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5 Brand-Building Communication Tools For Your District
Maggie Twaroski

Every time constituents receive a message from your district, they’re getting a taste of your brand. Not just tangible brand assets like colors and logos, but also abstract features like your district’s values, voice, and style. Keeping families promptly informed with up-to-the-minute, branded messages builds trust and reliability in your district, and promotes retention in the long term.

Your website, email, and mobile app (among others) are vital to your brand communication, but using these channels effectively isn’t always easy. Creating, distributing, and updating content is often a manual, time-consuming process that district leaders and communication offices simply don’t have time for. The good news is, a brand becomes much simpler when you have the right communication tools for your school in place.

The top five communication tools you can use to build and maintain your district’s brand (without any extra effort) are:

1. Your school district's website
2. Community portals
3. Email
4. A mobile app
5. Mass notifications 

1. Your School District's Website

When families need information about your schools, your website may be their first stop. Users expect a school district website that is reliable, accessible, up-to-date, and visually appealing. With just a quick look, users should get a clear sense of your district’s brand through your colors, logos, images, tagline, and mission statement. For many website visitors, this will be the first interaction they have with your public school's brand, so your content should be friendly, welcoming, and helpful.

If viewers need to spend more than a minute looking for the information they need, you might be driving them away from your site. The organization of your site is key to providing a positive user experience. You might have the most glamorous website out there, but if viewers can’t find the information they need quickly, it’s all for naught.

Here’s an example from Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District that demonstrates the power of organization. On its homepage, District 191 has several eye-catching tabs with descriptive dropdown menus along with a quick links tab and a list of schools.

screenshot of Burnsville Eagan Savage homepage

They also have self-selection for teachers, parents, and students which provides quick access to segmented content and portals. Within a few seconds of arriving at the website, viewers can easily navigate to their desired section without needing to dig for information. 

Your district’s website should be the foundation for all other communication tools including email, social media, and your mobile app. In other words, any information your constituents see in these other channels should already exist on your website. This ensures everyone has access to the information they need in a central location. 

Plus, with Finalsite’s content management system, Composer, communication offices only need to worry about posting content to the district website once. With C.O.P.E functionality (create once, publish everywhere), content automatically becomes available to use in other channels without the need to rewrite or copy. The same goes for updating individual school websites. With Composer, you can publish content to individual school websites without needing to repost it there manually. 

2. Your District’s Community Portals

School-to-home communication can be challenging, but portals make it much easier. Parents, faculty, students, and staff can all benefit from having their own portals where they can communicate 1:1 with other constituents while also gaining access to highly targeted information. 

Instead of digging through multiple web pages to find relevant information, groups can quickly find handbooks, directories, schedules, links, and anything else they may need. With the right tool, districts won’t have to worry about manually publishing content within the portals. Since Finalsite’s Portals integrate with your website, you’ll have access to the same school branding and content that already exists on your website, without needing to create anything from scratch.

screenshot of Issaquah School District portals

Issaquah School District makes it easy for viewers to find their portal from a dropdown menu at the top of their website. From there, students, families, and staff can quickly log in to their corresponding portal. Their “family access” portal page is particularly well done since it includes a short video explaining the login process and what to expect inside. 

Though public portals are convenient, password-protected portals allow for 1:1 communication and provide more private and personalized information you wouldn’t post on your public website. For example, parents may use their portal to access their children’s report cards, attendance records, and important forms. 

The Ultimate School Website Planner

3. Your District’s Email and Newsletters

Now that districts can utilize “new” tools like social media and SMS messaging, email might seem like an antiquated system. But with over 80 percent of individuals using email on a daily basis, email is still one of the most effective communication methods. 

Using email to communicate with constituents isn’t a new concept, but the way we write and distribute those emails is evolving. As technology advances, we’re able to send emails with more automation and personalization, making email an efficient way to engage multiple constituent groups without wasting time or duplicating efforts. Because let’s be honest, the last thing communication offices have time to do is create individual emails from scratch.

Bloomfield Hills Schools newsletter mockup

The key is to find an email automation tool with templates and website integration so that you’ll have everything you need for your email within a few clicks. A branded email newsletter, like the one Bloomfield Hills Schools sends every week with Finalsite’s Messages, integrates with its school district website. The beauty is that content you create there can be easily branded for the various types of emails you send, whether it’s a newsletter, event invitation, announcement, or calendar update.

Pro Tip: Segment and personalize your emails so that each recipient will see information that’s relevant to them. Not only will this increase your clickthrough rates, but it will support your brand by reminding recipients that they are cared for and recognized. 

4. Your District’s Mobile App

With nearly 90 percent of a mobile user’s time spent in apps (not browsers), there’s never been a better time to incorporate a mobile app into your district communications. With an app, users can immediately be notified of any important updates on the device they use most often, so everyone can stay in the loop.

As with your other communication tools, your mobile app should be an extension of your district website in terms of content and branding. What separates the app from your website is that users will have more advanced filtering and personalization capabilities, so they can easily view the information that’s most important to them. This is particularly useful for parents who have children in multiple schools, as they can filter and select content related to both schools rather than navigating to each one separately.

Tippecanoe School Mobile app mockup

Tippecanoe School Corporation’s mobile app users who want to see the event calendar of a specific school or activity can filter the app’s calendar according to their preferences. None of the district’s app content needs to be created from scratch — it all comes from its website using C.O.P.E functionality. 

5. Your District’s Mass Notifications

In case the rest of this blog post didn’t make it clear, we’re all about automation. Avoiding duplicate efforts is the epicenter of any sustainable communications plan, and this goes for mass notifications too.

Imagine having to push the same notification to all of your channels separately. Or worse yet, mistakenly missing one, leaving some individuals uninformed. Getting those notifications out to your app, website, text message, email, social media, and phone calls would take a lot of time.

The key is to do it all in one place, one time. With Messages XR, Finalsite’s mass notifications solution for schools, districts can push notifications to all their channels without duplicating efforts. 

Keeping constituents up to date with urgent notifications reinforces your brand’s commitment to communication. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. There’s an entire list of other benefits to mass notifications ranging from better engagement to multilingual support.

Key takeaways

At first glance, your district’s communication plan and brand strategy might seem like separate entities, but they’re closely connected. Regularly updating your school district website and portals, automating emails, and streamlining notifications all build trust and reliability within your district. And with the right communication tools, you can easily align your messages with your brand’s mission, values, and style. 

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maggie twaroski headshot


As a freelance writer, Maggie works with education technology companies to expand their customer base through content marketing. Prior to freelance writing, she spent several years working with district leaders, administrators and teachers in their efforts to select and implement educational resources for their schools. Maggie resides in Minnesota with her husband and daughter.

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