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Partner with Principals to Create Effective School Communications

Being sent to the principal’s office doesn’t have to be a bad thing. When school communications staff and principals work side-by-side, they can create proactive solutions, boost engagement and produce positive results — from increasing middle school enrollment to improving the customer experience for visitors to delivering strong school communications.

This school year, focus on strengthening your relationships with school leaders. Start by sharing good resources like The Communicating Principal by Trinette Marquis, APR, and Natalie A. Nash. Help to create strategic school communications about important topics, such as attendance, student learning and engagement, positive relationships and mental health. Provide your comms support and expertise to assist with addressing any pain points, building trust within their school community and preparing timely, useful communications for all stakeholders.

“Principals are most driven by their ability to impact futures through relationships with kids and their role as instructional leaders,” CEL Vice President Janet Swiecichowski, APR, says. “Consider how you can support them and help them develop consistent principal communications to advance their goals. When school communication professionals can connect with the principal’s “why,” we earn their respect.”

Principals and school leaders juggle multiple tasks every day so it’s important to make the most of your time together. To ensure communications remain on their to-do list, develop a simple, yet strategic, communications plan that they can follow year-round. Here’s how:

communicate

Meet and Greet

Start with developing a positive relationship, not simply scratching off checklists. Schedule 30 minutes to meet informally with principals in their school buildings.

Bring them a treat like a cup of coffee or swag item.

Ask them to give you a school tour and share their points of pride.

Show interest by jotting brief notes or taking photos during the tour. Bonus: You’ll likely collect ideas and valuable content for web stories, social media posts or media pitches.

Get to know them by asking ice-breaker questions.

Build comradery by sharing information about yourself, too.

Send a thank you message — be sure to mention something you remember from the school tour or conversation.

In a few days, follow up with a second message and request a 1-hour meeting to discuss communications and how your office can best support the principal/school.

research

Gather Research

During your next meeting, discuss a basic communications tools audit and SWOT analysis with the principal. Also, develop a school communications survey to collect data if this information is not already available. These tasks can be done on paper or electronically. Either way, save the data and documents so you can review them throughout the school year.

Go easy, as singer Adele says. Principals can feel downright deflated if ineffective tools, identified weaknesses and critical comments from stakeholders start to pile up. Keep your conversations positive and encouraging so principals feel engaged and empowered.

List existing school communications tools. Identify use, cost and effectiveness.

Identify at least three communication strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

Design and distribute a school communications survey to gather information from target audiences.

prioritize

Identify Priorities

Determine what the principal (and you!) would like to accomplish this year based on your data, documents and discussions. Are you addressing a pain point by developing a weekly newsletter to communicate more consistently with families? Are you improving internal communications and expectations by creating a monthly calendar and activity checklist for staff members?

Identify one to three priorities that the principal can address. Focus on student learning whenever possible.

Take a cue from the four-step process, set benchmarks and write a SMART objective to help principals successfully achieve each priority. For example:

  • 80 percent of families will report that they are “extremely satisfied” or “satisfied” with school communications by the end of the school year.
  • 80 percent of students will participate in an extracurricular activity, club or sport this school year.
  • All students will be matched with a staff member and report that they feel “safe and supported” at school by the end of the school year.

Share how your communications staff can offer resources and support. For example:

  • Can you edit a monthly principal message?
  • Can you outline talking points?
  • Can you provide additional training on a communication tool?
  • Can you provide media training?
  • Can you create a think tank and partner them with other principals who have similar priorities?
  • Can you provide quarterly professional development?
  • Can you help to create and streamline processes?
  • Can you create a document, newsletter, or graphic design template?
  • Can you build an editable content calendar?
  • Can you provide video services?

Develop a Simple School Communications Plan

Once your priorities and objectives are finalized, outline a communications plan that includes strategies and tactics. The fewer words and pages the better. An at-a-glance document, such as a content calendar with tasks listed for each month (sample example below), will make implementation easier for busy principals.

Determine strategies and tactics for each priority

Outline tasks and timelines needed each month

Outline communications tools and distribution methods needed for each task

Include deadlines and the person responsible for completing the task

Add a checkbox to designate when a task is completed

Optional: Add a space to write down any relevant results

Optional: Add an emergency sub plan

September

Back-To-School Information Packet
Date: Sept. 1
Responsible: Main Office Comms Method: Website, Reminder in School Comms Method: Newsletter

School Newsletter (1/mo) and Principal’s Message: Every Minute Counts — Attendance Matters
Date: 1st Thursday of the month
Responsible: Principal
Comms Method: Email

Weekly Calendar to Staff
Date: Every Monday of the month
Responsible: Principal
Comms Method: Email, Printed copy  for Staff Lounge

Principal’s Message to Staff: How to create an easy-peasy digital lesson plan (template included)
Date: 2nd Tuesday of the month
Responsible: Principal
Comms Method: Email, Printed copy for Staff Lounge

 


Relevant Results

501 out of 550 families returned their back-to-school packet within 3 days 

Note from teacher: “The weekly calendar is helpful and so much easier to read. Thank you!”

October

Trunk-or-Treat Family Night Event
Date: Oct. 20
Responsible: Schoolwide
Comms Method: Website calendar, School Newsletter

School Newsletter (1/mo) and Principal’s Message: Simple Ways Families Can Support Academic Growth This School Year
Date: 1st Thursday of the month
Responsible: Principal
Comms Method: Email, Text

Weekly Calendar to Staff
Date: Every Monday of the month
Responsible: Principal
Comms Method: Email, Printed copy  for Staff Lounge

Principal’s Message to Staff: Answering Your Questions about School Discipline
Date: 2nd Tuesday of the month
Responsible: Principal
Comms Method: Email, Printed copy for Staff Lounge

 


Relevant Results

Discipline stats 

Texted newsletter link to families for first time; 54 out of 550 families opened text link

36 Trunk-or-Treat attendees signed up to be a school volunteer or chaperone

November

Parent Teacher Conference Sign Ups
Date: Nov. 7
Responsible: Main Office
Comms Method: Email, and Printed/backpack stuffer for non-responses,

School Newsletter (1/mo) and Principal’s Message: Tips for Having a Successful Parent-Teacher Conference
Date: 1st Thursday of the month
Responsible: Principal
Comms Method: Email, Text

Weekly Calendar to Staff
Date: Every Monday of the month
Responsible: Principal
Comms Method: Email, Printed copy  for Staff Lounge

Principal’s Message to Staff: Thank A Staff Member
Date: 2nd Tuesday of the month
Responsible: Principal
Comms Method: Email, Printed copy for Staff Lounge

 


Relevant Results

90 percent of families signed up for conferences  electronically within 3 days

Informal discussions with teachers showed increased engagement from families during conferences

Several parents commented they would prefer virtual conferences

December

Holiday Video and Message
Date: Dec. 21
Responsible: Schoolwide
Comms Method: Website, District Social Media Special, Email

School Newsletter (1/mo) and Principal’s Message: 5 Fun Ways to Spark a  Conversation with Your Child During the Holiday Break
Date: 1st Thursday of the month
Responsible: Principal
Comms Method: Email, Text

Weekly Calendar to Staff
Date: Every Monday of the month
Responsible: Principal
Comms Method: Email, Printed copy for Staff Lounge

Principal’s Message to Staff: Popular Teacher Hacks
Date: 2nd Tuesday of the month
Responsible: Principal
Comms Method: Email, Printed copy for Staff Lounge

 


Relevant Results

175 FB reactions, comments and shares on holiday video

Note from parent: “I really like the new school newsletter. Do you think it could be sent twice a month instead of just at the beginning. I read and then forget some information so a reminder about important events would be nice.”

Stay in Touch

Don’t drop the communications plan in the principal’s office and walk away. Remain available, flexible and proactive throughout the school year.

Be responsive.

Provide feedback and resources, as necessary.

Schedule a monthly or quarterly check-in, and send calendar invites.

Celebrate their achievements, and thank them often for their hard work.

Create a contact list with full principal information. If possible, note their preferred method of communication (e-mail, phone, text) so any outreaches are viewed as helpful, rather than bothersome.

Optional: Consider forming a professional study group, either in person or online, to discuss deeper principal communication strategies with interested principals. The Communicating Principal by Trinette Marquis, APR, and Natalie A. Nash is a great starting point.

evaluate

Evaluate

At the end of the school year, review the principal’s communications plan and priorities.

Like the first meet-and-greet, bring them a treat like a cup of coffee or swag item.

Schedule a 1-hour wrap-up meeting to evaluate the priorities, objectives and outcomes of the communications plan.

Determine any highlights or information found throughout the school year.

Save any additional data collected throughout the school year.

Celebrate any successes!

 Now that the school year is in full swing, consider how you can tag-team with principals and build a successful communications plan that provides consistency and produces your desired results. By working together, your shared successes will surely earn high marks and move everyone in your school community to the head of the class.

Published on: September 7, 2022

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