Ask guardians, students, and teachers their favorite ways to receive information about school and you’ll get a multitude of preferences. Ask about communication as a whole and you’ll get the same answer— it’s at the core of a good school or district. So while there is no single correct conclusion about which channel is best, there are several that are most effective and key to good school communication.
Before we introduce our players in school comms, let’s talk about the types of messages they bat for. The information that you’ll want to get across can be narrowed down into the following categories:
- Promotion of school happenings and news (e.g., achievements, events, etc.)
- Time-critical school information (e.g., school closings, policies, etc.)
- PTO events and parent resources
- Community outreach such as fundraising
- Human interest content and other forms of written and visual brand storytelling
Schools and districts have been sharing much of this information for decades, but the avenue for doing so has evolved. As of 2023, here are the platforms you’ll want to master to reach your audience.
Think about any website you’ve visited where you clicked on the link and thought “this is an eye sore” or “I can’t even look at it because nothing is loading” or “well, this is confusing.” What makes a school or district website good is not so different from any other business or organization’s website. And likewise, it’s arguably the most important channel to work on.
In general, websites have changed in look and design over the years. A good one now has an accessible and mobile-first design, a fast loading time, simple navigation, engaging and aesthetically pleasing content, search optimization (aka SEO), a secure hosting system, and a good content management system.
Ultimately, you should think of your school/district’s website as the master hub which supports and segments all information and other communication channels. Moreover, it should be a home-base for every audience. TikTok is a great channel for some audiences, but it’s not going to be the main place a grandma goes when she wants to know more about her grandchild’s new school. Your website, on the other hand, should be every-user-friendly.
In our opinion, WordPress is a great website-building option because it comes as a full package of every asset you might need.
I’ll say it once: If your school communication is not optimized for mobile devices, your communication will fall behind! Schools and districts are increasingly connecting their websites and parent portals to apps which make the information more accessible on smartphones. One of the biggest advantages of apps is push notifications which automatically alert parents, students, guardians, and teachers to any time-sensitive news.
SMS/text, email, and voice messages are ideal channels for critical or emergent information. However, like that one friend who loves to type— too much can end up being annoying and not effective.
Gmail? She’ll never go out of style. Whether it’s one-on-one, teacher to all students, mass notification and reminder, or the weekly newsletter, email is still just as relevant a channel for communication.
With that said, writing and formatting an effective email should be mastered by schools and districts. Like a website, it’s a central hub for all kinds of information which can be sent in different forms.
At the moment social media platforms are driving the way businesses share information and send messages. As individuals with social media, we tell our own stories through social media apps. Schools and districts are no different.
Social media is great for the good and the bad which is relevant to your school community as well as the outside community and media. Platforms like Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and Facebook are useful for sending short pings about school closings and reminders about holidays. They are also great for spreading good news and imagery which sheds a positive light on your school’s activities.
Read more about social media tips for school communicators here.
A blog or digital newsletter on your school’s website is a great way to relate to parents, students, and the entire school community. It provides the opportunity to organically share your school’s values, convey your brand image, and connect with the media. Unlike other forms of storytelling or publicity which contribute to your school’s image, you have complete control over your blog and how you portray your school.
Particularly for multimedia, there are scenarios to use it that are more appropriate than others. Schools are increasingly creating their own Youtube channels and even podcasts to share news or tell a story in a positive way (emphasis on positive). Multimedia may not be the best option for more serious, time-sensitive, or critical news, seeing and hearing the highlights from school events such as football games, theater productions, or fundraising events is a game changer. You may even showcase some messages from principals, superintendents, or school leaders.
It’s all about the when, where, and why
In 2023, there continues to be new, innovative, and creative ways for schools to communicate. With this buffet selection of options, platforms, and strategies, consider the “when, where, and why” to determine which tool is most effective and appropriate. Choose which channel based on who in your school community you want to reach, when you want to reach them, and what the purpose behind that particular message is.
For School Comms Lab members, check your portal for our upcoming monthly trainings, member calls and new templates for more help navigating the nitty gritty of each school comms channel.
- About the Author
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Brand Journalist Gabby Esposito is a student at the University of Connecticut pursuing a degree in journalism and philosophy. As a Brand Journalist with School Comms Lab and Holdsworth Communications, she works to tell the stories of brands and businesses, including schools.
Her articles are an organic form of PR, branding, and marketing. She is passionate about sharing the stories of others—big or small—and learning about lives and ideas that are different from her own. She has written for publications including Her Campus and UConn.
Gabby is from Connecticut and enjoys spending time with her family, dog, and two cats. Aside from writing, she enjoys cooking, traveling, watching Tik Toks, and listening to podcasts.