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A Survival Guide for Small School Communication Offices
Connor Gleason

Managing a one-person office can be a rewarding, yet challenging journey. It can also be completely exhausting and terrifying.

As the singular force behind your school's marketing and communication efforts, you carry the weight of multiple responsibilities on your shoulders. From crafting engaging content to managing social media platforms and helping with bus duty, it may sometimes feel like a daunting, lonely, and thankless task.

Whether you're fortunate to have a small team or you're an office of one, you face a unique set of challenges — school comms offices juggle both the external marketing that engages new families AND the internal communications that keeps everything running smoothly.

You’d think being pulled in five directions would earn the support of a large team, wouldn’t you? Think again….Even if you're flying solo, there are strategies that can help you not only survive but thrive in your role.

Let's explore the benefits of automation, collaborative tools, and effective time management techniques, and discover how to harness the opportunities that arise from being the sole marketer and communicator in your school community.

#1: Develop a Marketing and Communications Plan for Your School

Whether you're a newcomer or a seasoned professional whose team abandoned you just when you needed them most (thanks, guys) a well-crafted marketing and communications plan is the foundation of success. Think of it as the "fire" of island survival...

Begin by aligning your plan with your school or district's strategic objectives to ensure synergy. Set SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Specific) and design strategies to achieve them.

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, such as: Increase social media engagement on Instagram by 10% 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 SMART goals, those tasks should be pushed lower on your list of priorities, making room for the ones that will help you reach your 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 evaluate and measure your progress. If you aren’t on track toward meeting your goals during these reviews, it’s a good opportunity to define barriers and create a plan to overcome them.

With a solid plan, you'll have a clear roadmap to guide your daily tasks and ensure that your efforts contribute to your school's overarching goals.

#2: Use the COPE Model and Repurpose Content

The time to individually push content across every channel is time-consuming! Maximize your content's impact by using the COPE model (Create Once, Publish Everywhere), a strategy that creates content only once, but repurposes it for different platforms.

For schools and districts utilizing Composer, Finalsite's content management system, its COPE functionality, and shared elements allow schools to create or reuse a single piece of content and publish it across several platforms all at once.

This approach saves precious time and resources while ensuring consistent messaging across platforms. Repurpose content by turning blog posts into videos or infographics, or converting statistics into eye-catching social media posts.

Keep Reading: Mass Notification Systems & COPE Strategies for Schools

Brentwood Union Free School District puts COPE into practice with Finalsite's Post module. A news story can be created and posted on the district site, and by tagging it with the corresponding school level, it can also be displayed on that specific school's site — one story, posted in multiple locations and creating that personalized user experience that families want — perfect!

brentwood mobile app mockup on a smartphone

PRO TIP: Set aside time to schedule evergreen social media posts once a week, instead of making this a daily task.

Keep Reading: Updating Your District's Website - Without Lifting a Finger

#3: Surround Yourself with Partners and Use Your “Team”

It may feel like you're on an island, but you're not alone! 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.

Your school community is a treasure trove of potential collaborators. Engage teachers, parents, students, and administrators to create and share content. Not only will this provide you with a wealth of content, but it will also foster a sense of unity and involvement within your community.

By empowering your community to contribute, you'll create a dynamic and diverse content library that showcases your school's strengths. Engaging your community builds trust, fosters loyalty, and generates valuable content.

Consider these options:

  • Strong partnerships help extend your reach, provide valuable resources, and offer fresh perspectives for your marketing and communications efforts.
  • Crowdsourcing allows you to tap into the collective creativity of your community, access diverse perspectives, and gather authentic content. (Your students probably know more about social media than you...)
  • Create a content calendar to organize and schedule crowdsourced material, and establish submission guidelines.

You can’t be in five places at once, so taking photos across the school or district every day can be challenging. Ask a parent or teacher to send you their photos instead, or encourage your school to use a common hashtag to make sure you’re getting content from across your school community.

Neuva School's Finalsite Feeds

Can't find time to update the homepage with fresh content? The Nueva School uses Finalsite Feeds, our social media integration software, to automatically pull in and publish content that uses a specific hashtag to its school's website. With that strategy, your website will always have new content — and you didn’t even have to lift a finger!

#4: Automate as Much as You Can

Automation is your best friend when it comes to time management and consistency. By embracing automation, you'll free up valuable time to focus on priorities and even reduce the risk of human error.

Herbon Academy email on a laptop mockup

When a family inquires or requests more information, Finalsite Workflows can keep families engaged with an automatic drip campaign, just like Hebron Academy does. Highlighting academic programs, the faculty, student life — everything that sets your school apart can be working in the background while you focus on other tasks.

#5: Say "No" and Find Help When You Need It

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness...Even superheroes need a helping hand sometimes. Recognize when your workload becomes too much and reach out to colleagues, volunteers, or freelancers for assistance.

For people who aren’t in the marketing/communications field, it's easy 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, landing page, or email campaign could take several days to complete, or longer!

When you don’t have a large team to lean on to complete large-scale and even smaller communications requests, you need to learn to set boundaries and tactfully say "no" when necessary. It's essential for maintaining balance and avoiding burnout.

Saying "no" is never easy, especially since we want to be helpful, but often don’t have someone else to delegate tasks to. Here's a simple framework for deciding if a task should be turned down: 

  • Does it contribute to the core goals of your school? 
  • Are there faster ways of completing the work?
  • Was this a last-minute request with a low ROI?
  • Can faculty and staff members accomplish the task themselves?

Additionally, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and allocate your budget accordingly. If certain tasks don't align with your expertise, consider outsourcing them to professionals who can complete them more efficiently. This will enable you to focus on areas where you excel and make the most significant impact.

mead school website screenshot

“We were so short-handed, and there never seemed enough hours in the day to get all the things done,” remembers Jeannette Baxendale, Mead School’s Director of Marketing and Assistant Director of Admissions. “We all wore so many hats and we didn't have a clear strategy. Over time, our online presence had become jumbled, and we were a bit of a mess.” That’s when The Mead School reached out to Finalsite Advantage for a strategic partner for its school marketing and support.

Over the course of their partnership, the team has tackled multiple long-term projects including a website redesign, new marketing materials (like their new viewbook), admissions and enrollment initiatives, rebranding, messaging, marketing, and even a new approach to internal communications.

6. Foster Strong Collaborations and Partnerships

Building strong partnerships within and outside your school community can dramatically enhance your marketing and communications efforts, making a smaller team feel like a larger office.

Collaborate with local businesses or other schools to host events, create content, or cross-promote programs. Host events that showcase your school's strengths, celebrate its achievements, and foster a sense of unity and pride.

By actively engaging your community, you'll build trust, and loyalty, and not only extend your reach but also provide valuable resources, fresh perspectives, and exciting opportunities for growth.

7. Master Time Management

As a one-person marketing and communications office, effective time management is a great coping strategy. Develop a system to organize and prioritize tasks, ensuring that you focus on activities that have the most significant impact on your goals. Utilizing project management tools like Trello or Asana can help you stay on top of deadlines, track progress, and delegate tasks when necessary.

8. Invest in Professional Development

Continuous learning is vital for staying ahead in marketing and communications. Despite not having a larger team, staying current on trends and best practices can help you become a more effective marketing and communications pro.

Allocate time and resources to enhance your skills and knowledge through online courses, workshops, webinars, or professional development conferences.

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9. Celebrate Your Successes and Learn From Your Challenges

Finally, take the time to acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, both big and small. Recognize the hard work and dedication that goes into each project, and use your successes to fuel your motivation and drive.

When faced with challenges, treat them as opportunities to learn, grow, and improve. By maintaining a positive and resilient mindset, you'll be better prepared to tackle whatever comes your way.

Key takeaway

Doing it all in a small school communications office is a tall order, but can be done with the right mindset and strategy. By embracing these strategies and maintaining a proactive and resourceful mindset, you can overcome the challenges and thrive.

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Connor Gleason Headshot


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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