Amid all the talk about education reform, one rarely hears about the need for better communications by school leaders.
Too often, school leaders think of communications as an afterthought. They issue a press release, write a brochure, send an email, or post items on websites and social media channels without thinking through they’re trying to accomplish, or the best ways of doing so.
In truth, communications is an integral function of any organization, including schools. And in the increasingly competitive environment in which traditional public schools, public charter schools, and private schools compete for students, strong communications can mean the difference between a thriving educational community, and a school struggling to retain and attract students, hold on to high quality teachers, and build a strong school culture.
Here are five ways that effective communications can make schools stronger:
1) Stronger brand: A strong communications program forces school leaders to think through their goals and priorities in clear and compelling terms, so that every message reinforces the school’s “brand” and sets it apart from the competition.
2) Stronger common understanding: A clear and consistent set of messages, effectively conveyed, helps board members, school leaders, teachers, students, and parents understand what is expected of them, and what the school will deliver in return.
3) Stronger morale: By bringing all audiences together around the shared values and mission of the school, strong communications builds up morale and community.
4) Stronger retention and growth: A carefully planned communications program plays a key role in the marketing and recruitment function. Compelling messages and materials are vital tools for attracting and retaining students and families.
5) Stronger reputation: A steady stream of effective communications enhances the school’s reputation in the public arena, helping to boost its influence in policy debates and lessening the impact of criticism when difficult issues arise.
For all these reasons, school leaders should make effective communications with all key audiences a high priority. A comprehensive approach will include developing clear objectives and priorities; distilling key messages and supporting data for each audience; creating a strong brand through consistent messaging and design guidance; and developing effective communications vehicles such as websites, printed and electronic materials, emails, social media channels, and news media outreach.
Absent a strong communications program, schools needlessly run the risk of growing dysfunction and reputational damage. But with such a program, schools will achieve higher levels of success in all areas – especially in preparing children to survive and thrive in an increasingly complex world.