Donovan Group Insights

5 Signs Your District Is Overdue for a Communications Audit

Communication shouldn’t grow stagnant. The school community is constantly changing, and your communication efforts have to change with it. Many districts stick to the same old communication plan, and because of that, a few struggles can begin to crop up.

If your district is struggling to communicate effectively, that means it’s time to conduct a communications audit. This audit will shed light on what’s going well and what’s not. Through a communications audit, you’ll be able to identify areas for improvement and take steps to strengthen those all-important relationships with stakeholders.

Here are five signs your district is overdue for a communications audit.

1. Your district is out of touch with certain groups

Not all stakeholders require the same level of communication. For instance, your district doesn’t need to communicate with alumni as often as it does with current students. District leaders should still communicate with all of their stakeholders, regardless of how much or how little communication they need. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. In many districts, certain stakeholder groups don’t receive any communication at all.

A lack of engagement occurs when district leaders stay within the communication bubble. This bubble includes stakeholders who are directly involved with the district, such as teachers, students, staff and families with school-aged children. When district leaders stay inside the bubble, they tend to forget about less involved stakeholders like non-parents, business owners, elected officials and community organizations. As a result, these groups are less in-the-know about what’s happening in the district.

A communications audit can reveal which stakeholder groups aren’t receiving enough communication from your district. Audits provide a high-level overview of your district’s current communication efforts and identify gaps where certain groups would benefit from more engagement. An audit can also collect stakeholder feedback, which would allow you to view communication efforts (or lack thereof) from the community’s perspective.

2. There’s very little feedback from stakeholders

Communication is a two-way street. Hearing from stakeholders is a sign that they’re hearing from your district. When stakeholders are engaged, they’re more likely to speak up and make their voices heard. But when they’re not engaged, they feel less empowered to enact positive change in their district. The level of feedback can provide insight into how effectively your district is communicating with stakeholders. If feedback is very minimal, it could be time to rethink your district’s communication efforts.

Engagement certainly plays a role in generating stakeholder feedback. However, stakeholders must also have the means to communicate their feedback. Your district’s communication processes need to provide avenues that allow stakeholders to voice their thoughts and opinions. These avenues may include polls, surveys, focus groups or open houses, among others. Without these avenues in place, stakeholders won’t get the chance to submit feedback that can help you change the district for the better.

A communications audit can pinpoint why your district is receiving very little stakeholder feedback. It’ll collect data on which groups are submitting feedback and how they’re able to do so. This can give your district some ideas on how to strengthen that line of communication with stakeholders. An audit also measures how much you engage certain stakeholder groups. By boosting engagement, you can encourage more stakeholders to voice their opinions.

3. Stakeholders aren’t engaging with district content

Your district could make a strong effort to communicate with stakeholders. You post regularly, you send weekly newsletters and you keep them updated about upcoming events. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always mean stakeholders are engaging with your district’s content. You might notice that videos get very few shares, people aren’t opening your emails or events have a low attendance rate. These are all signs that your district’s current communication efforts aren’t grabbing stakeholders’ attention.

If engagement levels are low, you need to take a good look at your district’s content. Does it appeal to your target audience? Does it provide what your audience is looking for? Is the content interesting enough to hold their attention? If not, your marketing team should create a plan to revamp the content. First and foremost, the content needs to be informative and get your key messages across. However, there’s merit to content that also entertains its viewers.

It can be difficult to know which forms of content need to change. That’s when a communications audit comes into play. An audit uses analytics to identify content that’s performing well and content that’s not. The audit results will allow you to dig deeper into who your audience is and what interests them. From there, you can adjust the content accordingly.

4. Stakeholders can’t find the information they need

Providing information is one thing—making it accessible is another. Information isn’t helpful to stakeholders if they can’t find it. Stakeholders should be able to easily find information about registration, upcoming events and extracurricular activities on your district’s website. If information is hard to find, your district needs to improve its communication efforts.

Inaccessible content can lead to a host of other issues. Digging for information is time-consuming, which can make stakeholders very frustrated. Some stakeholders might even get the impression that your district is trying to hide certain information. This can breed mistrust and hamper your district’s credibility.

To make content more accessible, you need to view communication channels—websites, digital archives, social media pages—through the eyes of stakeholders. A communications audit can help you do that. It’ll assess the user-friendliness of these channels and help you see content from the stakeholders’ perspective. This will make it easier to identify the most sought-after pieces of content and how to place them more prominently on your district’s communication channels.

5. Other sources are filling the communication vacuum

A communication vacuum appears when there’s a lack of information about something. The vacuum doesn’t stay empty for very long. Eventually, people will start filling the vacuum with information, whether that information is accurate or not. Your district has to be the first to fill the vacuum. Otherwise, less credible sources will fill it for you.

District leaders often experience this issue when an incident happens at one of their schools. Many will put off addressing the incident or avoid it altogether. The longer they wait, the more chances community members have to fill in the blanks for themselves. As a result, the community will get a skewed or incomplete picture of what really happened. A lack of communication means surrendering your district’s story to stakeholders who will interpret it however they want.

A communications audit can help your district regain control over the communication vacuum. The audit will assess how long it takes your district to address incidents for the public’s benefit. It will also shed light on the effectiveness of your communication with stakeholders. You’ll gain a better understanding of the channels you use, how many stakeholders you reach and how those stakeholders react to your messages.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list. Your district may experience other signs that it’s due for a communications audit. In general, you should conduct an audit whenever there’s a clear disconnect between stakeholders and your district. A communications audit can help you engage stakeholders while earning their trust and long-lasting support.

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