School Communications: Start the Year Off Right

It sure feels like the school year starts earlier every year, right? While some schools in New England and elsewhere maintain a traditional post-Labor Day start date, a lot of the rest of us are already well underway. Is your school communications plan ready to roll, too?

You may be worried about overwhelming parents with too much information at the busy start of the school year – and that’s a valid concern – but it’s also important to remember that right now is when you’re setting the tone and expectations for the entire rest of the school year. So you want to make sure you get off on the right foot and stay consistent.

Here are 6 suggestions for starting your school communications off right this fall (or late summer, as the case may be):

1. Create a Communications Committee. Your PTA/PTO needs dedicated people to run your communications. You should not rely on the President or some other existing role to define communication standards and protocols throughout the year. If you take communications seriously you’ll get a couple of volunteers to help define how communications will work the whole year and then execute that plan consistently.

2. Ask for volunteers and feedback. It’s funny – we all want parents to be more active and engaged, but schools rarely ask them to do this in so many words. Tell them you want their ideas, suggestions, and feedback, and follow that up with accessible policies (such as open-door hours and “How are we doing?” online surveys throughout the year). Click here for more ideas on how to engage parents at your school.

3. Plan something fun. You may already have a big school fundraiser planned for later in the fall, and that’s great, but that’s not what we’re talking about here. The start of the school year is a great time for a low-pressure, informal gathering like a bring-your-own picnic “welcome back” evening. Low cost and low stress, but participation and engagement levels are high at events like these. They also break the ice for families new to your school.

4. Get suggestions from your teachers. Your teachers are in the trenches with students (and, by extension, their parents!) every single day. Solicit their feedback on what kinds of school communications outreach would be most effective. They probably have some great ideas you haven’t even thought of.

5. Develop a strong brand. By “brand” I mean a strong sense of what “our school” means – your identity, your stories and traditions, and your pride in being a part of this unique, special community. As with so many things, a strong school brand is a top-down proposition. Not sure where to start? Look to your school’s unique story and build from there.

6. Choose your weapons. There are so many different ways to communicate and so many different software tools. Evaluating them all would be ridiculous. But choose your tools and use them in a consistent manner. In the case of MemberHub your school will really only need ONE tool…so be sure to schedule a demo to see if it would be a good fit for your school.