School Communication: What’s The Right Amount?

It seems like more and more people are complaining about the amount of email they get these days. It’s been interesting to even watch the the tech community make outrageous claims like “email is dead.”

It was a popular claim when Facebook was really on the rise and folks thought that teens were never ever going to use email. I personally never bought into the hype. Really…I didn’t :).

But one thing is true: People do get overwhelmed. So as a school communicator, whether you’re a teacher, administrator, or involved parent, you need to have a good sense of how much communication (and in particular school email) is too much. What’s the right balance?

Two Types of Emails

There tend to be two types of emails that come from schools….information/logistics emails and volunteer requests are one type. Parents who care about what their child is doing in school will read the former. And parents who care about engaging with the school community will also read the latter (when they have time, that is).

These types of emails are sent out on a needs basis on the part of the school. We need to let you know about the details of this field trip so your child is not stranded at the museum. We need you to buy…NOT whip up two dozen cookies for the class party (can’t even bring homemade treats to school any more).

But there’s a another type of communication that schools send out on a regular basis: Non-critical messaging.

What do I mean by this? Messages whose entire purpose is to entertain and engage parents . Messages that don’t, strictly speaking, need to be sent:

  • Silly photos of the kids at your school
  • One-on-one messages from teachers to parents about something fun or noteworthy their child did or said in school that week
  • Information about family-friendly events in your community
  • News about extracurricular accomplishments by students, parents, teachers, administrators, and staff at your school
  • Helpful articles – maybe even a special online series – about topics of interest to parents (e.g., “9 Ways To Help Your Kid with Homework – Without Driving Either of You Crazy!” – I’d be interested in that one myself.)

We tend to feel bombarded by email and other types of messaging when they’re full of demands on our time, attention, and wallets. But messages whose sole purpose is to enrich our lives and provide us with valuable information? Those are gifts! People love those sorts of messages…when they actually read them.

Maybe we should be asking ourselves (as school communicators) how do we get parents to read our emails?

So maybe the question isn’t how much email is too much or how often we should send email. We keep wondering if we should send less email with more content per email or send more emails with little content.

More Emails, Fewer Content

One way of managing email is sending a lot of emails but make them short. Personally I like this method. Quick little emails that get right to the point and send me off to another place to get more information if I want it. It’s really not hard to delete an email. Still, people will loose their marbles over this because you’ve stained their already overflowing inbox. God-forbid a father actually get a few emails from the school through the week. He’s just too important for that (yes I’m talking trash from one dad to another).

Okay but this will create a lot of emails yeah?

Yes, yes it will.

Fewer Emails, Longer Content

This is what many communicators do now. The weekly “newsletter”, right. It’s super long and has a crap-ton of information in it. Everything from upcoming events, to results of some prior event and general news, and announcements. The challenge here is that only a fraction of it is pertinent to each parent. So people loose their minds on this too, cause the emails are to loooong. “Oh I don’t have time to read all this, uuuugh.”

Geeze.

Create Communication Paths

One approach to help with email overload is to use tools like MemberHub to communicate on various levels. For example you can communicate to all the 3rd Grade families in MemberHub and that way you don’t have to put that in the school-wide newsletter. Plus parents immediately feel it’s pertinence when they see [3rd Grade] in the subject.

Try to create ways to communicate the information to only the people that need to know it. And keep it short. Or as one of my friends always says, “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus”.

The other idea is to constantly encourage parents to plug into the various committees and groups that serve the school. Even if they don’t have a ton of time to come into the school, if they would just commit to reading the emails from a certain committee or group, they’ll be in the know and can contribute and “care” when it matters.

You can easily accomplish this in MemberHub with the Join Open Hubs feature to allow parents to choose which groups they get correspondence from.

Pretty cool.

Here’s the Deal

Managing school communications is tricky business and you’re always going to have people complain about some part of it. But try to come up with a plan, execute that plan, get feedback and iterate. The communication plan will need to change up often.

To try and help, we put together a cool little eBook…

Click here to get a copy of our free ebook, How To Create an Effective School Communications Plan.

Let me know what you think!