Understanding Multi-Platform Content Distribution
Over the years, there’s been an increasing trend among schools that involves shifting from single-platform communication to multi-platform communication. The multi-platform approach has many proven advantages for schools, including more engagement, more informed stakeholders and more connectivity. As we get the ball rolling on 2024, now’s as good a time as any to review your school’s communication strategy and identify ways to branch out into new platforms.
Why diversify your school’s content?
The simple answer is, there’s an increasing desire for it. Single-platform content strategies serve only a small group of stakeholders, making it difficult for other groups to attain critical information from their schools. More and more schools are transitioning over to a multi-platform strategy with the goal of reaching more stakeholders. In an age of equality, accessibility and inclusivity, multi-platform communication is the natural next step for schools.
On the topic of inclusivity, expanding into new platforms can strengthen connections with less-involved or underrepresented stakeholder groups. For example, schools can better serve their stakeholders with disabilities by providing audio transcripts and video subtitles, as well as optimizing content for text-to-voice technology. A multi-platform approach is also effective for garnering the attention of alumni, non-parents, seniors and other community members, whether through board meetings, fliers, postcards or other platforms.
In general, multi-platform communication is essential for building positive, long-lasting relationships with stakeholders. Many are excited to get involved with your school—or, at the very least, want to stay informed about the latest developments. Communicating through multiple channels tells stakeholders you value their input and participation in school affairs. By communicating effectively, you help stakeholders feel seen and appreciated. It shows you care about keeping them in the loop!
Get to know your audience first
Before you expand into new platforms, first you must gain a solid understanding of the various stakeholder groups within your school community. Gather information about their content needs and preferences, so you know which platforms to incorporate into your communication strategy. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to create a Facebook account if there’s no demand for it! Learn which groups use which platforms the most. This will allow you to expand your communications purposefully and effectively.
A good way to collect quantitative data about stakeholders’ preferences is by leveraging online analytic tools. These tools provide valuable insight about engagement levels on each platform. With email communications, you can track how many people opened an email and how many people clicked the links in that email. Similar analytics are available to monitor the visibility of your school’s website, providing information about most-viewed pages, search rankings, time spent on each page and so on.
Qualitative data is just as important for guiding your school’s multi-platform content strategy. You can collect qualitative data about your current communication efforts by hearing directly from the stakeholders themselves. You may choose to send out a stakeholder survey asking for feedback about what’s working well and what needs improvement. Potential survey questions may include, “Which platform(s) do you use the most? How satisfied are you with the level of communication you receive?” You can also choose to meet with stakeholders in person through forums, meetings and focus groups.
Solidify your communication goals
Once you’ve collected the data, you can set goals to improve your stakeholder communications. The type of feedback you receive will determine which goals you create and where your school focuses its efforts. Communication goals should always be rooted in what your stakeholders need, which is why it’s so important to not only look at online analytics, but also to talk directly with stakeholders and listen to their experiences.
Let’s say a group of stakeholders has expressed interest in receiving timely news and updates from the school board. Many feel left out of the loop because they don’t know when and where board meetings take place. In response to this feedback, the school’s communication goal might be to increase visibility around upcoming meetings. The next step would be to identify the platforms that stakeholders use the most, then create content for those platforms. The school board could use Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to promote meetings well in advance, and they could use YouTube to live stream meetings for those who can’t attend.
Your team has to do more than set goals—they have to set S.M.A.R.T. goals. S.M.A.R.T. stands for specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. Specific goals paint a clear picture of what you’re trying to achieve. Goals need to be measurable, so that you can track your progress. Goals should also be attainable, meaning they provide a good challenge while staying within the realm of what’s possible for your school. Every communication goal should be relevant to your school’s overall mission, and they should come with a timeline that determines how long it will take to achieve the goal.
Repurpose content across platforms
Every platform is unique. While the underlying message stays the same, the content relaying that message must adapt to various different platforms. Each platform has its own characteristics that make it desirable to users, whether it’s a notification system, streaming abilities, special interactive features or something else. Find what makes each platform unique, and use it to your advantage.
For example, YouTube is great for broadcasting school events that may last a couple hours, like board meetings, soccer games, music concerts and more. You can take highlights from pre-recorded live streams and share them on platforms that are designed for shorter videos, like TikTok and Instagram. Testimonials are also highly adaptable to many different platforms, as you can turn them into video collages, social media posts or written quotes on your school’s enrollment page. Get creative with how you repurpose content!
Revisit your strategy on a regular basis
Multi-channel communication is an evolving process. Stakeholders’ content preferences will change over time, which means the way you communicate will need to change as well. Take TikTok for example: the visual-based platform has led to the rise of video content that’s brief yet packed with information. Additionally, environmental movements have motivated schools to switch to paperless platforms to reduce their impact on the planet. Preferences can change at any time, and schools must be ready to adapt.
There are other reasons to revisit your communication strategy on a regular basis. In some cases, you might try a new approach to see if it’s effective or not. For example, surveys and focus groups might have revealed that many stakeholders are interested in a school app. After developing and releasing the app, you’ll want to know if it’s meeting the needs of stakeholders. Regular communication assessments will allow you to determine whether a new approach is working, or if your school needs to steer in a different direction.
Take a look at your communication strategy
There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to distributing content across multiple platforms. The way you build a multi-platform communication strategy depends on your community’s unique needs and preferences. Gathering data and listening to the people will help you identify which platforms you need to leverage and for what purposes. Over time, an effective multi-platform strategy can help your community feel more connected—not only to your school, but to each other.