Teach For America’s new storytelling content depends on Parse.ly data to prove what works

Michael Kress hopes Teach For America’s recently formed content studio will inspire audiences devoted to eliminating educational inequity in their communities. He expects Parse.ly to play an integral role in that effort as well.

Teach For America’s content aims high to inspire & engage

After shaping content strategy at Teach For America for more than three years, Kress now serves as editor-in-chief of One Day Digital, part of TFA’s new digital editorial initiative. Through One Day Digital, Teach For America hopes to create stories that inspire people to be part of—or deepen their commitment to—the movement for educational equity in this country, whether through joining the corps as teachers or donating, volunteering, advocating, or engaging in activism.

“Part of our goal is to galvanize people around the issues that we care about, telling stories not necessarily about our organization, but about moving the needle on educational equity,” Kress said. “People need to understand those issues in order to care about them, so our storytelling plays an important role in that.”

Founded in 1990, Teach For America is dedicated to the principle that all children deserve access to a quality education, with the organization focused on finding outstanding educators and advocates to help make that a reality.

“We are here to help address the problem that not all kids get an equitable and excellent education,” Kress said. “Children of color, children from low-income communities, children from marginalized communities, and other groups are systemically shut out of or are systemically deprived of the level of education and quality of education everyone should be getting.

“We do that primarily by finding great leaders, most of whom are college seniors who are graduating and looking for their first post-college job, or who are out in the world working or in graduate school already. We find and recruit them and support them as they work in classrooms in low-income communities around the country for a two-year period. Many of them stay longer, but their commitment is for two years, to have an impact and teach students in those communities, but also for them to get proximate to the communities and the systemic problems and become lifelong advocates for their students.”

Teach For America’s new content focus warrants sophisticated tracking with Parse.ly to measure impact

One Day Digital revolves around content with a more traditional editorial approach than usual content marketing and with a much different focus. In fact, Kress’s team grew out of Teach For America’s content marketing arm and now operates independently.

“I was hired three years ago to do content in a content marketing role, and we did what you would expect from a content marketing team, including emails, web copy, blog posts,” Kress said. “We gradually also started doing longer, far more in-depth storytelling that has gone beyond marketing blog posts and really delved into what people in our network are doing, the impact they’re having in the world, and we started to tackle more issue-based stories.”

Kress’s team is producing journalistic magazine-quality stories not focused on Teach For America itself but on the issues important to the organization and the students and communities in which it works.

Having used Parse.ly before joining Teach For America, Kress understands the importance of having actionable content analytics available to all members of his team, which is why he wanted Parse.ly’s easy-to-use dashboard as part of Teach For America’s new content arm.

Teach For America’s Parse.ly dashboard surfaces insights to empower TFA to be data-driven

Teach For America has already seen great strides in the team’s understanding of how their content performs. These ripples of a data-driven culture are felt throughout the organization.

“I’m looking several times a day and trying different variables to really gain insights,” Kress said. “My team is very enthusiastic about it. I think, as with a lot of editorial teams that I’ve been a part of, just finding the time and saying that this is enough of a priority that I’m going to spend the time in Parse.ly and getting insights from it is, I think, still something that we’re working on.

“But we’re getting there, and certainly one of the reasons that I really want to adopt Parse.ly is its ease of use for non-data people. In other programs, as the non-data person, you look at it, and your eyes just kind of glaze over. That hasn’t happened with Parse.ly when we’ve talked about it, introduced it, and then come back to it together in team meetings. There’s a sense of enthusiasm and interest as opposed to ‘This is foreign and scary.’”

Kress’s team regularly tracks their KPIs on the Parse.ly dashboard.

Several months ago, the team launched a new Opinion section, featuring op-ed essays from staff and guest contributors on a wide range of topics important to the students and communities TFA serves, and Parse.ly has been instrumental in helping the team understand what is working well and how audiences are getting to and interacting with the new section. This past June, they launched a new One Day-branded digital magazine section of the Teach For America website, with its own look, feel, and navigation, to serve as a home for its storytelling.

“For us on the editorial side, it’s much more about engagement, especially since we’re just starting out,” he said. “We know that we don’t—and in the short run will not—have a massive audience. But we really want to know that we are engaging people in the audience that we have, that the numbers we’re putting out are strong relative to what we can expect from that audience in terms of traffic going to the stories.

“I primarily got Parse.ly for the editorial team because storytelling is our bread and butter, and we need to be able to…prove our worth, but also learn and grow in our work.”

Michael Kress, Editor in Chief, Teach For America

“I’m especially interested in metrics such as how much time people spend on it, do they click to a second or third story, have they come back, to the extent that we can measure. Social shares are important, all the things that show that people are engaging with the content and it’s resonating, and therefore you’re looking to do more of it to share it with other people. I primarily got Parse.ly for the editorial team because storytelling is our bread and butter, and we need to be able to…prove our worth, but also learn and grow in our work.”