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5 Tips for Creating District Newsletters that Parents Actually Read
Emily Howeth

Emails from your district need to be visually interesting (but not overwhelming), contain all the important details parents need to know (but not be overloaded), and easily read on a mobile device (but still have all the amazing content). It's a hard balance to strike.

We’ve all read good and bad emails, but when you have to create content, design templates, and publish newsletters all by yourself, it’s a whole different ball game.

I’ll walk you through how to design a newsletter for your school’s communications, so you can create engaging email newsletters that boost parent engagement.

1. Keep it simple and consistent

When it comes to creating better newsletters, branding is important: you want your newsletters to look the same week to week. A solid template will let parents know what they’re opening, and it will give you a solid foundation for what content you need to include every week or month.

Parents are reading these emails on their phones, so design with a mobile-first mindset. Don’t focus too much on intricate hero images or try to cram too much content in the first section. A simple header tells parents that it’s news from your school or district, and they’ll come to know what to expect when your newsletter arrives in their inbox.

Take a look at this great example from Stevenson High School. They have a clear header that informs the reader what the email is going to tell them, and there is one central story and call to action at the top.

screenshot of Stevenson High School email

Pro tip: Sign up for newsletters from organizations or other school districts if possible, and start paying attention to emails that make you want to open them. Look at layouts that catch your eye, and don’t be afraid to borrow some ideas…Take note of what makes you keep reading or just gloss over the content.

Email Newsletters: Successful Strategies for School Districts | Finalsite

2. Involve your school community

Newsletters are a fantastic opportunity to amplify student voices in your school. Each student has a unique experience with your district, and that’s a story worth telling. Your role, and your district’s role, is to uplift students and prepare them for the life ahead... Why not give them an opportunity to contribute something today? Their voices and opinions will reveal what students and parents value.
Staff members, principals, or superintendent AMAs (Ask Me Anything) are fun, quick content ideas and give your district personality. Originally popularized on Reddit, these can be super valuable for your community to get to know leaders that could be seen as unreachable. Pepper in lighthearted questions with ones that share their vision for the district, such as:

  • Do you have any pets — How did they get their names?
  • What’s the best thing about our schools?
  • What are you excited to see this year?

Pro tip: User-generated content is valuable. You want to feature your students and families — if they’re in the newsletter, they’ll want to read the newsletter — and tell their friends to do the same.

3. Reshare and personalize your best content

With content as your shining star, start building a library of resources to pull from. Newsletters don’t always need to contain serious announcements or breaking district news, so reshare evergreen content from your website.

You’ve put a ton of effort into creating a guide or ebook, or blog post, so why not distribute it in as many places as you can? By using the C.O.P.E. strategy, you don’t need to think of another new piece of content every time you send a newsletter or email: whatever dynamic content you add to your website could be added to your newsletter. You’ve got it, so don’t let it go to waste!

Laptop and iPhone mockup of Finalsite's email newsletter software for districts

With Finalsite Messages, you can automatically add the content from your website to your newsletter with a few simple clicks. Your job is made easier since you’re not manually posting the same thing in different locations, and your families are more informed since the info is shared in multiple places. Your emails can be personalized and dynamic, based on user groups you set up, so parents are getting the most relevant information without having to wade through anything else.

Pro tip: Sometimes less is more: don’t feel the need to add everything just to fill space. Readers appreciate brevity! On top of that, if you’re piling content in, the important information can get lost.

4. Let your personality shine

Have you ever received an email that automatically catches your eye? Chances are it’s because of a well-written subject line and preview text. Knowing your district’s voice and showing your personality can engage your audience before anyone even opens your newsletter.

Share interesting trivia questions

Find something interesting about one of your schools or even your town as a whole. Readers can guess their answer by replying to the newsletter and even win a prize, then you can share the winner and the right answer the following week to keep everyone engaged.

Find inspiration

Don’t be afraid to look outside of your district calendar and find some new holidays to celebrate. For example, August 26 is National Dog Day. You can gather some photos of faculty members' dogs wearing school swag or ask readers for family pet photos and feature them in that week’s newsletter!

Want a handy calendar to help you plan what “holidays” to celebrate? Download the latest version of The Complete Social Media Calendar for Schools and Districts.

Unleash your best dad jokes

The occasional pun or “dad joke” as a subject line or your intro can result in an eye roll from a reader, but it can also result in more clicks and email opens. Stay light-hearted and families will open your emails with a smile. (PS: What did one pencil say to the other on the first day of school? “Lookin’ sharp!”)

5. Prioritize one CTA

If you want your community to engage with your school newsletter, make that objective CLEAR. Every email should have a CTA for the reader, so be sure to define a clear call to action and provide the next step.

Some reports suggest that unique CTAs converted 202% better than generic options, so get creative – test out new CTAs and track which one performs better, whether that’s to register for an upcoming event, submit a form, or support your schools. A lot depends on your readers and what language will resonate with them, but test new strategies and track the results.

mockup of finalsite blog on mobile

Pro tip: Make it stand out visually: you want it to be clear for anyone who’s reading or just skimming the email. On top of that, make sure your CTA is large enough to be easily tapped on mobile by making it larger, increasing the font and using a pop of color as the background. Take a look at our weekly blog digest: Relevant content, a quick description of what you’re about to read, and a bold CTA button that’s easy to tap.

Key Takeaway

Inboxes are cluttered these days, but parents want to be informed about their kids' school – they will open emails once you give them a reason to. With the right tools, you can create visually compelling and well-rounded district newsletters… no graphic design training required!

Easily create and send personalized emails with Finalsite Messages. Click here to get started!

Emily Howeth Headshot


Emily joined the Finalsite team in February 2020 after nine years of event marketing. She is now in charge of the email marketing strategy to connect Finalsite with schools around the world, and helps them learn how to communicate with parents, students, and their communities. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, daughter, and two 60-pound lap dogs.

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