As any parent knows, effective communication relies on far more than merely transmitting your message one time and on one platform – which is why you need to repeat that request to pick up the shoes on the living room floor over and over…and over.
In many ways, the parents (including myself here) at our schools are a lot like our own children in this respect. Merely talking at them is not going to get your message across – particularly since there are so many other messages competing for their attention on a daily and even minute-by-minute basis.
There are four components of effective school/parent communications, in my opinion. If any one of them is missing, your message simply isn’t going to be heard (and definitely read):
1. Consistency. One challenge I see at almost every school I’m in touch with deals with the frequency at which they send emails. Maybe you send a long newsletter once a week. Or maybe you send more emails but they’re shorter. Either way people will complain that you’re either sending too few or too many or too long or too short of an email. BUT, be consistent for a period of time and then garner feedback on how everyone sees the communication efforts. You won’t make everyone happy but be consistent with the timing of your communications (for at least 3 months) so at least parents know what to expect.
2. Collaboration. This refers to a group of people creating something – in your case, the “product” on which your school community is collaborating is the students and potential volunteer opportunities at your school! You, your teachers, and your engaged parents all have a vested interest in shaping well-educated, well-adjusted, secure kids. So how are you helping folks collaborate? How are they connected? Are they empowered to collaborate?
3. Coordination refers to the need for parents and teachers to be in synch, on-time, in-the-know, and plugged in. People need tools to coordinate and plan events, meetings, agendas, and various other activities and tasks. In our increasingly “online-first” world, even a hard-copy message isn’t as effective as showing up in the online spaces the parents are already in.
4. Centralization. Schools and parents want to do these things in one common place (even if they don’t know it) so that everyone knows where to look. The place where everyone else is, the same place every time and the same place for everything – including messages, photos, signups, files and more. In other words, the same place where communication, collaboration and coordination take place.
Hitting these 4 Cs on a consistent basis will help get your message across almost every single time.
I’m sure there even more Cs. Do you have some? Please list them in the comments.
Also…click here for your copy of our free eBook, 9 Effective Strategies for Parent Engagement at Your School.