Types of Communication Fatigue (and How to Avoid Them)
Has your audience checked out? Does it seem like stakeholders aren’t engaging with your school’s content? They could be experiencing what’s known as communication fatigue. Essentially, communication fatigue occurs when stakeholders become unsatisfied with or disinterested in school messaging. Once you learn how to identify fatigue, you can begin the process of lifting it from your community.
Below are the most common types of communication fatigue, along with tips for transforming a fatigued audience into an engaged, energized one.
Providing too much information
Stakeholders experience communication fatigue when schools pack too much information into their messages. This is usually done in an effort to keep people informed and maintain transparency. Unfortunately, packing in too much information can make it difficult for stakeholders to determine what’s important and what’s not. The most critical pieces get lost in a sea of less important, less relevant information. Excessive details cause stakeholders to spend more time and energy finding what they need.
To avoid this form of communication fatigue, focus on providing the information that stakeholders need the most. Read through your message, then identify places where you can trim down the content. Omitting certain details doesn’t always mean you’re hiding something from the community. People appreciate messaging that’s short, sweet and to the point because it makes their lives easier. Stakeholders need short, concise communication, so they can get the information they need as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Communicating too frequently
Generally speaking, it’s better to communicate too much rather than not enough. However, there are certainly times when the frequency of communication can become taxing for stakeholders. The constant influx of emails, texts and social media notifications can actually drive people away, leading them to unsubscribe, opt out of texts or turn off notifications. In this way, communicating too frequently can actually disrupt the flow of communication altogether. A new message should make people excited and engaged, not frustrated and tired.
As a school leader, it can be hard to know if you’re communicating too much. That’s why it’s important to check in with stakeholders and assess their content needs. Your school should conduct regular communication audits, which may involve creating polls, surveys or focus groups. Use the audit results to adjust your school’s communication strategy as necessary. If people want more communication, increase the frequency. If they want less communication, reduce the frequency. Don’t be afraid to ask what their needs are!
Overloading one particular channel
Many school leaders believe that information is easier to find when it’s all in one place. For instance, one school might use its Facebook account as a “one stop shop” for every type of message imaginable, whether they’re event reminders, district updates, volunteer opportunities, recent achievements or anything else. In theory, it sounds convenient to have everything in one place. But in practice, this actually makes content harder to find—especially if the content isn’t available on any other platforms.
You can avoid overloading one particular channel by adopting a multi-channel communication strategy. Instead of sharing video updates exclusively on Facebook, you could also share them via e-newsletters, your school’s website and other social media platforms. Leveraging multiple channels can ease the flow of content because stakeholders will know their go-to channel isn’t the only option. By sharing across multiple channels, there’s less pressure to put everything in the same spot. Spreading out content can make it easier to find, so long as you’re consistent with when and where you post it.
Communicating with no purpose
Many school leaders understand that communication needs to be consistent. As a result, they end up communicating with stakeholders even when they don’t need to. They create content without considering the purpose behind it. They worry more about the quantity of content rather than the quality of content. Yes, communication needs to be consistent, but it also needs to serve a purpose, as well as cater to people’s wants and needs. Communicate for the sake of communicating, and stakeholders will learn to tune out your messages.
With all the noise online, your content has to bring value into stakeholders’ lives. When you think of a content idea, ask yourself, “What’s the purpose behind this content? What do I want people to take away from it? How does this contribute to my school’s overall mission?” Answering these questions will help you determine whether or not you’re communicating with purpose. Over time, you’ll see that purposeful content draws more engagement from stakeholders.
Speaking to the wrong stakeholder groups
School leaders will often try to communicate with as many stakeholders as possible. While it’s important to be inclusive, not everyone needs to hear the same message. People can get tired if they’re constantly receiving messages that don’t pertain to them. For instance, it wouldn’t make sense to promote volunteer opportunities to people who are already volunteering at your school! Sending communications to everyone can also make it difficult for stakeholders to know when they should tune in or tune out.
Being intentional with your messages can help ensure they’re reaching the right stakeholders. Identify your audience, then identify which platforms they use. That way, you can focus your communication efforts more effectively. Sometimes, you will need to send the same message to different stakeholder groups. If that’s the case, tailor your message to each individual stakeholder group, so everyone can receive it in a way that resonates with them the most.
The root cause of communication fatigue
These communication mistakes have one thing in common: they all stem from poor planning. Mistakes occur when schools don’t take the time to understand their audiences or how content is distributed across multiple channels. They create content without identifying its purpose or how it can benefit stakeholders. There’s little understanding of what information stakeholders need, and how they need to receive it. In other words, the cart gets ahead of the horse.
The good news is that communication fatigue has a cure! The cure is establishing—and sticking to—a solid communication plan. Consider the “who, when, where and why” behind every piece of content. Understand why you’re saying something before you say it. Create personas for each stakeholder group, so your team knows their unique wants, needs, motives and preferred means of communication. Every piece of content should start with a plan, no matter how simple or small that content may seem.
Proper planning allows your team to think before they communicate. A good plan also helps you communicate with intention, which leads to more meaningful interactions with stakeholders. The overall goal behind your planning should be to engage the audience. When your audience is engaged, frustration and fatigue turn into excitement and energy.
Is your audience fatigued or energized?
You know which mistakes to look for. Now, assess your school’s current communication efforts to see if any of these mistakes are present. If you see signs of fatigue, it’s not the end of the world. You can always take steps to improve your school’s communication strategy. Above all else, think about how you want stakeholders to feel when they see your message. Channel that energy into the content!