4 Tips for Keeping Students at the Center of Your Communications
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a thousand times: School communicators are storytellers. We educate, inspire, and move hearts and minds with our work. Sometimes we get to tell incredible stories of student success, resilience, and compassion. We get to share good news and highlight our schools’ strengths.
We’re also tasked with communicating the more complex, district news. Board policies, referendums, schedules, safety and daily operations are important and can also pull storytellers away from their audience and objectives.
However, It doesn’t have to be a student-driven success story for students to be the center of your communications.
You have probably heard of the old adage K.I.S.S. for messaging. For school communicators, we’d like to introduce K.I.S.C. – Keep it Student Centered. No matter the subject, Student-centered communications keeps the audience focused on student impact and reminds internal audiences that every employee contributes to student success.
School referendum coming up? K.I.S.C.
Need facilities funding? K.I.S.C.
New board policy? K.I.S.C.
Student-centered communications keeps us focused on the most important aspect of our work: students.
In recent years, so much of our communication has focused on safety and operations, many school communications have lost the focus on learning. This year resolve to make learning and students the spotlight of all your communications.
Here are some tips that will keep students at the forefront of all communications:
GET INTO CLASSROOMS
It’s difficult to craft a compelling narrative around student learning if you don’t witness it first-hand and don’t understand what effective teaching and learning is. Ask a school principal to take you on “instructional rounds.” How can we connect relationships, feedback, motivation, and challenge into the narratives of our schools?
If your community Facebook page has regular complaints about bullying, incivility, “students who can’t make change”, or “schools that no longer teach cursive,” your challenge is to provide a counter narrative or perhaps challenge conventional thinking. Getting into the classrooms will help you draft messaging focused on students and what they are learning.
Your job is to tell (and show) the story of your schools’ instructional goals — using common language — and how your schools excel in helping students succeed.
TURN FEATURES TO BENEFITS
In school communications, the benefit should always be how it will impact students– especially when dealing with projects that may be outside the classroom. When creating communications, jot down the features of your piece and turn them into student benefits.
For example, if you’re working on a school referendum:
Feature: maintaining small class sizes
Benefit message: Students receive more personal attention from teachers, leading to stronger relationships and higher achievement.
Framing the issue and how it benefits students has more of an impact on your audience. Listing all of the ‘features’ of your subject and turning them into benefits provides a framework for all of your messaging.
Another example: A new school website
Feature: Parents can log in to the student portal to check assignments.
Benefit message: Students will not fall behind with missed assignments. Parent involvement supports student success.
‘IF THIS, THEN THAT’ MAPPING
Another tactic to ensure student-centered communication is to mock up quick ‘if this, then that’ statements for student-centered communication.
For any problem that needs to be addressed with communications, start by asking ‘if we solve it by X, then students are impacted with Y”. Whatever the student impact is needs to be communicated clearly and concisely.
For example, for a transportation change in your district the ‘if/then’ map can determine how to K.I.S.C. ‘If the district adds a bus route, then students will arrive at school with more time to prepare and perform better in the morning.’
The good ol’ Elevator Pitch is a test to see if a person can communicate the key impactful messages in under 30 seconds – or the time of a short elevator ride with a person. This is tough, especially in school communications. It can feel like an impossible task to share these points in under 30 seconds.
However, it’s a great practice to cut through the chaos and share what’s truly important – the students.
Before beginning a project, practice saying an elevator speech aloud. After 30 seconds, write down if you felt it covered the key impact messaging and if students were at the center. If not, try again. Keep repeating this process until you feel you have mastered the elevator pitch and are confident students are the center.
Once you’ve reached that point, write down the student benefits and make sure it’s repeated in all your communication efforts moving forward.
EVALUATE AND CHECK
All good communication strategies should be evaluated to ensure they’re working. Try one (or two or three) of the strategies for the next 30 days, and check your metrics (open rates, engagement rates, feedback, comments, etc.) against the previous 30 days.
Was there a noticeable difference? Is there a change in feedback? What other changes might you make?
Is there something you’ve been doing that works well, too? As always, we’d love your feedback and hear what’s working especially well for your district.
Published on: October 26, 2022