The Future of School Communication
School communication continues to evolve every day. While some impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic will fade, many new communication practices are here to stay. Here are a few key ideas to consider in your strategy:
Tap into your emotional intelligence
Let empathy be your strategy
Whatever role you fill, your communication requires a strategy. Lead with empathy. Communication distributed in 2020 grew to new heights. The increased frequency brought more scrutiny for school communicators and highlighted the need to be aware of the emotional power of words. Emotions drive 90-95 percent of our decisions, and the COVID-19 pandemic heightened every emotion throughout the year. When school communicators are facing immense pressure to communicate a decision, teams must be strategic in how they communicate that decision to communities.
Prioritize internal communication
Internal communication requires the same strategy and emotional awareness as external. When you think of what families need to know, ask yourself what your staff also needs. Employees should always receive information before external audiences, and all staff should be on all external communications. When we provide our staff with information and support, we equip them to better support our parents and students and to share accurate information on our behalf. Think about an intranet, internal communications, employee recognition and promoting well-being and self-care.
Don’t make promises you can’t keep
Emotional intelligence requires a realistic view of your capabilities. During periods of incredible disruption, seek progress over perfection. If you can’t fulfill a promise or provide certain answers to your community, be timely and transparent about the situation. Understand what you are capable of, and follow through on those commitments to the best of your ability. Trust starts with being trustworthy; do what you say you are going to do.
Virtual is here to stay
Lean into your expanded school communication capabilities
In a matter of days last spring, reality changed for schools across the nation. When the cancellation of such traditions as graduation ceremonies and fundraisers was probable, schools created new ways to keep the traditions alive. Creating senior pages on district websites and hosting virtual fundraising events brought to light an opportunity that will outlive COVID-19. When normal events can resume, the innovations forged over the last year should drive change that allows more community members and loved ones to be involved in special events.
Everyday occurrences such as sporting events and pep rallies have also gone virtual. Live-streaming those events allows more people to connect to schools and learn about the outstanding educational opportunities you provide a new generation of learners and leaders.
Your website is #1 in driving engagement
Parents are relying more on virtual experience to make enrollment decisions
Enrollment Management Association states “a school’s website is the #1 deciding factor in a parent’s decision to apply.” The parent experience with your school begins at their first Google search. Is your mission and reputation accurately represented by your Google search result? Have you strategically planned for search engine optimization (SEO)? Ask an out-of-state friend to Google your school and send you the screenshot. Visit your site as a stranger and discover what visitors see.
Teachers are also making choices
A new wave of teachers entered the field in the spring of 2020 looking for education positions. Your website is the first interaction potential applicants will have with your school. An inviting user experience that speaks to the values you’d like to share with applicants is an important way to stand out among the crowd.
Transparency builds trust
Authentic communication draws in multiple audiences
Honest and proactive school communication not only attracts new audiences it also helps current ones recommit. Your communication during any crisis, including a pandemic can strengthen your relationship with current families and staff in your school. Truthful messages with a regular cadence, will help you deepen connections, while forging new relationships with new audiences. And be sure that what is sent to parents in email can be found easily on your website.
While the COVID-19 pandemic turned our world upside down, it also unveiled opportunities for us to reshape our future. School communication has evolved through this pandemic and will continue to adapt to meet the needs of families, students, faculty and staff. The need for great communication is only growing as we work to return children and families to our schools. Understanding how good school communication looks during these times is the first step to building strong relationships and connecting your key messages with your key audiences long into the future.
Published on: April 1, 2021