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Sarah Gordon, Assistant Director of Communications
Choate Rosemary Hall
  • Public School District
10 Time-Saving Tips for District Communication Offices
Mia Major

Whether you work in a district with five schools or more than one hundred you know what it’s like to wear multiple hats if you work in a district communications office. You build newsletters. You post on Twitter, Facebook and maybe Instagram. You’re the webmaster and in-house photographer. You’re responsible for communications on a daily basis, and in times of crisis. You’re the superintendent’s ghost-writer, and a voice for your district in a variety of other ways, too. A forty-hour workweek never seems like enough, as tasks continue to roll over from one week to the next. 

If you’re looking for ways to save time and improve your current communications, you’re going to want to make time to read these ten tips.

Tip #1: Make Templates for Everything

And I mean, everything! If you’re inclined toward marketing, you might be tempted to make every single email and social media post unique — but that’s a quick way to lose time. To get started, make a list of everything you need templates for throughout the year. For most districts, this list consists of templates for email newsletters, social media, and website content (like news or blogs.)  

Once you’ve made your lists, carve out some time to build the templates. Graphics can be created in Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator if you have it, otherwise, Canva is an excellent free tool with lots of beautiful templates you can copy! Just be sure to stick to your district’s brand standards. For example, Clarkston Community Schools uses Canva to create a variety of different social media graphics in just a few minutes that are shared across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

canva graphic from clarkston community schools

As for email, you’ll want to spend time creating different email templates for the different types of emails you send. For most districts, this is likely some type of weekly/monthly newsletter, event invites, and other forms of announcements. The templates can be simple! A graphic header with the school and/or district logo and text is enough. If you use Finalsite’s email marketing tool, Messages (formerly called eNotify), you can build responsive email templates in a drag-and-drop interface. 

Tip #2: Use Dynamic Content in Email Templates

Elmbrook Schools in Wisconsin serves ten schools, and each day they send daily announcements to the community’s parents. How does a Director of Communications have the time to send ten unique emails every single day? Two words: dynamic content.

If you use Finalsite Messages, you’ll have the ability to automatically pull in news, blogs, and calendar events without any additional effort using dynamic content blocks. Dynamic content blocks save you time and keep your community informed with what’s happening in the community.

As you can see here, the district simply selects which content they want to automatically pull in:

elmbrook dynamic content example

And then, it automatically displays in the email itself:

pilgrim park daily announcement email example

This helps the district send out daily announcement emails in just a few minutes — making happy stakeholders and a less-stressed Communications office.

For more tips on email newsletters, read this blog post: 10 Proven Strategies for Amazing District Newsletters

Tip #3: Schedule Social Media Posts in Advance

A social media marketing strategy is two-thirds planning and scheduling, and another one-third posting and responding on-the-fly. Fortunately, when it comes to planning and scheduling, there are lots of affordable tools districts can use to post on social media in advance including SproutSocial, Hootsuite and Buffer. All three social media posting platforms allow you the ability to schedule posts in advance and review their success. All three also have paid and free versions. 

Set aside 1-2 hours every Friday or Monday to schedule your posts for the week. To keep your community in-the-loop, expect to post at least once per day on Facebook and Instagram, and at least five times per day on Twitter.

Tip #4: Use Hashtags on Social Media

Not sure if you have time to even come up with unique content for social media each week? Hashtags are an excellent way to curate content from your community and provide you with content for the future. For example, in a recent Finalsite webinar with Clarkston Community Schools, the district’s Director of Marketing and Communications Mary Ellen Rowe shared the success of a hashtag campaign they ran over the summer of 2018.


Webinar On-Demand: Increasing Engagement on Social Media with Clarkston Community Schools

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Using the hashtag #WolvesCMe, the district encouraged families to share their summer adventures — and Mary Ellen ended up with dozens upon dozens of photos to use in upcoming campaigns. 

wolvescme instagram hashtag posts

While having a hashtag strategy can save you time in the creation of content, you likely also need an efficient way to share that content. Using a social media aggregation tool like Finalsite Feeds, your district can automatically display social media content on your website that was shared by your community. This keeps your website content fresh, and your community engaged, with little to no effort from you!

Tip #5: Enlist Your Community

There are many ways to enlist your community to help save you time beyond the use of hashtags. Within your parent community, you likely have a variety of individuals who enjoy photography, videography, and writing...you just need to find them! Whether you work with a parent community of 200 or 20,000, you’re bound to find a handful of individuals you can trust to help you get the content you need to keep your community informed.

For example, Ellington Public Schools has enlisted almost 100% of its teachers to tweet throughout the day about what is happening in the classrooms throughout the day. The district then uses finalsite Feeds to pull in this content to the district homepage, and individual school pages.

ellington's twitter feed

Tip #6: Learn to Say “No”

Easier said than done, I’m sure. But really — how much of your day is spent handling tiny tasks that pop up here and there? A large part of saving time is learning how to delegate smaller tasks and say “no” to tasks that pop up, that aren’t urgent.

Tip #7: Use C.O.P.E. Software

If you work on a small team, C.O.P.E. software acts as an additional set of hands (or multiple). C.O.P.E. is the abbreviation for “Create Once, Publish Everywhere,” a term used industry-wide to describe software that allows you to create or edit a piece of content one time, and publish it everywhere you’d like it to go.

Finalsite’s numerous communications modules — including news, calendars, and athletics — feature C.O.P.E. functionality that allow website admins to create a single piece of content, and choose where they would like it to be published. Likewise, if there is an edit, a website admin can simply update and publish content, and the edit will be reflected everywhere it was previously published.

Tip #8: Get an Easy-to-Use CMS

Most professionals working in district communications offices play some role in the website — whether it is updating the district site, the district site and individual school sites, training website admins, or in some cases, a little bit of everything! Having an easy-to-use Content Management System will make your life easier, and the training of your website admins easier.

In addition to your CMS, choosing an easy-to-use accessibility solution is also a huge time-saver. Accessibility is a complicated topic that requires a keen attention to detail and a wealth of knowledge; on top of that, scan and report tools create a never-ending to-do list for communications offices (and technology offices, too). If you really want to save time, and not be bogged down with web accessibility tasks, investing in an accessibility managed service like AudioEye can save you hours upon hours of work and training.

Interested in learning how other districts get their website admins up-to-speed? Join Avon Grove School District on November 11 to learn their tried-and-true methods for training website contributors and managing website accessibility with AudioEye.

Tip #9: Have Rules, Guidelines, and Playbooks

Ever feel like you spend too much time explaining why something can’t be on your website’s homepage? Or why your theatre club can’t start a rogue Instagram account? Or why certain colors shouldn’t be used on the website? It’s likely because you haven’t taken the time to step back and set up some communication rules, guidelines and standards for your community to follow.

While this is a task that will take some time to set up initially, it saves you time in the long-run by providing you with a set point-of-reference as to what your standards are for digital and print. It also helps with saying “no”.

Tip #10: Stop Checking Your Inbox All Day Long

My best, personal piece of advice for saving time, is learning how to prioritize your own time for what matters. It is easy to spend all day checking your email inbox, answering emails, and responding to tasks that are “quick” or “easy.” But, by the end of the day, the accumulation of time you spend on quick and easy tasks can add up to hours. Limit the number of times you check your inbox throughout the day, and only respond to messages that require urgent attention during your busy workday. I personally like to use the early morning or late evening hours to respond to all other email messages.

Key Takeaway

Saving time while at work is a combination of software, processes, and will-power. However, when you harness the three, you’ll find yourself a more efficient and happy professional, producing higher-quality work at a higher rate. And, if you're curious about how Finalsite can help save you time in your day-to-day work, meet with us today!


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mia Major

As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia shares innovative and helpful content that helps schools and districts create captivating online experiences that increase brand awareness, student and faculty retention, and school-to-home communications. With more than five years experience in the industry, Mia has written more than 200 articles, eBooks, and reports about best practices for schools on a variety of topics from social media to web design. As a former TV and news reporter, and wedding photographer, Mia specializes in sharing how to use storytelling to power your school's admissions funnel. When she isn't busy creating content or hosting her #LIKEABOSS Podcast for FinalsiteFM, you can find her hiking with her Boston terrier, running an army wives meeting at Fort Campbell, or enjoying a well-deserved savasana on her yoga mat.

  • Marketing/Communications
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