You're not alone if you feel like your school or district's newsletter content isn't as great or abundant as it could be. Coming up with something new and creative for a weekly newsletter isn't always easy. One question we keep hearing from our group of school communicators is: “What should we put in our newsletters when we don't have anything to share?”
So today, we're going to answer that question!
First of all, you’ll always have something to share.
Second of all, that is a tough one. There’s never been a one-size-fits-all approach to email newsletters, but there are plenty of ways to re-think and transform your newsletter so that it remains a core communication for your school or district.
Before we dive into content ideas, let’s consider some essential best practices for a successful emails newsletter heading:
- Pick a cadence and stick to it: Choose a day, time, and frequency for sending your newsletter. When parents know when to expect your content, they’ll be looking for it! A lot of communicators are wondering: “should we decrease the frequency if there is less to share?” Our answer is “no.” If your community is used to hearing from you on a weekly basis, keep it weekly.
- Pick a layout and stick to it: One of our favorite analogies to come out of a networking session was: “I think of our newsletters like walking through the grocery store. It’s frustrating when things move around, so I keep the design consistent so the expectations are there.” This is SO true! Whatever content you decide to include in your newsletter, put it in the same place every time. And, do your best to share the same types of content each week as it will make your families’ most sought-after content easy to find, and simplify newsletter creation for you and your team. But WAIT! One more important thing to note — don’t pick a layout and stick to it if your layout is confusing and cluttered.
- Design for mobile, first: Parents are very much on-the-go, and for districts with many low-income families, a mobile phone may be the communication lifeline. For this reason, we encourage designing your email newsletter for the mobile experience rather than the desktop experience. If you’re new to mobile-first design, we’ve rounded up six tips for mobile-friendly emails in this blog post.
- Don’t go overboard: Your email newsletter shouldn’t be your catch-all for everything. Focus on the most important items for the week, and always link back to your website.
- Personalize and personify your emails: If you want to increase email engagement, make sure your emails come from the same person or entity (i.e. Elmwood Middle School) each week. In addition to adding a familiar name and email, personalize your subject line. Simply changing the subject line from “Your Weekly Newsletter” to “Your Weekly Newsletter, Mia!” can dramatically improve email engagement.
Email Newsletter Ideas for When You “Don’t Have Anything to Share”
Don’t turn every newsletter into a smorgasbord of different content because you feel like you “don’t have anything.” And even worse — don’t omit a send because you think it feels empty. It will be confusing for your community.
For each newsletter, focus on having two or three content areas that remain consistent, no matter what. Aside from the standard “news and events,” here are some of our favorite ideas to enhance your school’s newsletters:
1. Share a Letter from Leadership
Hebron Academy kicks off its monthly newsletter with a messge from the head of school. For private schools and districts alike, this is a nice way to incorporate the voice of leadership without needing an entirely separate newsletter.
2. Include a "Mission Moment"
Featuring a photo that captures the essence of your school’s mission or values is a great way to build spirit. An image of a teacher engaged with students, a friendly exchange between students in the halls, a great reaction from a recent sports game—the moments that express who and what your school is all about are perfect for reminding parents of your school’s focus. Pro Tip: Consider adding this content to the bottom of your newsletter as a way to entice readers to scroll to the end and see the latest mission moment.
3. Feature Your Community
While you may find it easy to run out of things to say, we hope you don’t run out of people to celebrate! Your community — no matter the size — is filled with students, parents, teachers, and non-teaching faculty who make your community what it is. You can share the feature directly in your newsletter and then link back to your website. If you are already sharing featured stories on social media, you could also link directly to the social media post.
4. Incorporate Blog Content
Before you breeze past this tip while thinking “I don’t have time to write blogs!” — wait! The blog content you share in your newsletter doesn’t have to be original. Re-sharing content you know your community will find interesting can make you a trusted resource. And of course, if you do have the time to write your own content, sharing that in your newsletter can help build trust, confidence, and loyalty as well. The Post Oak School reshares content from its blog to help spruce up its newsletters.
5. Trivia Questions
From throwback photos of faculty and students to questions about the origin of your school’s mascot, incorporating a weekly trivia question into your newsletter content is a fun way to keep your community engaged. Encourage readers to share their answers via email to win a prize!
6. Tips, Facts, and Social Media Holidays
Maybe instead of asking a question, you’d prefer to share a bit of knowledge or fun with your community! From fitness and health tips to practical ideas for staying sane while still working remotely, you can keep your community engaged with a weekly tip to look forward to. Bonus points if you can get someone within your school community to be the fitness, health, or history guru.
Social media holidays also fall into this “fun fact” category. Celebrating days like #NationalPizzaDay and #NationalSmoresDay is always a great way to get your school’s social media channels buzzing.
Still don't know what to post? Download the latest version of The Complete Social Media Calendar for Schools and Districts for 120+ content ideas!
7. Kudos, Celebrations, Additions, and Welcomes
A regular round-up of shout-outs and celebrations is great for building camaraderie among staff, students, and families. Include a section to give a teacher or student a moment in the spotlight for something kind they were witnessed doing, or something amazing they’ve accomplished. Did a new staff member join your community? Welcome them to your school with a brief introduction, photo, and Q&A. This is a great way to spread some well-deserved recognition and good vibes among your community.
Can’t find any updates to share? Add a section for families to submit their own news! Oregon Episcopal School does just that with a submission form for parents to upload their content to be considered for inclusion in an upcoming newsletter.
8. Community Challenges
Cupcake decorating contest? Workspace picture contest? Marvel movie marathon? How fast can you put together a puzzle? Who has the most school swag? There are lots of fun ways to challenge your community each week to celebrate school spirit or find new ways to spend time together. And as long as you're consistent, the weekly challenge may become something your community looks forward to conquering each weekend and sharing their experiences on social media.
9. Inspirational Quotes and Shareable Images
If you send your weekly newsletter on a Monday, this fits in perfectly as “Monday Motivation!” Share an inspirational quote that ties to your school’s mission or motto, and design something that is shareable on social media using a free tool like Canva.
10. Stories from Local News
There is a lot of fun to be had with this topic. You could host your own variation of “Some Good News” on a regular basis for your social media channels and re-share it in your email newsletter. Getting students involved here could be fun, too! And if you don’t have the time or resources to create a regular video, simply sharing some articles of good things happening in the school and local community could be just what recipients need to see.
The intent of your newsletter has never been to stand as a podium for you to share school news. It’s been an essential piece to keep your community engaged and inspired by your school or district’s culture and community. There’s never been a better opportunity to think about what your community really wants than the present. So rather than feeling discouraged about “not having as much to share” — focus on what you do have to share and the new value you can bring. And most importantly, whatever content you choose, be consistent!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's director of demand generation, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, eBooks, and reports, including Finalsite's Inbound Marketing Benchmark Report.