You hear it all the time. Effective school communication is at the heart of engaged families, involved communities, and student success. While this is true, it can be hard to pinpoint how to optimize your communication strategy if you don’t know the areas where you need improvement. You may be asking yourself:
- Am I reaching the right people?
- What communication channels are relevant these days?
- Do my audiences know where to find information?
- How do I determine what information to share?
That’s a lot of uncertainty. But don’t worry, these are questions that don’t just plague your schools – they are questions that are being asked in districts and schools all across the country. So, we’re unveiling the top ten tips to avoid a disconnect in your K-12 school communication.
How do we know these tips will help? Because we surveyed educators and parents, listened to your peers, and consulted with research experts. They all showed us there is a new culture of K-12 communication.
1. Know your community
What is your demographic breakdown? Is the majority of your community over 65? If so, traditional communication may be a more effective way to reach them than social media channels. Do you have a lot of young parents? If so, push notifications sent through your mobile app may be an effective channel to send news updates.
Send out a survey to the residents within your district boundary or talk to your local businesses to get the inside scoop and adjust your communication plan accordingly.
2. Be targeted
“Report cards will be posted next week!”
Such exciting news – but not necessarily for all your audiences. Students, parents, and families are always interested in academic information. However, the wider community may not find this news as exciting because they aren’t connected to a student with a report card. Be mindful of who will be impacted by your news and announcements and target them at the correct audience.
3. Socialize your channels
Is there a disconnect between the channels you use to communicate and the channels your parents think you use? 84% of communication leaders say their district has a social media presence, but only 46% of parents think their children’s districts and schools use social media.
It’s hard to gain adoption from your families and community if you don’t tell them all the ways you’re sending messages. For example, to fix the social media disconnect mentioned above, you could try sharing your social presence by placing social icons on your website, mobile app, and email signatures for easy clicking and connecting.
4. Pay attention to preferences
In a recent survey we learned that educators’ communication preferences were, in some cases, dramatically different than parents’ communication preferences. As district and school leaders, you need to listen to the needs and wants of your families and communities rather than relying on the channels you think are best.
73% of parents want to learn about their child’s academic performance via email, so it’s important to send them that kind of information via email. If communities want to know about sporting events through your website, then post that information right on your home page. Conducting your own survey can give you some local insight into school communication that you may be missing.
5. Urgent matters need urgent communication
Adapt communication to fit every situation.
You wouldn’t send a snow day announcement in the mail, right? Take that same logical stance with all your school communication. Emergency and time sensitive information should be sent through mobile channels, like text messages and social media, to devices that people carry on them at all times – like smartphones and tablets. And that’s what parents want—72% said they prefer text messages for emergency notification, even though only 16% of principals prefer sending communication through that channel.
Everyday announcements such as lunch menus, upcoming programs, and sports results can be posted on your website or mobile app for your audiences to find at their leisure.
6. Think outside the box
With the recent uptick in communication tools, it can be difficult to successfully take advantage of each feature they provide. Try expanding on traditional practices by using all the capabilities within your tools. For example:
- Put your mass notification system to work for all communication, not just emergencies. Send social media posts, updates to your RSS feed, and push notifications for every day communications.
- Open up two-way dialogue within your website by using forms and surveys to collect your community’s feedback.
- Use your mobile app to share a video from the homecoming game to keep the community engaged when they can’t attend.
7. Don’t over share
Sending too much communication can be a turn off for some audiences. Play-by-play updates from the basketball game to your Twitter account aren’t necessary, but do share the great news about the winning basket. Always share information, just have an editing eye so your followers and families don’t get overwhelmed and tune you out for good.
8. Don’t under share
I know, we just said not to over share. But under sharing is just as much of a communication crime. If content isn’t kept fresh on your website, mobile app, and social media platforms, then audiences might begin to ignore them.
9. Have a district voice and a school voice
Let’s refer back to tip #2 about being targeted. Knowing your audiences and what they need to hear from you can take you from a communications leader to a communications master.
Don’t blast all the district communication channels with every update from every school community. Have specific school websites, school contact lists, school social media channels, and school apps to give students and families the relevant, targeted information they’re looking for. This will help avoid clutter on your district channels that may not be relevant to some readers.
10. Adapt, adopt, unify
What you know today will change by tomorrow. Instead of getting frustrated with the need to adapt, embrace the changes. Create a district-wide communications strategy that includes individual school communication plans that will allow you to integrate new channels and products without roadblocks. Unifying your tools is a great way to save you time and money.
Get a sneak peek of how educators and audiences differ on communication tactics in the infographic below. Then get the full story of our communication survey findings by reading our new ebook: Survey Says: There is a new culture of K-12 communication.