- General Best Practices
Are you working in a small communications office, just like most schools? It seems there are never enough hours in the day to get everything done. The key to getting more done with a small team is working smarter, not harder. We’ve put together five tips on how to do it all (or at least try).
- Develop a Communications Plan
- Chunk Your Time
- Use Your “Team”
- Utilize C.O.P.E. Software and Social Media Scheduling Tools
- Let Things Go
#1: Develop a Communications Plan
Working smarter starts with having a plan. If you don’t have an annual communications plan developed, we recommend creating one to help guide your work throughout the school year. Setting goals, associated strategies and key performance indicators will help streamline your work each day by making it clear what your focus areas should be. Align your goals to your school or district’s strategic plan to make sure they are in line with the larger focus of your organization.
Your communications plan will likely outline:
- Goals for social media and how you’ll achieve them (how often to post and which channels to use)
- Email newsletter cadence
- Goals for increasing website traffic (including how and when website content gets updated)
- Engagement strategies for key stakeholders
Each goal that you set should be written in the SMART format (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Specific).
Here’s an example:
Goal: Increase social media engagement by 10 percent by the end of the school year.
Specific: It is clear and concise
Measurable: 10 percent increase in engagement
Attainable: The 10 percent goal is doable over the course of the school year
Relevant: Social media is key to communications
Time-specific: Needs to be completed by the end of the school year
Associated strategies or action steps:
- Defining what social media channels will be utilized
- Outlining how often and what to post
- Use of hashtags and stories
Key performance indicators:
- Number of comments
- Number of shares
- Number of likes
- Number of followers
If you find yourself spending too much time on certain communication efforts that don’t relate to any of your annual goals, those tasks should be pushed lower on your list of priorities, making room for the ones that will help you reach your pre-determined annual goals.
TIP: Creating a communications plan without a follow-through strategy is a recipe for failure. Revisit your goals and associated strategies at the end of each month and quarter to re-evaluate strategy and measure progress toward completion. If you aren’t on track toward meeting your goals during these monthly or quarterly reviews, it’s a good opportunity to define barriers and create a plan to overcome them.
#2: Chunk Your Time
How many of you have started a video project or social media post, and paused for a moment to check email or take a call? The few minutes you planned to spend on email or on the phone can quickly become a half hour or more, stealing time and creativity from the original task you set out to complete! The more stops and starts you have throughout the day, the less productive you will be.
Although interruptions are bound to happen periodically, “chunking” your time can help you stay on task and get more done.
Time-chunking is a commonly used productivity strategy where you break your day into chunks, focusing on similar tasks all at once, instead of doing them periodically throughout the day. Tackling the activities that are similar in nature and doing them in sequence will help you check these things off of your to-do list quickly.
Here’s an example of a school communicator’s daily schedule that makes use of the time-chunking strategy:
8-9 a.m.: Tackle emails, phone calls and other important items that need immediate attention
9 a.m. to 12 p.m.: Digital marketing, including social media and website updates, email newsletters and other digital materials that need attention
12-12:30 p.m.: Break
1:30-3 p.m.: Visit schools to gather stories, photos and videos
3-4 p.m.: Create press releases and share with media, parent influencers
4-4:30 p.m.: Tie up loose ends with email, phone calls or in-person conversations
TIP: Constantly checking your email can quickly become a time suck. Instead, dedicate a few minutes at the top of every hour to read and send emails and make a commitment to stay out of your inbox otherwise. Respond to the critical messages right away, and leave the less important emails to handle at the end of your work day.
#3: Use your “Team”
While the communications or marketing department is usually the smallest in a school or district, EVERYONE in the community can be an extension of your team. Teachers, parents, students and administrators are usually willing participants in the marketing communications process. They just need to be utilized!
You can’t be in five places at once, so taking photos across the school or district every day can be challenging. Instead of taking photos and video clips yourself in every instance, ask a parent or teacher to send you their photos instead. They are usually taking them anyway, and are excited to have them used by the school or district for marketing purposes.
An easy strategy to get the ball rolling is to set up a Google Form for photo and story submissions, and blast it out to your staff.
The marketing communications team is always looking for ways to highlight the amazing things happening in our classrooms. If you have photos showcasing newsworthy activities or events, please share them with me through this online form! I would love to use your photos for publicity and marketing purposes.
Thank you for helping to spread the good news about our school!
Encouraging your staff to get on Twitter and Instagram and use a common hashtag is another way to make sure you’re getting content from across your school community. This is a strategy used by schools across the country, and is an easy way to multiply your content curation!
School District 155 uses the hashtag #D155Inspire to encourage staff, students and parents to share content, resulting in a rich Twitter feed full of photos and video!
One way schools can share this content automatically is by using a social media integration software (like Finalsite Feeds). By automatically publishing content that uses a specific hashtag to your school's website, your website will always have new content — and you didn’t even have to lift a finger!
TIP: Using content shared with you by parents or staff members validates their efforts and encourages them to continue the practice. The more you share this content, the more frequently you’ll receive it!
#4: Utilize C.O.P.E. Software and Social Media Scheduling Tools
So often, we are publishing similar content across multiple channels. Taking the time to individually push content across every channel is time consuming! Finalsite’s C.O.P.E. (Create Once, Publish Everywhere) functionality makes this task much easier by allowing school communicators to create a single piece of content and publish it across several platforms all at once. (As a matter-of-fact, this functionality saved Highline Public Schools hundreds of hours each year!)
Similar tools exist for social media management. Instead of posting on the fly throughout the day, schedule your posts simultaneously using a platform like Hootsuite or Sprout Social.
TIP: Set aside time to schedule social media posts once a week, instead of making this a daily task. Often, you’ll have evergreen content that can be posted anytime. Save up those items and schedule them throughout the week to keep your social sites fresh.
#5: Let Things Go
It is easy for people who aren’t in the marketing/communications field to assume your beautiful graphics, video projects and blog posts only take a few minutes to create. In reality, we know that a well-done video, brochure or e-book could take several full days to complete, or longer! When you don’t have a large team to lean on to complete large-scale and even the smaller communications requests, you need to learn to set boundaries and say “no.”
This one can be hard for many of us, especially since we want to be helpful, but often don’t have someone else to delegate tasks to. This is where Tip #1 comes back into play. If a request comes in that you don’t have time to complete, or simply doesn’t fit in with the overall goals and strategies of your department or organization, it is a good idea to tactfully turn it down.
Saying no is never easy. Here is a simple framework for deciding if a task should be turned down.
- Does it contribute to core communications goals?
- Are there faster ways of completing the work?
- Can a teacher or staff member accomplish the task themselves?
TIP: We all have strengths and weaknesses. Determine the areas of your job that you really love doing and focus your energy there. If there are tasks that you aren’t as skilled in or take you a very long time to complete, plan your budget accordingly to outsource some of this work so your time can remain focused on the things you do best.
Doing it all in a small school communications office is a tall order, but can be done with the right mindset and strategy. Using these five simple tips will help to increase your productivity and efficiency throughout the school year.
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.