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Text, Tweet, Email, or Call? The Best Ways for Districts to Engage Parents
Connor Gleason

Effective engagement with parents in your school district’s community is more important now than ever. From 2019 to 2022, the percentage of district administrators who felt communication with parents is a "significant challenge" has doubled.

The pandemic raised the stakes for personalized communication: Parents have new demands and expectations for engaging with their local school, families expect the transparency for their child’s education that was experienced during virtual learning, and parents want more communication from their child’s teacher and school district — but they also want it “their way.” 

And while there are different kinds of communication to send to parents, from general information to crisis and health alerts, how does your school or district know you’re getting the right message across at the right time through the right channels?

Now we can tell exactly how those parents want to receive communications with the results from “Text, Twitter, Email, Call: Parents’ Preferences for Communication and Engagement in 2022.”

Finalsite has partnered with Project Tomorrow to gather data from their latest Speak Up Project, a survey that asked nearly 5,000 parents of school-aged children across the country about their personal preferences for teacher, school, and district communications. The eBook gives us more than twenty pages with detailed insight into how to build strategic communication plans and tips for using parent communication preferences to increase engagement.

Download your free copy of “Text, Twitter, Email, Call: Parents’ Preferences for Communication and Engagement in 2022."

Teacher-to-home communication preferences

When it comes to communication strategies with your community and parents, a “one size fits all” approach is not the answer. Today there are parents and grandparents that span four different generations (Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z.) With their different preferences for how they want to communicate with their students’ schools, it’s critical communication leaders lean into the differentiation of messages and modes of engagement based on audience preferences. 

While parents across all generations feel connected to their child’s school and believe that their school enables them to engage in their child’s school life, there are generational differences when it comes to feeling comfortable using digital tools to receive information. For instance, 

  • Across all four generations, parents value a face-to-face meeting with their child’s teacher for parent-teacher communications.
  • Millennial and Gen X parents are more likely to be satisfied with an online meeting compared to Gen Z parents and Baby Boomer parents and grandparents.
  • As compared to a class portal, more than a third (39 percent) of Millennial parents prefer a mobile app, while Gen Z parents are more than twice as likely as Gen X and Baby Boomer parents to be comfortable using a mobile app.
  • As younger parents become part of the school community, text messaging between parents and teachers continues to gain in popularity. 58 percent of Gen Z parents say “text me” to their child’s teacher; only 37 percent of Gen X parents have the same wish.

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Social media usage preferences

Overall, today’s parents are using more social media tools in their personal lives compared to four years ago. That’s not surprising…However, a school district’s understanding of how different generations of parents are utilizing social media is the key to understanding the potential for better engagement. 

For example, while a high percentage of parents use Facebook in their personal lives, on average 22 percent of parents (or one-fifth of your parent community) say they never use Facebook. A majority of your Gen Z and Millennial parents say they use Instagram “always” or “often” in their personal lives. However, 70 percent of your Baby Boomer audience says “Insta” is just not part of their day-to-day habits.

a magazine mockup of text, tweet, or call report

District-to-home communications preferences

For district communications, whether that’s general information or crisis alerts and updates, the preferences of parents depend upon the message, the tool, and their overall familiarity and comfort with using technology.

For general information, over two-thirds of parents across all four generations say these are the most effective ways to disseminate general information messages to them:

  • Email: 82%
  • Online newsletter: 79%
  • Social media post: 79%
  • School website update: 77%
  • Mobile app post: 68%

However, when it comes to crisis communications, across all generations, parents favor an automated phone call to receive alerts from their child’s school district.

Questions to ask when developing an effective communications plan for your district

While you’re taking in the research, there are key questions you can ask yourself in order to develop an effective school communications plan and support parent engagement.

  1. What can you do to help teachers and administrators see the value of different modes of communication to support various types of parents and education guardians?
  2. What can leaders do to help teams suspend their personal assumptions about what parents want or need in terms of communication modalities?
  3. How are you evaluating the efficacy of your dissemination efforts when using so many different tools for communication and engagement?
  4. What is driving your usage of various social media platforms with parents?
  5. Are your choosing certain tools for parent communication because you like the efficiency or because you know the tools are the best for reaching the largest audience?

Key takeaway

Today, much of the perceived value of the local school district is dependent upon efficient school-to-home communications and the level of engagement from parents.

For district communications, whether that’s general information or crisis alerts and regular updates, the preferences of parents depend upon the message, the tool, and their overall familiarity and comfort with using technology.

Are you making sure to diversify your messaging tools? Check out more results from this report including preferences for health updates, and the role social media platforms like Twitter, TikTok, and Instagram play in district communications and engagement strategies.

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Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.

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