and compelling reason why they should visit your location. Participating in the Welcome Back Block Party is a good step, and Emporia Main Street produces a series of student centric emails for Block Party participants. However, there are a series of traditional and social media conduits that you can use to introduce yourself to the student body. Don’t assume. Make a clear plan to introduce yourself.
Events, activities, retention, and attraction are key.- It is important for you and your staff to engage students, new community members, and visitors in positive conversation about the area. Letting students and new community members know about area activities (especially weekend events) can help retain students in the area. Adding “you should invite your friends” may expose students from other areas to our institutions. Acting as ambassadors for our community can have a direct impact on student retention and attraction throughout the year.
Your business or organization has about a month before students are back in class. Are you prepared? When you look through the list of items above, what can you do to take advantage of the back to school environment? If you have questions, please reach out to Emporia Main Street!

About the Author

Jessica Buchholz, Events Coordinator

Jessica Buchholz is the Community Development Coordinator for Emporia Main Street in Emporia, Kansas. She specializes in event planning, volunteer recruitment, alternative marketing, media/public relations and fundraising. During Jessica's tenure at Emporia Main Street, she has helped grow events to an international level and she has created a series of new activities to meet organizational goals.