Strategy Planning

Improving Effective Communications for K-12 Schools

Victoria Harkes
Average  to read article
7 Minutes

An effective communications strategy for School Districts is a balancing act that is often hard to get right. On the one hand, parents are interested in all the goings-on in their children’s school and want to keep up to date with the latest updates and news as it comes out.

On the other, parents are also busy and don’t want to be overwhelmed with unnecessary emails, notifications and text messages. Get the balance right and parents will find out about everything they need to know without trawling through an endless stream of messages. Get it wrong and parents will disengage, emails won’t be opened and important updates will be missed.

In this guide, we will be discussing the importance of balancing your communications and how best to keep parents informed and engaged.

The true cost of an ineffective communications strategy

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One of the most common issues that School Board communications teams face is figuring out what the right amount of messaging is and how to avoid communicating too much or too little.

The relationship between the rate of communication and engagement rates can be best described by the principle of diminishing returns. In other words, increasing your messaging is useful up to a point but gradually becomes less useful and at a certain stage, more messages lead to less engagement.

Chart showing diminishing returns as more communications are sent using the same channels

Not recognizing that increasing the number of emails and messages can be a costly mistake for communicators leading to wasted time and money while at the same time resulting in parents disengaging and missing out on the news they do want to know about.

Though of course, not communicating enough will lead to frustrated parents who want to hear more about what is going on in their children’s schools.

Are parents frustrated with your communications?

Here are some of the things parents have been saying:

"As a parent, I get so many emails from my child’s school, it’s a part-time job trying to keep up."
"When I do manage to read the emails about World Book Day and all the other school dress-up days and charity events and online learning portals, I then have to actually find costumes and understand these digital platforms.”
“Between three lots of curriculum evenings, the school’s learning portal, the school emails, login details for all the different things they need to use for various bits of homework, different charity initiatives where they need to dress up in something random, prep for class, and costumes for things like ‘languages day’… well, you get the idea. It’s intense”.

If any of these practices in your communications strategy sound familiar, there’s a chance that parents in your school community may feel the same way.

Parent Expectations have always been changing and developing, and that has happened at an accelerated rate over the last two years. A study has found that while 71% of parents and guardians now have a greater appreciation for the work their children’s teachers do in the classroom, two-thirds said they do not have regular access to their children’s teachers. Parent’s are bombarded with messages from teachers, their schools and the board and begin ignoring the emails and social media content. When every message is sent on every channel, and you are sharing those channels, it is easy to slip into an overwhelming amount of information.  Parents want a single source of truth that they can depend on, with the occasional message coming through in other ways to bring attention to it’s content.

How to make sure you get your communications right?

The solution is two-fold

To make sure you can keep parents informed without overwhelming them, using the right tools as well as focusing on the right metrics is key.

The Right Tools

Graphic of four people receiving mobile messages and showing joy

An effective communications tool will make it easier for you to send messages to your school community from one place. Not only does using an all-in-one communications platform streamline your communications but it also makes it easier to craft tailored content for each platform you are using, making your communications more effective.

Another way to streamline your communications is to provide channels for interested parents to seek out the information that they want to know. Rather than constantly sending messages to parents just in case they’re interested in a certain topic, having a school board app which parents can opt-in to receive notifications can cut down on a lot of unnecessary messaging and allow parents to stay informed.

Having the right tools at your disposal also means that you can easily tailor your messages to suit the needs of your different communications channels and select which channel is best for which message, all from the same platform. This can improve the quality of your communications, cut down on duplicate messaging and find the most appropriate way to send messages about different topics.

The effective use of tools will not only satisfy parents but will free up the time and energy you need to focus on your messaging instead.

The Right Focus: Marketing Metrics

Instead of frantically sending messages and being stretched across multiple communications platforms in the hopes that some messages will be valuable to some parents, with more time and resources on your hands, you will be able to drill down into your marketing metrics and find out what your school community wants from you.

The successful use of marketing metrics involves knowing how to measure the right metrics and knowing what to do with your results.

How to measure the right metrics

Graphic of four people putting oversized puzzle pieces together

First, you will want to identify which metrics are worth focusing on. You want to ensure that these metrics are actionable and will contribute to your marketing goals.

Some examples of actionable metrics are:

  • Engagement (Via Clicks, Response Rate, etc.)
  • Open Rate
  • Bounce Rate
  • Time on Page

Once you’ve identified which metrics to focus on, you will need to find the right tools to accurately measure them. These will include a mixture of active research techniques and automatic data collection.

Once you have identified the right metrics, you will need to find the right tools and methods to accurately measure them.

These can be things like:

  • Surveys
  • Forms
  • Focus Groups
  • Automatic Data Collection Tools

Using metrics correctly can help you identify what parents want to know from their school board so that you can tailor your messaging to what parents want. This can either be taken directly from responses in surveys and focus groups or inferred from things like email open rates or website bounce rates.

To learn more about using metrics to optimize your marketing efforts, check out our guide to K-12 Marketing Metrics that Matter.

Using metrics to optimize your communications

Once you have freed up enough time to focus on metrics, you can use those metrics to further optimize your marketing efforts. If you’re able to find out, for example, that parents are more likely to read and engage with shorter emails, that’s great!

Let’s say that:

The average email update you’ve been sending is 500 words in length and takes 1.5 hours to write, edit and publish and you send 3 per week.

You discover through using the right tools that emails of 300 words (which take 45 minutes to produce) have higher click-through rates.

You then make the appropriate changes to ensure emails are shorter.

If your school year is 36 weeks, this means you’ve saved a total of 81 hours!

While this is just one example having the time and resources to drill down into your metrics will reveal many areas where you can continually improve and optimize your communications and ultimately better serve the school community.

Final thoughts

Graphic of 5 people sitting and climbing on oversized books in a stack

Getting school board communications right can be hard, but using the right tools will not only help you keep your school community informed and satisfied, but it will also save you time and resources which you can re-invest in further improving your communications.

Parents can often feel torn between the need to keep up to date with their children's schools, but also being inundated with duplicate or irrelevant information. The first step to greater marketing success is to free up time and resources so that you can take a step back and look more closely at metrics. Taking advantage of School Bundle’s all-in-one communication platform is an excellent way of taking the first step in improving effective communication. The time and effort you will save will enable you to zoom out, focus on the metrics that matter so that you can best serve your community.

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