The weeks leading up to a new school year tend to be incredibly busy for school leaders. There’s a never-ending list of items to check off to ensure the start of classes is as seamless and successful as possible for your students, staff and families.
It’s also a time when, as a school leader, you must think about communication and how you will continue to reach your key stakeholder groups and tell your school or district’s story. We’ve put together this school communications checklist to help you out:
Before you begin communicating, you must determine with whom you need to communicate. Brainstorm a list of the people you want to reach on a regular basis. This is likely to start with parents, staff and students, but may also include alumni, local business leaders, community organizations and the general public.
Once you’ve identified your stakeholders, develop a list of messages you want them to know and understand about your school or district. Think about it this way: if you could sit down for a cup of coffee with every single stakeholder, with what information would you want each person to come away from the conversation? This usually works best when you have three overarching messages that guide your communication efforts throughout the year.
Because school leaders are so busy, communications can quickly fall by the wayside when other, more pressing issues arise. To help you stay on track, create an editorial calendar with the articles, news releases, social media posts and any other content or materials you need to create and distribute each month. Make a habit of revisiting the editorial calendar every few days to make sure you and your team continue to make progress on your communications plan.
As a school leader, you can expand your reach by deputizing members of your staff to serve as what we refer to as “key communicators.” These are folks you can trust to speak with PTOs, staff and community groups and share your school or district’s messages. Conduct a training session at the start of the year and follow up each quarter to ensure these staff members know how to best communicate with your stakeholders.
It’s important to have strong relationships with the news media, even though you may disagree with how they cover certain stories. Take some time to get to know the reporters who cover your school or district. Invite them out for coffee or to take a tour of one of your schools. Just remember that anything you share should be considered “on the record” and fair game for the reporter to use.
In addition to working with your key communicators, make efforts to ensure all school or district staff understand the importance of good communication. Teachers should be encouraged to communicate actively with parents and principals should be willing to share the good things happening in their schools with their communities. Work to build a culture of communication throughout your organization.
Plan to be visible
Throughout the year, but especially during the first few days or weeks of school, plan on being extra visible to the community. You might greet students and parents at the school door, speak at a back to school event or send out a “welcome back” letter or email to families. These are great ways to set a positive tone throughout your school or district from the start of the school year.
Keep this school communications checklist handy at the start of the school year and as you continue to ramp up your efforts throughout the year. Through sound communications planning and implementation, you can maintain consistency as you speak to all the great things happening in your schools.