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Mel Gravely

Developing Marketing Materials Specifically for Father Engagement

marketing fatherhood

The learning and growth of a child can be attributed to the involvement and engagement of both the mother and the father. When a child is able to experience both parent’s perspectives, they benefit from the wonderful balance that takes place. Engaging males can be a tremendous task, but we need it for our children. The messaging used to encourage parent engagement might need to look and sound different for fathers versus mothers. When mothers and program staff convey to fathers that they are capable of parenting, the fathers will more readily accept the parental role.

In developing a plan to engage fathers, it is important that your agency invite fathers from day one, use active listening, and connect fathers with each other. Your plan should also include messaging and marketing materials that specifically appeal to fathers.

To appeal to dads think like a dad.

When speaking with fathers, we have to make the best of the limited opportunities we have with them. Sometimes the best way to support a father’s unique role in supporting his child’s growth and development is to comment on the learning that occurs as father and child interact. It’s best to keep things simple and to the point. Be direct and clear with him that if he does X with his child, the child will experience positive outcome Y.

“Just making a simple phone call after school to find out what my daughter learned that day, what she did, made a difference and strengthened our father-daughter bond. I appreciate my Head Start experience of embracing the impact I have on my child’s life.”

~ Head Start Father

Review your physical space.

Fathers want to be involved in their children’s education, but they especially want to feel welcomed to do so. It is important that your agency provide a positive environment for engagement at Head Start facilities.

In the Birth to 5 Father Engagement Guide provided on ECKLC, they give several examples of questions that Head Start leaders should ask themselves as they prepare their physical space to be more welcoming for fathers.

  1. Are there interesting reading materials, photographs, and posters of fathers and other male figures?
  2. Are there family rooms where fathers and mothers can gather and talk?
  3. Are the color schemes, furniture, and other aspects of the physical space appealing to men?
  4. Are there diaper-changing tables in the men’s restroom?

Don’t break the bank.

Posters, magazines, signs, handouts, emails and fliers – with all the marketing and educational materials you produce for parents, we understand that it might get expensive if you had to reproduce all of those materials on day 1. Budget is always a concern when considering a new communications strategy. We suggest that you start slowly and incorporate updated messaging as stock runs out.

Focus on the cheapest, most impactful items first. Add fathers to all digital communications FROM THE START, including emails, texts, and private social media groups. You’re already sending them out, it’s not much effort to add another email or number to the distribution. For everyone’s sake, keep digital communications brief and informative. And on social media, be sure to make it fun for everyone!

Reuse what you already have. Before you send the next batch of brochures over to the printer, take a look and see if the images and text could be tweaked so that they’re more inclusive of fathers. Reuse existing templates where you can, with updated messaging for fathers. For example, is there a photo of only mother and child on the front? Be aware of how the stock photography you’re using conveys a message.

Get the kids involved. What could be more impactful than a hand-made invitation to a father engagement event from their own child? A crafting session for the kids and a custom invitation for the father? Sounds like a win-win!

Systemic, Integrated, and Comprehensive

While refreshed marketing materials is one part of father engagement, it’s only one small part. You can’t expect to hang some posters about fatherhood in your facility and consider your job done. To truly get good results from your father engagement efforts, considering fathers should be systemic, integrated, and comprehensive within your program. It should be part of the very foundation of the program.

Since its inception, Head Start has been the gold standard for early childhood education. Every decision we make as program leaders considers the whole child. And there is no “whole child” without male engagement. We can’t continue to use the excuse that there is no father present. If there is not a father present, we need to think about engaging other male figures in that child’s life, such as grandfathers, older siblings, uncles, cousins, teachers, mentors, or neighbors. The focus should be on continuous improvement and meaningful outcomes, and programs that meet the diverse interests, needs, and goals of fathers and families.

“I wanted to be a better person and Head Start opened the door for me to become more involved in my child’s life. I was able to hear other stories, whether they were similar to mine or stories that I could relate to.”

~ Head Start Father

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