What Stories do Your Communities Want to Hear?
Your district has a story to tell. There are great things happening in your schools every single day. Storytelling comes easily during the school year, given all the concerts, sporting events and fundraisers that fill up your district’s calendar. But during the summer, many district leaders are at a loss. What stories do you tell? And who wants to hear them?
School’s out right now, but there are still stories worth telling. You’ll find them everywhere if you look hard enough. And if you tell them to the right people, you can keep your school community engaged all summer long.
Stories are important during the summer
During the school year, finding stories to share is easy. There’s always something going on, whether it’s a choir concert, bake sale, basketball game or open house. Maybe your softball team went to state, or maybe you achieved record-breaking donations at the holiday gala. It seems like there’s not enough time to share everything that’s happening!
And then summer hits. Students, staff and families are eager to begin their long-awaited vacations. Districts tend to take a back seat for those few months, as stakeholders see little reason to engage when school is out of session. With no concerts, sporting events or parent-teacher conferences lined up, stakeholders remain tuned out until August.
Stakeholders need to see that the summer is an exciting time for your district. There are still plenty of stories to tell, even if students and staff have left for their summer vacations. By sharing stories throughout the summer months, you show stakeholders that your district never stops chasing its mission. You’re always looking for ways to make the schools better, and you’re actively taking steps to bring your mission to life.
Sharing stories over the summer also helps your district maintain consistent communication with stakeholders. Let them know your district hasn’t gone anywhere! Despite it being summer, the district still has programs and events going on. Plus, stakeholders need to stay updated about what’s coming down the pipeline, like referendums, enrollment dates and improvements to school campuses. Stories keep the momentum of your district going all year round.
Stories are happening all around you. You just have to know where to look, and how to choose the ones people want to hear.
How to choose the right stories
There are plenty of great storytelling opportunities during the summer. At the same time, though, you don’t want to share stories at random. You want to share them with purpose. As you plan your district’s communications, think about the different stakeholder groups in your community and the types of stories they’d be interested in hearing. Your audience will always determine which stories you choose to share.
Focus on one stakeholder group at a time. Who are they? How are they connected to your schools? What do they want and need from the district? That last question is particularly important. Stakeholders won’t tune in unless you speak to their wants and needs. Those will differ from one group to another, which is why you have to be intentional with your stories and where you share them.
As you answer these questions, start thinking of story ideas that would grab stakeholders’ attention. Create a list of summer programs, events and initiatives they might want to hear about. Again, many stakeholders see little reason to engage with their district when school is out of session. You have to give them a reason to engage, and it all starts with sharing stories. Pair the right stories with the right stakeholders, and engagement levels are sure to go up.
Story ideas for different stakeholder groups
Stories are rarely, if ever, one size fits all. Much like any form of communication, stories are most effective when they’re told to the right people, in the right place, at the right time. To give you some ideas, let’s explore common stakeholder groups, what their wants and needs are, and which stories they’d like to hear from your district.
Students want to explore their interests in fun, engaging ways. With no classes to worry about, students have a lot more time to grow not just academically, but personally as well. Districts need to create (and advertise) summer co-curricular activities that give students the freedom to find their niche and become well-rounded individuals.
Use your district’s media channels to tell students how they can stay involved over the summer. Spread the news about band, basketball and cheerleading camps, and inform older students about volunteer opportunities that can boost their college applications.
Parents and families
Naturally, many parents and families want to make sure their children are receiving the best education possible. For this reason, they want to stay informed about what your district is doing to continuously better its schools.
Engage parents and families by telling the story of how you’ll make the next school year better than the last. Share updates on facility improvements, curriculum catalogs and new safety protocols within the schools. That way, families can head into the new school year with confidence and greater peace of mind.
Teachers and staff
When school starts back up, teachers and staff want to know that they have all the necessary resources to help their students (and themselves) succeed. Similar to parents, these stakeholders also care about working in a safe and welcoming school environment.
Create messaging that lets teachers and staff know your district is here to support them. Provide website links to resources they’ll need going into the school year, such as contact information, emergency plans and mentorship programs for new hires. Drive home the message that you value them, and you want to help them succeed.
Many alumni like to stay in the loop with their former school districts. They’re curious about how things have changed since they attended, and they want to know how they can give back to their beloved school communities. Many wouldn’t mind being recognized for what they accomplished since graduation, either!
Summer is a great time to connect with alumni. Put together an alumni newsletter that keeps them up-to-date about the district’s latest developments. In addition to sharing your district’s stories, you can help alumni share their own stories by posting weekly alumni spotlights on social media.
The broader community encompasses many different stakeholders, including non-parents, civic groups, municipal governments and business owners, among others. Their specific wants and needs vary, but one thing they have in common is this: they want to know how the district is positively impacting the community at large.
Tell the story of how quality education benefits people other than students. Post pictures and videos that illustrate students working to better the community around them. Talk about alumni who’ve went on to become contributing members of society. These are the types of stories that will get community members invested in your district.
The stories are waiting to be told
The summer doesn’t have to be a lull. It’s as good a time as any to lean into your district’s story. Contrary to what stakeholders might think, there’s actually a lot that happens over the summer, and they would be interested to hear about it. Know your audience, know what gets them engaged, and share those stories with your community.