Donovan Group Insights

How to Plan Communications for 2023-24

The 2023-24 school year is finally here! Students are roaming the halls, activities are back up and running, and teachers are inspiring young minds once again. As the school year gains momentum, so does the need for communication.

While some content needs are unpredictable, you can anticipate and create content for events, meetings, programs and activities that are already in your district calendar. Planning communications well in advance can alleviate your schedule in the future, allowing you to start the year with a clear, focused mind.

Below is a step-by-step process to help you plan communications for the 2023-24 school year.

Start planning for 2023-24 right now

Many school districts have already dived into the new school year. If yours hasn’t, the first day of school will be here before you know it. That means it’s time to start planning your district communications. You don’t want to wait until the school year has started to begin the content-planning process. Come up with a plan now so that when school starts back up, all you have to do is execute that plan.

Planning communications now will save you time later down the road. Once the school year begins, you’ll have many other responsibilities to attend to beyond creating content for stakeholders. If you’re planning to announce a referendum this year, create that announcement while you have time to spare! If there are any messages you can create well in advance, it’s in your best interest to do so.

Creating content right now will also allow you to focus on what’s most important: the people in your community. Once school starts, you won’t want to devote all your time to planning out letters, emails, website copy and campaign materials. You’d much rather spend that time serving and connecting with the teachers, students, staff and families who walk through your halls every day.

Planning ahead of time can also save you from unnecessary stress. Ideally, administrators should plan and create content long before they have to post it. That way, they can avoid a time crunch. Rather than creating content as you go along, anticipate what your district’s content needs are going to be, then get the content queued up and ready to go.

Content ideas for boosting engagement

The first step to planning district communications is pinpointing what your content is going to be about. What do stakeholders need to know? What types of events, activities and programs are they interested in? Content should always serve a purpose, whether it’s to advertise, to educate, to notify or to simply entertain.

Your communications plan will likely include the following content ideas:

  • Upcoming events: Look at your district calendar to see which events are scheduled for the coming school year. Every event is worth telling the community about, from board meetings to track meets to school plays. Remind stakeholders about these events on a regular basis to rally excitement and boost attendance.
  • Co-curricular opportunities: Co-curricular opportunities give students a chance to discover who they are and develop passions that can last a lifetime. Connect students with these opportunities by spreading the word through various communication mediums.
  • Programs and initiatives: Educate stakeholders about the steps your district is taking to foster a safe and successful learning environment. Let them know about free meal programs, anti-bullying initiatives and other actions that are improving your schools. These actions don’t just benefit students—the community at large can gain something from school-sponsored initiatives, too!
  • Stakeholder resources: Students, teachers, staff and families need to know your district is always there to support them. Advertise free resources that are available for them to use at any time. For many stakeholders, a quick reminder about these resources can be enough to connect them with critical, possibly even life-changing, support.

Choosing the right communication mediums

After coming up with content ideas, the next step is deciding how you’re going to share that content. For example, some pieces of content work best on your district’s website while others are better suited for social media. Every communication medium is different, and they all have strengths that make themselves useful for sharing different types of content.

Here are some of the most effective communication mediums at your district’s disposal:

  • Email: Email is great for communicating directly with certain groups of people. Unlike other communication mediums, email allows you to send messages straight to specific stakeholders, whether they’re parents, students, alumni or faculty members.
  • Social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are effective platforms for sending out quick reminders and promoting events, programs and co-curricular opportunities. They’re also highly visual platforms, which makes them great for sharing video messages and photos from recent school functions.
  • Take-home letters: Letters are an ideal way to communicate with families. They give you more room to go into detail about upcoming field trips, volunteer opportunities and new classroom policies.
  • Webpages: Your district’s website is an excellent resource for stakeholders. You can post district updates, create blog posts about recent events or milestones, spread the word about new policies and share your district’s mission and values, among many other types of content.
  • Photos and videos: Visual mediums are an effective way to tell your district’s story. A hero video at the top of your district’s homepage grabs people’s attention and illustrates the admirable qualities of your school community. Photos capture the joy, excitement and passion of students and staff as they engage in school activities.

Setting a consistent content schedule

You have content ideas, and you’ve chosen the communication mediums. Now, decide how often you’re going to communicate with stakeholders. The frequency of your communications will depend on the messages themselves. Some messages need to be communicated more frequently than others.

These general guidelines will help you create a consistent content schedule:

  • Daily: Daily communication is often helpful when there’s an important event coming up. You might create a countdown to the first day of school or post daily reminders leading up to a registration deadline. You could even post daily tips during standardized testing weeks to help students perform well on their exams.
  • Weekly: Weekly communication is effective when stakeholders only need periodic reminders or updates. Create content that advertises ongoing programs, support services, activities and job opportunities. You could also film a quick 60-second video of the superintendent sharing the latest district news.
  • Monthly: Monthly communication is ideal for sharing information about programs or initiatives that develop slowly over time. You might create a monthly social media post inviting the public to attend an upcoming school board meeting. Or, you might post monthly updates on your district’s website about a referendum or construction project.

Create a plan and put it in motion

The school year is here, and with it comes an increased need for communication. The year will be filled with events, activities, programs and initiatives, all of which require planned content. There’s some content you can’t plan ahead of time, but there’s plenty of content you can. Get your planning done now so you can head into the 2023-24 school year ready to roll!

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