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Using the right tech tool can help districts bridge communication gaps and foster a connected school community.

5 ways to engage your school community with tech-powered communication

Using the right tech tool can help districts bridge communication gaps and foster a connected learning community

Key points:

Schools and districts nationwide are learning that effective communication with families is more important than ever before. Unfortunately, developing a communications plan is time- and resource-intensive, especially if the approach is fragmented and disjointed. 

For best results, a district communications strategic plan should identify key stakeholders, the outcomes you want to achieve with them, and the channels you’ll use for communication. This three-pronged plan will serve as a roadmap for your district’s communication efforts.

If your district is ready for a new or revamped school-home communications plan, start by identifying your key stakeholders and goals. You may want to conduct a communications audit or survey to learn how stakeholders want to be reached and what types of communications they want to receive.

Next, make sure everyone can understand the messages you’re sending. For many schools in the United States, English isn’t the home language for many students and families. The most successful districts factor this in and understand the value of equitable and accessible communications.

Once this foundation is in place, here are five ways to engage your school community with tech-powered communication:

1. Build your district’s brand.
Your district brand is an intangible concept that can be your secret weapon. Done right, it will set you apart by establishing loyalty with staff and families, bolster your reputation to aid in student and teacher recruitment, and increase alumni and community support.Brand should be at the top of your mind at all times when creating content. Permanent signage, promotional materials, social media posts, website content, presentations, and even letterhead and envelopes should carry your branding.

Because brand consistency is incredibly important for all of your public-facing documents, don’t overlook what school staff and teachers are sending home, too.With the ParentSquare platform for secure, unified school-home communication, you can set up brand colors and even logos for your district to use. Users can also build templates for newsletters and forms.

2. Pick a communication frequency.
Will you be sending monthly newsletters to families and staff? Distributing community mailers quarterly? Clearly defining a schedule will help you stay on track. Include both regular communications like monthly newsletters as well as annual items such as back-to-school information. Identify who the sender is for each piece and develop an ideal cadence so you’re not bombarding stakeholders with multiple or repetitive communications. 

3. Evaluate your communication channels.
Since each stakeholder has their own preferences for how, where, and when they want to receive communications, you can use multiple communication channels to “layer” your district message.

Start with an open discussion with your district leadership team about best practices in your school community. What’s working well for them? Where do they see the most engagement? Where are they struggling to connect? It’s helpful if you can create your message once and easily share it through multiple channels with your school-home communications platform, if it allows you to push those messages out to your social channels and website. 

4. Show your audience the amazing things that are happening in your classrooms each day.
Seek out the stories in your district, schools, and classrooms that capture the emotion you want to convey with your brand. Tell the stories of your students and staff, sharing their accomplishments and emphasizing positive relationships. The most successful stories will center around topics that are important to your audience.

If you’re trying to reach your high school parents and guardians, for example, you may want to find a strong story about a student who used your school or district’s services to better prepare for a career after graduation. For elementary families, a story featuring a fun STEM or art class project could be impactful.

5. Be prepared to tackle crisis communications.
Most districts have a committee that focuses on safety and emergencies. If yours does, we recommend attending committee meetings to ensure communications are part of the discussion. If it doesn’t, work with the rest of the leadership team to establish one. This team will be responsible for evaluating current emergency plans and filling in any communication gaps.

Our district takes a proactive approach to emergency preparedness by maintaining a Google document with pre-written statements for different scenarios. By having these statements prepared in advance, we can streamline the response process and ensure that everyone receives accurate and consistent information when it’s needed, whether for a lockdown, evacuation, weather-related scenarios, or any other important situations.

Being ready to respond effectively and efficiently is an important part of crisis communications, but it isn’t the only focus. Once the crisis is over, it’s important to continue communicating with the community with the goal of showing a “positive front” after an urgent situation.

Fostering a connected learning community

Finally, don’t forget about your go-to communications resource: your district’s website.

The site’s mission should be twofold: sharing necessary information with your stakeholders and showcasing your district to attract new families and staff. Your district website and social media accounts should target several different audiences, including your core stakeholders as well as potential employees, new families, and members of the community.

By bringing everyone together onto a single, unified platform, K-12 districts can ditch their newsletters, phone calls, and emails in favor of a more cohesive approach. With the help of technology, districts can bridge communication gaps and foster a connected learning community.

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