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School Communication in 2019: Where to Share?

There's a big difference between communication and effective communication. In this short article, we cover how to effectively reach your audience the way that best fits them.

If you ask your community members, parents, students, and faculty how they prefer to be contacted about important information, you’ll get a myriad of answers. Some parents might want to receive a text message or a phone call. Students might want to keep up-to-date on school information through Facebook or Twitter. Others might want to check your school’s app or website. Some might even prefer to hear important information from an automated voice alert.

To put it plainly, you don’t get to decide how your audience consumes information—they do.

Since information consumption has become preferential, it’s necessary to utilize different communication tools to reach your audience. It’s about covering your bases, spreading the message in each of the ways individual audience members might want to receive it.

To effectively communicate to each student, faculty member, parent, and community members, school leaders have to embrace a multi-channel approach to messaging. This involves using every communication tool at your disposal to make sure your audience is properly informed.

Multi-Channel Communication -- Incorporating every communication tool available to spread a message to a large audience

By utilizing every available communication tool, you’re increasing the chances that your community will actually receive the important information you need to share with them.

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Single Channel Communication Vs. Multi Channel Communication

Single Channel Communication

School leadership points to letter home points to home

Multi-Channel Communication

Web with school leadership in center surrounded by letter home local news school assembly social media mobile app alerts calls texts and school website

Why does Multi-Channel Communication Matter?

Imagine you just got married and you return home, after your honeymoon, to dozens of presents and gift cards left by guests at the wedding. Some of them are small, others are large. But at the end of the day, they were all given with love.

Traditionally, you would just write a thank you letter to thank the person for their gift and that would be it. But since your family, and especially your friends, are constantly switching addresses, phone numbers, and contact info, you would still write a letter but thank them in the way they prefer. For some friends, you would send them a Facebook message, a text, or an email. For others, you’ll send snail mail or stop by their house to thank them for the gift. You would communicate to them in a way that fits each person best and is the most effective.

In a sense, as a school leader you’re obligated to your school district and community in the same way. They’re often switching addresses, phone numbers, and contact information, so you wouldn’t just tell parents and community members information one way. And unlike your family and friends, you don’t exactly know how each parent and community member wishes to receive information.

The solution? Inform parents and community members in multiple ways.

If there was important information about test scores or an upcoming bond measure, you wouldn’t want to just send a newsletter to inform parents. You would want to talk to them about it at a school assembly, call them, and post it on social media for them to see.

It’s this use of multi channel communication that allows a message to be effectively spread in multiple ways, and reaches people the way that best fits them. By employing different types of communication, you’re able to effectively reach parents and community members much like a newlywed couple thanking guests: personal and meaningful communication.

Communication: What School Leaders Are Currently Doing

Where Communication Goes Right

Part of the requirement for being a school leader is communicating to your faculty, parents, students, and community members about new updates and initiatives within the school district. This communication largely shapes the culture of the school district, as pointed out in the article, “The School District Superintendent in the United States of America.” Bjorn, Kowalski, and Ferrigno state,

“Cultures are communicative creations. They emerge and are sustained by the communicative acts of all employees, not just the conscious persuasive strategies of upper management. Cultures do not exist separately from people communicating with one another.”  

School leaders often do a pretty good job when it comes to engaging with parents and students at local events, school assemblies, and parent/teacher conferences. You get to actually talk with the parents you serve and build relationships within the community. This builds a rich school culture and a unique relationship between you and the people you serve.

Where Communication Goes Wrong

However, when it comes to communicating information to parents outside of these events, school leaders run into some issues. Too often, school handouts get lost in student’s backpacks, newsletters are misplaced, and information told by another parent can be quickly forgotten or worse, misconstrued.

When parents and community members are left out of the loop, they can feel disconnected from your school culture and feel like their voice isn’t heard. Whether you’re a school leader of 500 students or 10,000 students, communicating to every parent correct information is critical.

So the question is: How can school leaders reach parents outside of school events and include them in the school’s culture?

Mobile Communication: The Pros and Cons

While your parents might not be in attendance at school or community events, there’s one way to communicate to them wherever they are: their mobile device. According to a study done by the Pew Research Center in January 2018, 95% of American adults had a cellphone and 77% of adults had a smartphone.

By engaging with your parents through their cell-phone or mobile device, you’re able to tell them information quickly, keeping them informed about upcoming events, and connecting them to your school's culture.

There are multiple ways to do this, so we listed out the pros and cons of popular mobile communication tools. Here’s the list:

  • Call Alerts
    What are they? Voice-recorded phone calls that can be sent to both landline and mobile phones. Messages are short, informative, and quickly received.
    Pros: They can be sent quickly and can inform parents in less than 30 seconds, so they’re useful in providing updates on emergency situations or school closings.
    Cons: If too many call alerts are received about non-emergency situations, parents could ignore them.

  • Text Alerts
    What are they? Short text messages that can be sent to both cellular and smart devices. Like call alerts, they are short, informative, and quickly received.
    Pros: They can be sent out quickly, provide useful information, and be understood in less than 30 seconds.
    Cons: If too many are received, parents could ignore them.

  • Mobile App
    What is it? A software application that can be downloaded from any smart device, like a smartphone or tablet.
    Pros: It can help spread your school’s culture, provide important information, and engage parents on their smartphone device, which 77% of American adults have and 87% of them spend their time in apps.
    Cons: If the app has a bad user experience, isn’t updated, and there is not a mobile strategy in place, your community members will not engage with it.

  • Push Notifications
    What are they? Short, informative message that pop up on any device with the mobile app downloaded.
    Pros: As long as the app is downloaded, school leaders can inform parents about upcoming events and they’ll receive them whether or not they’re using the app at the time.
    Cons: Like all alerts, if you send out too many push notifications, there’s a good chance your users will start ignoring them.

  • Responsive Website
    What is it? A website that can be viewed on multiple devices, regardless of screen resolution (size of the device’s screen). You can view it on a desktop, tablet, and smartphone, without having to resize or enhance it.
    Pros: Since responsive websites can be viewed on any device, parents who are engaged or interested in your school district can learn more information with ease. They’re especially useful since 63% of all web traffic users came from mobile devices in 2017.
    Cons: If your website isn’t responsive, it can be time consuming to fix the issue. Also, since it’s compatible with different screen resolutions, it can take longer to load.

Social Media

According to Bjorn, Kowalski, and Ferrigno, “superintendents are compelled to communicate more adroitly using social media (e.g., electronic mail, blogs) to engage a broader range of stakeholder groups.” While it may seem silly to utilize social media platforms, it’s becoming a missed opportunity for communication between school leaders and parents/community members.

Here are some quick facts:

  • 68% of American adults use Facebook
  • 24% of adults use Twitter
  • School leaders are not using either

During our research, we found that out of 1,000 school districts, 1 in 5 school districts did not have a social media presence, let alone consistent usage. Since so many adults are on each of these platforms, it gives school leaders another way to communicate to parents, students and community members. Each platform allows you show the great things happening within your school, engage with parents and students, and show the uniqueness of your school’s culture.

Embracing a Multi-Channel Strategy with Thrillshare

Embracing social media and mobile communication, all through a multi channel strategy, seems to be the best way to communicate to your audience. However, it can seem pretty difficult since you have 500 other important tasks on your list.

But what if there was a tool that allowed you to access your social media, call/text alerts, mobile app, push notifications, and school website all from one place right on your phone?

Thrillshare allows you to update all of your mobile communication with one click of a button. Since people prefer to be communicated in different ways, and you’re a pro at direct communication, we can help you reach a wider audience.