The start of the school year can feel like a never-ending sprint with an equally long to-do list. There’s so much you want to accomplish paired with the inevitable crisis or emergent situation that will arise, there’s just not enough time to do it all.
So how do you prioritize what’s really important versus what you might want to do or what others may ask of you? It all starts with setting strategic goals for your district’s communication efforts and ensuring the work you are doing aligns with your objectives.
We’ve broken the process of setting district communication goals down into some simple categories that will have the greatest impact on your communications efforts:
We start with website goals since most of the communicating you’ll be doing should have a home here. For example, your main method of communicating a particular message may be email, text, or push notification, but it should be archived in an easy-to-find location on your district’s website for ease of access later. For all schools and districts, big or small, your website should be your main communications vehicle, a one-stop shop for information.
Setting website goals for the school year isn’t complex or difficult. Here is a simple goal with associated subcategories that you can put into place for yourself very easily.
Website Goal: Update website content on a weekly basis to ensure only accurate, up-to-date information is visible.
There’s nothing worse than browsing through a school website for an important calendar date or checking for an email that you missed to find the calendar content from last school year or the email archives haven’t been touched since 2021.
Updating content can be overwhelming, so we’ll break it down into the most critical important categories to pay attention to weekly.
Let’s start with your homepage. In September, a website visitor doesn’t want to see graduation photos or winter sledding images. Ensure you’ve updated images with meet-the-teacher shots, freshly manicured campuses, or something else that aligns with a new school year starting.
Take a look at Lakota Local Schools' homepage. It says, “New to Lakota? Join us for an ice cream social on Sept. 10.” Perfect! As a visitor to this website, this hero image not only tells me they are a welcoming group of people but also that they keep parents up-to-date and in the know.
Another key area to consider updating weekly is your district calendar. This is likely one of the most visited areas of your website and one that your parents and community feel is of utmost importance.
Barrington 220’s website not only has the calendar in a prominent location — both in the main navigation and on the sidebar of the home page — but it’s also updated with current dates that people need to know about.
A third area to stay on top of is updating your communications hub. How often have you missed an email that was sent to you? It’s easy to do when most people receive dozens, even hundreds of messages each day. Archive your newsletter content in a hub on your website so visitors can browse through any messages they may have missed without having to dig through an overly crowded inbox.
Glenbrook 225 is a high school district with two campuses. On their communications hub, they have district news archives and each school campus news archives, making it simple for parents to figure out what’s happening if they missed something in their inbox.
If your website needs more work than just these three areas, you might want to consider doing a deeper dive and taking our free course, Website Fixer Upper: A 6-part DIY course to take your website from drab to fab.
Another area to think about when setting your school year goals is how you’ll structure your email communications. Email is an (almost) guaranteed way to get your message out to your community. We can all agree that email communications are critical, but what if they aren’t being read?
The secret to email success is understanding expectations and meeting them! A big part of this is setting the expectations for what parents and staff should see when the school year begins. Once your target audiences are familiar with what to expect from your email messages, they’ll know why it’s important to open them.
That brings us to our email goal to help you start the year off on a good note:
Email Goal: Develop and execute a predictable weekly email cadence for staff, parents and students
Sounds simple, right? To have a predictable cadence means you first need to have a plan.
We break down email newsletters into these categories with associated send dates:
- School Newsletters from building principals: Sent on Fridays, can include what to expect next week, wrap up from the week prior
- District Newsletters from the communications office: Sent monthly (pick a date and advertise it)
- Board of Education wrap-ups: Sent the day after a board meeting, once or twice per month
- Crisis communications: Sent as needed
If you communicate this schedule to parents as you start the school year (and stick to it!) they will learn the pattern of your communication, start looking for the messages on the preset days of the week, and in turn, be more informed!
Let’s take a look at this in action:
Barrington 220 School District makes it easy for the community to understand what messages to expect and when. Blue color-coded district communications come out monthly, yellow board of education newsletters are bi-monthly, and red superintendent updates are sent as needed. School-specific news is sent more frequently and housed on each school website. Brilliant!
Social media goals
In today’s world, social media is an expectation for all schools and districts. It’s a means of sharing positive messages and connecting with people on a platform they are using on a daily basis. Incorporating social media into your school year goals will only boost your district’s visibility and overall reputation.
Social media can also be a time suck for communicators. How often have you been asked, “Can you just post this on Facebook?” If you don’t have a set plan for how often you’ll be posting to any given social platform, it can quickly get out of hand.
Often, social media goals are surrounding engagement numbers, which we agree with! However, in order to get optimal engagement, you’ll need to determine a posting frequency and stick to it. There’s just as much danger in over-posting as underutilizing your pages, so letting your community and staff know how frequently to expect new posts will be helpful in setting expectations across the board.
Here’s a sample goal you can put into practice this school year for social media:
Social Media Goal: Post to Facebook once per day, 5-7 days per week
*Social media posting frequency will vary by platform. For a deep dive into social strategy, download our free social media guide to get you started!
Not sure what to post that will ultimately boost your engagement numbers? Photos are always a good place to start. People love seeing happy images of activities, sports and learning.
Clarkston Community Schools shared a photo gallery of their annual senior sunrise tradition that earned them more than 100 likes — not too shabby!
Stevenson High School has created a campaign called “Stories of Stevenson,” offering fun staff and student profiles that can be shared across a variety of platforms, including social media. A good idea to implement in any school or district!
Finalsite has a free social media calendar, sharing ideas for what you can post every day for a full three months!
School district communications can be daunting. You may find yourself going down rabbit holes and wasting time if you don’t have goals in place to start your school year. Set goals for your website, email communications and social media channels to set expectations for your staff and community. By doing so, you’ll keep yourself on track and keep everyone informed — a win/win!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Morgan Delack is Finalsite's VP of Communications, leading the marketing team's public school content, branding initiatives and professional development events. Morgan's background is a mixture of public school communications and television journalism, having worked in both industries for several years. She was named among NSPRA's 35 under 35 and has earned two Emmy Awards for her work in broadcasting. Morgan lives in the Chicago area with her husband and two kids.