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COVID-19 Lessons on Improving School Communication Efficiencies

Efficient communications are always a necessity, now even more so during this uncertain time of crisis. How well your audience receives and responds to information is the true measure of your communications efficiency, and COVID-19 has forced communications professionals to adapt messaging on a moment’s notice. Understanding how your audience absorbs information is the first step to successfully navigating message distribution during this pandemic, which can differ according to the target audience. But the following guidelines are important  considerations for any audience: 

Simplicity is key. Information overload is a common cause of audience tune out. Concise messages will grab your audiences’ attention and disperse your message efficiently. Simple messaging is most effective when used at an appropriate frequency. With an excess of unexpected changes due to COVID-19, it is crucial to update your audience when new information becomes available. Overcommunicating a repeated message does not help build trust between you and your audience and can lead to their reluctance to receive future communications. 

Be honest. Your audience does not want inaccurate information. If you don’t know the answer to a question, hiding behind fluff communication is not the solution. Be honest with your audience about the information you have and the information you are still gathering. If you expect to get more information, provide a schedule for future communication. Relationships and trust are built through honest communication. Educators and parents alike are experiencing levels of information and change that are difficult to comprehend. Be transparent about how you’re navigating this situation. There is no handbook for what we’re experiencing during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Remember your intention. Everyone wants information that impacts them. Your goal is to provide your audience with the information necessary to make the best decisions. When creating your messaging, ask yourself what they need and want to know about. It is not about what you want to share; it is about what you need to share. Not everyone will be happy about the messages you share during this pandemic, but they need the information either way. 

“As communication professionals, our role is not always to communicate the positive, but always to communicate the truth.” Jennifer Tempest Bova, “The Wit and Wisdom of PR Success”

Show both sides. Among the difficult messages you have to communicate, joy still exists. If your school choir performs a virtual concert or your teachers complete a gratitude challenge, share it! Your audience needs important information, but they also need to see the positivity still happening. A benefit of increased parent involvement in the education of their children is the ability to give them a closer look at the journey. Celebrations will look different this year, but they can still happen. Show the positivity too! 

Communicating with Parents

More than ever before, parents are playing a larger role in how their children are learning, and educators and parents both want children to experience school. Clearly, COVID-19 changed how that school experience looks this year. Whatever learning model you are in, effective parent communication is critical to student success. Here are two key tips for maximizing your parent communications: 

Build relationships using your emergency notification system. Parents need information in situations beyond crises and emergencies. Resources about students’ emotional health, efficient distance learning practices and upcoming opportunities are examples of information to provide to parents. Using your emergency notification system for other necessary information can help build relationships and trust with parents by showing your care for overall student well-being. You can build these relationships during a crisis. Crisis updates can be sent through the emergency notification system with extra resources in between. 

Make sure your automated communication is conscious of current events. Automated communication can reduce stress for communications teams working on getting multiple messages out, but you must still monitor it. The current situation in our communities is evolving every day, and communications must reflect that. If your school is changing learning models, all automated communication must support this change. Contrasting messages confuse and frustrate parents. For example, if you’re transitioning to a distance learning model due to COVID-19, your Community Education automated messages should not be promoting in-person class opportunities for students. 

Communications are a constant process, but some basic strategies can help make it even more effective. Every audience has specific communication needs, but they all need information from you. The current crisis adapts from day to day, and your communication can too. Uncover how your audience will best receive your message to craft efficient communications.

Published on: December 8, 2020