Your school is full to the brim of academic endeavour, talented staff, energetic and dynamic pupils and extra-curricular activities to die for. But how well is all this communicated to the outside world?
In our work with schools, we see time and time again where amazing things are happening within a school, yet key stakeholders having limited awareness of them. The phrase ‘hiding a light under a bushel’ springs to mind! You see, what goes on in your school – day to day and week to week – is pure gold, and communicating this effectively will impact positively on parental engagement. Parents can be a brutal bunch once they get their claws into a school; a small minority of disengaged parents can spread negativity and do a lot of damage to a school’s reputation. Schools need to promote themselves continually to their parent body and generate positive word of mouth amongst this key stakeholder group.
These are our 5 top tips for communicating effectively with parents:
- Conduct research
Don’t rely on a hunch. Conduct research to find out which communication channels your parents access most readily and are likely to engage with most enthusiastically. Our experienced consultants here at Stickman have carried out communications research for many schools. Through coupling surveys, interviews and focus groups with that all-important unbiased third-party element, we’re able to find out this information: which social media platforms they use; what will encourage them to visit the school website more regularly? Are printed or email communications preferred? Are they aware of all the channels the school utilises for sharing different types of information? Once you obtain this kind of insight, you can refine your communication with parents and make sure you’re reaching them in the most effective way.
- Keep it real
Every communication with parents should be real and authentic. Avoid the temptation to describe every award, achievement or event as ‘fantastic’, ‘amazing’, ‘brilliant’. Don’t constantly preempt events with “excitement is building for…” (is it really?). Or claim that every event “was hailed a success”. It will wash over parents and compromise the impact when genuine achievements are shared from the school. Instead, widen vocabulary and avoid sensationalism.
- Reinforce key messages
Communicating something once [with parents] is never enough. Parents lead busy lives. They can easily miss an item from their child’s school. Important messages and notifications should therefore be shared a number of times across a variety of communication channels as appropriate. For example, a letter home followed up with an email and some social media reminders…or flag up events which have been signposted in the weekly newsletter as pop-ups on the website or as WhatsApp reminders.
- Maximise reach
Cross-pollination is key to building the reach of all your communications. Ensure the school’s social media handles, email and website details are present on all parent communications, e.g. letters home, the school newsletter, e-signatures of all school staff. Send direct emails out to your parent body too inviting them to join you on your social media channels and hear more about school life!
- Be innovative
Struggling to think of more effective and exciting ways to communicate with parents? Try these for size…
- Give parents three questions to ask their children at the end of each day to encourage the pupils themselves to share what’s going on in school. For example: “Tell me something that happened in school today”, “What did you find hard today?”, “What did you enjoy most about today?”
- Invite parents into lessons. Create parent and pupil art workshops, reading sessions, sports lessons or a nature walks that parents can join.
- Create audio podcasts. It is really very simple for schools to use the app Anchor.fm to create and share audio clips, interviews and projects done by the pupils or staff. Parents can download and listen at a time that suits them.
- Be personal! Create a rota so that the Head or a different Senior member of staff is at the school gate each morning or at pick up time.
- Go old school: place a white board in the playground at pick up time with a single reminder of an approaching deadline or something that’s happening the next day. Obviously this is most effective for nurseries, prep and junior schools.
- Consider creating the weekly newsletter from the Head or class teacher in the form of a video podcast or blog.
Whatever methods are used, a consistent approach to school communications will help create ‘Word of Mouth’ value – crucial in building a school’s reputation.
If your school would like help with your school’s communications strategy, or if you’d like to know more about any aspect of our market research, marketing and admissions services, simply get in touch. We’re always happy to explain how our work helps schools to get results that impact positively on their school recruitment and revenue.
The Stickman Consultancy