Donovan Group Insights

Define Your School’s Communication Goals for 2024

2023 is coming to a close. The time has finally come to look back on this year and ask yourself the big-picture questions. What worked well, and what needs improvement? How can you adjust your school’s strategy to better serve the needs of students, staff, families and community members?

One important question to ask is this: What are your goals for 2024? Half the school year is done, but there’s still time to reassess your school’s communication goals and course correct if necessary. Taking the time to set new goals will ensure your school continuously improves and finishes the 2023-24 school year strong. Be sure to start planning for the next school year, too!

The following questions can help guide your thinking as you define new communication goals for 2024.

What is your school doing that’s working well?

When people set goals, they often fixate on their weaknesses or what went wrong in the past. While goals are meant to help you improve, it’s important to take stock of your strengths and successes, too. Understanding what doesn’t need to change is just as critical as understanding what does need to change. As you head into the new year, make sure stakeholders are still receiving those effective communications. Identify what’s working well, so you can continue to build off of that.

For example, maybe your school prides itself on having high turnout rates for dances, football games, concerts and other events. Examine why school events are so successful, then identify communication strategies to set the bar even higher. You could promote events earlier, more frequently or on additional media channels. Take what’s already working well, and make it even better!

What isn’t working well and needs improvement?

Every school has room for improvement. As you look back on this past year, try to remember instances where things didn’t go as planned, or the outcome fell short of your expectations. These instances shouldn’t be treated like failures. Rather, you should view them as learning experiences that will help you do better in the future. The important thing is to identify why something didn’t work, then explore alternative options until you find the path that’s most effective.

One school might notice that some families don’t participate in parent-teacher conferences. A look at their communication strategy might reveal that not every family is getting reminders to sign up for a time slot. If the school’s primary communication mediums are email and social media, they could consider using mediums that don’t require internet access, such as take-home letters or calling families directly. By exploring additional means of communication, this school has a greater chance of boosting family engagement.

What is the vision you want to bring into reality?

The end of the year is a good reminder of your school’s vision—not just what the vision is, but where you are in relation to that vision. Consider whether the events of this past year were in line with your vision for the future. Every year should bring you one step closer to making that vision a reality. As you look ahead to 2024, brainstorm how a new and improved communication strategy can contribute to your school’s vision.

For instance, your school’s vision might involve creating a safer, more inclusive community. You could create messages that emphasize an anti-bullying culture, inform families about student conduct policies, and promote events that are designed to spread kindness. You can also explore ways to make communication more inclusive, such as creating ADA-compliant content and translating messages into multiple languages. Put your vision into words, and use good communication to support it.

What could you add to your communications?

In your communication strategy, some processes will need to change while others can stay relatively the same. However, there might be processes that aren’t part of your communication strategy at all. Going into the new year, your school might need to add new processes if certain stakeholder needs aren’t being met. Take stock of the stakeholder groups you’re engaging the most, and which groups you’re engaging the least. Then, set a goal to reach more stakeholders through increased communications.

For many schools, community members are the least engaged stakeholder group. They’re less likely to get involved because they’re not employed by the school, nor do they have children attending the school. To get community members more involved, you would have to add more outward-facing content to your communication efforts, such as fliers, postcards, community newsletters and more. Also, use language that makes it clear when the community is invited to attend a school event.

What are stakeholders trying to tell you?

Stakeholder feedback plays a critical role in your plans for the upcoming year. Stakeholders’ thoughts, feelings and opinions should always factor into the goal-setting process. After all, everything your school does is for the people within it. While stakeholders can’t make every decision themselves, they offer an inside look at how school decisions impact their lives. Combine their input with your expertise as a school leader to create goals that will benefit the community.

For example, bullying is a pervasive problem throughout many schools. Maybe you’ve had several parents come forward about their children’s negative experiences, whether at school or online. These concerns should not be ignored, as they’re a sign that something at your school needs to change. Use their feedback to set new goals and steer your school’s culture in the right direction.

Are you focusing on the right priorities?

Schools change over time, and their priorities can change as well. Your main focus going into next year might be different than your main focus this past year. Social and political factors outside of school can cause stakeholder needs to shift, and your school must be flexible enough to shift its priorities as a result.

Let’s look at one common example: rising costs. The cost of living has increased in recent years, putting extra strain on low-income households across the nation. In order to serve students, families and community members in need, one of your goals might be to communicate more frequently about food pantries, book drives and other support services that are available.

Do you have a plan for communicating change?

Change is an undeniable part of your school’s education journey. Sometimes you can anticipate it, other times you cannot. Your communication strategy must have built-in processes ready to go for a variety of situations, whether those situations are planned or crop up unexpectedly. You never know what the new year will bring, so it’s best to be prepared.

Change can come in many forms, whether it’s a new policy, a new superintendent or a new referendum. One of your communication goals might be to get better at addressing change with the public. Achieving that goal will likely involve multiple steps, such as deciding who will speak and when, creating communication templates and partnering with school communication specialists.

Start planning for the new year right now

2024 is right around the corner. If you haven’t started working on those goals, now is the time to do so. Reflect on the past year, and identify areas for improvement. The goals you set now will help you start the new year off on the right foot. Let’s make 2024 the year of better school communication!

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