School Communication Series – Part 3: Getting Up To Speed

Thanks for joining us for Part 3 of our summer School Communication Series!

A few weeks back in Part 1, we looked at why you need an effective school communication system in place. And last week, in Part 2, we talked about taking a detailed look at your current system and its strengths and weaknesses.

This week, in Part 3, is where the rubber meets the road: How to actually start implementing changes to the communication system at your school.

If you don’t already have a system in place (and, no, a very busy photocopier churning out notices and flyers doesn’t qualify as a “system”!), here are some characteristics that all good school communication systems share:

  • Ease of use. While there may be a learning curve as you get rolling, any good school communication system will ultimately be easy to use and save you time – rather than becoming yet another headache you need to deal with on a regular basis.
  • Ongoing support. You’re going to have questions – will someone be available to provide the answers you need? Using a disparate set of free software tools quite often provides NO support. You pay for what you get as they say! Your system should also provide as much initial training as you need to get you up and running smoothly.
  • Customizable to your school’s needs. Your school is a unique place with unique communication needs. A good system will be able to adapt to those. Does your school Directory need a special tweak? Do parents prefer text messages over emails?
  • Encrypted for privacy. Your system should allow you to share photos, parent contact information, and other information parents, teachers, and administrators need to effectively communicate with one another. It goes without saying, however, that nobody else should be able to access those vital pieces of information (one reason that Facebook can be a big fail when it comes to finding a school communications solution).
  • Mobile-friendly. We’re all on the go, and young parents especially are using their phones and tablets almost around the clock. If your school communication system doesn’t work on these mobile devices, a great deal of its utility is lost.
  • Integrated with your school website. You don’t want to manage more platforms than you need to and when everyone is already visiting your website, they need access right there to get into any supporting school communication software.
  • System in place for emergency broadcasts to the entire school community. Whether it’s a burst pipe, a weather-related emergency or, heaven forbid, a scary security breach, your system should provide a reliable way to get in touch with everyone right away. Usually through text messages.

Once you’ve decided on the system you want to use, the biggest remaining challenge may be winning over reluctant (and overextended – click here for a day in the life) teachers and administrators who, quite reasonably, don’t want to have to deal with yet another new tool. But this is a key part of the battle, as the success or failure of your school communication system ultimately depends on their buy-in.

6 Tips for Winning Over Time-pressed, Reluctant Staff/Parents

1. Find your champion. This may be a teacher or administrator, but it may also be a highly involved parent. It doesn’t really matter – the bottom line is that you want someone who is genuinely excited about everything your new tool can do, and whose enthusiasm is infectious. Usually this person is tech-savvy.

2. Get up to speed before the big rollout. Nothing kills a new initiative faster than good questions from well-meaning folks who are given answers like, “Uh….I’m not really sure if it can do that” and “I have no idea how that would work.” Some preliminary training, or at least research, at the outset can make your leaders prepared to handle any question that comes their way. Even more, make sure you communicate about the new system and what everyone should expect…BEFORE you roll it out.

3. Focus on the positive. Rather than harping on how much time the new school communication system might take to learn, focus on all the great things it will do for your school community. Your vendor may have compelling case studies that can help illustrate the upside to even the most reluctant foot-draggers.

4. Commit to the change. Especially if you have tried a few different school communication systems in the past, your staff may resist learning about this new one due to a (perhaps well-grounded) belief that this, too, will soon pass. Don’t let this happen. Make it clear that this is what your school is doing, and all the great things they can expect as a result.

5. Keep the lines of communication open. Don’t launch a new school communication system, provide some initial training, and then stand back and hope for the best. Keep an open dialogue with the users of the system, both parents and staff, and regularly ask how it’s going and what you can do to help. Do a yearly survey and constantly monitor feedback…and actually care about that feedback!

6. Provide a resource. The very worst thing you can do is leave your staff hanging with no idea who to go to with questions. Have your project owner, or another designated person, serve as the main point person who can be trusted to either answer questions promptly or otherwise find the answers people need.

Give Feedback on Results (to your school and us)

As you move along the path of implementation, you should find that doubters turn into believers as they see all the great benefits of your new school communications system, including increased parent engagement. But it’s your job to help them along and also your job to help them see how well it’s actually working.

And I’d love to hear from YOU. What’s worked for your school when it comes to school communication plans?

Thanks, as always, for reading – and stay tuned for the final installment in our July school communication series next week! We’ll be introducing a special, limited-time offer that you won’t want to miss.