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30 Tips for Better Emails, Newsletters, & District Communications
Emily Howeth

Effective communication within a school district can feel like steering a large ship — it takes precision and thoughtful adjustments to change course.

Whether it’s the timing of a newsletter, the format of a mobile alert, refining email subject lines, or optimizing content for various platforms, these small tweaks in your district's communications can lead to big improvements. 

Let’s explore 30 tactics to set the stage for improved school district communications.

Effective Email Communication

1. Subject Lines Matter

To make subject lines appealing, include personalization, such as the parent’s name, and make them catchy to stand out in a crowded inbox. An outstanding 72% of people say they only engage with personalized emails now. A subject line as simple as “John, here's your school newsletter” can significantly increase the chances of the email being opened.

2. Give Users A Next Step

Always give parents a clear next step in your emails. This could be a link to a survey, a reminder to sign up for a parent-teacher conference, or a call to download forms that need to be completed. For new families or less tech-savvy parents, detailed instructions on how to proceed are especially important to ensure they feel supported and informed.

3. Emails are Read on Phones First

Sixty percent of emails are opened on mobile devices, so it's essential to design emails that are easy to read on small screens. This means using larger fonts, concise messages, and simple layouts that adapt well to various screen sizes. Always check how an email looks on a mobile device before sending it out to ensure it’s clear and accessible.

4. Think Vertically

When we scroll on our phones every day, we interact with content vertically, so your emails should mimic that layout. You can do this by placing all the most critical information at the top of your email, which creates a clear, linear flow of information.

newsletter on iphone mockup

Bonus Tip: If you’re using Finalsite’s email communications tool, Messages, a layout with two columns will stack under the left one on a mobile device! 

5. Use Responsive Email Templates

Finalsite Messages also allows you to preview how each email will look on each device while you’re still building it, giving you an accurate idea of how the content is adjusted and scaled based on screen size.

6. Keep Your Subject Lines and Body Text Short

Think of your subject lines like news headlines. Keep them short, informative, and catchy. Limit your word count in your email and link to the full stories on your website. Think of your emails as a teaser preview, and use a call to action (CTA) to encourage click-through traffic to your website for more information.

Did You know? Subject lines with 1-2 words or 5-10 characters are most likely to be opened and clicked?! BUT...Longer subject lines also perform well because they communicate more benefits.

7. Create Larger, Simpler CTAs

Use clear language and large buttons that are big enough to stand out and prompt a user to take action. To limit confusion, avoid relying on image-based CTAs.

Enhancing Newsletters and Alerts

8. Regularly Scheduled Programming

A weekly cadence will help your school community know what’s coming and when. There is a lot of information that’s important to parents, and you have to carve out when and how it gets delivered. So here is an example of what a newsletter cadence can look like:

email sample schedule

9. Keep the Content Fresh

To keep your audience engaged, blend important information with regular features, encouraging users to scroll to the bottom to see something fun or meaningful, like a “mission moment,” student of the week, or a Throwback Thursday.

10. Use Dynamic Content & Templates to Save Time

The dynamic content feature within Finalsite Messages lets you pull important calendar information, athletic schedules, and the latest news directly into your emails, saving you precious time when designing newsletters. Plus, when you use the same visual style and content, such as recurring segments, a feature story, or a section on an upcoming event, you give your newsletter a familiar structure.

11. Teacher Newsletters

Teacher newsletters that focus on what’s happening in the classroom are great for maintaining communication and increasing engagement between educators, students, and parents outside of the classroom. These newsletters can alternate weekly with district-wide updates.

12. Don’t Stray Away From Your Brand

Avoid using clip art and stock images that don't align with your brand. Instead, use tools like Canva, which allow you to seamlessly incorporate your colors, images, and school logos. Another useful resource is Flaticon, where you can easily select and customize icons to match your brand.

13. Create an Archive

Create an archive of each newsletter to serve as a communication reference, ensuring continuity and verifying past information shared with the school community. For new staff and families, they offer insights into your school's culture, values, and past activities.

Barrington Newsletter screenshot

Barrington 220 does a great job differentiating between their school newsletter communications and clearly indicating the purpose of each newsletter.

Mass Communications Guide

Email Workflows

14. Use Automated-Email Workflows

What emails are you sending again and again? Reminders for annual events? Yearly enrollment? Onboarding documents? An automated email workflow can handle these tasks, making it a convenient "set it and forget it" solution. This ensures that emails are automatically sent to the right families at the right time with minimal effort.

Automated Workflow Example

15. Segment Your Audience

By tailoring messages to specific groups, such as students, parents, staff, alumni, and community members, you can provide relevant information that meets their unique needs and interests.

16. Data Is Your Friend

Your email data helps drive the decisions you make about your communications strategy. For example, if you find that your open rates are high but your click-through rates are low, it may be time to evaluate how you’re presenting your call to actions and only include one option in the next email.

Messages Dashboard screenshot

Helpful statistics on open rates, click-through rates, and more are readily available through an analytics dashboard in Finalsite Messages, giving you the data you need to inform your email strategy.

When any email goes out, analyze your data and walk through this decision tree like this one:

flowchart for email open rates

Alerts and Texts

17. Texts Won’t Get Missed

Texts are a great way to share mass notifications—the average American checks their phone more than 140 times a day and 95% of text messages are opened within three minutes of receipt.

18. Keep ‘em Short and Sweet

Every character counts! Reserve texts and alerts for urgent information, not promotional communications. To have the best chance at success, keep your message within 160 characters and remove any content that isn’t necessary.

19. Use the Power of AI

To get your messages out even faster, leverage the power of AI. With Messages XR you can write one prompt, and Finalsite's AI writing assistant will customize messages for each of your communication channels – including texts.

Keep Reading –  AI for Schools: A First Look at Finalsite's AI Writing Assistant

AI Writing Assistant on laptop mockup

20. Provide Ongoing Updates

Keep the community informed of the latest developments during an emergency, including relevant links or directions for more information.

21. Update Contact Information

Encourage your families to keep their contact details current to ensure they receive vital communications. By using just one database for contact information, you’ll reduce the chances of data inconsistencies so your messages reach your contact’s preferred email address or phone number.

XR interface screenshot

22. Offer Translation

Sending urgent notifications in multiple languages caters to a wider audience and your entire school community. The US Census estimates the country’s population is quickly approaching 337 million people. The data showed that close to 68 million out of the total US population spoke a language other than English at home. With Messages XR, you can easily translate your announcements into your recipients’ preferred language.

23. Plan for the Unplanned

Wild animals on campus, once-in-a-lifetime snow storms, sprinkler mishaps, OH MY! There’s no shortage of crazy things that can happen at your schools.

Keep Reading: 8 Weird (But True) Stories When Schools Needed a Mass Notification System

No matter how unusual the situation, you need a mass notification system's multi-channel capabilities so your schools can send urgent alerts, inform their communities, and ensure that all stakeholders are kept updated during even the most unexpected events.

24. List Management & Data Clean Up

It's essential to keep parents' information, such as emails and phone numbers, up to date and accurately categorized in your system. Each year, ensure you remove families who have graduated or transferred. Check for bounced or undelivered emails and update those contact records. Once your data is clean, it becomes easier to maintain, with only a few changes needed annually.

Mobile App & Website Notifications

25. Welcome New Users

You can help new families feel welcome with video guides, helpful tips, and FAQs directly on your website. Share information about which communication channels your school uses and when so families can expect their communications.

lees summer ctas screenshot

Lee’s Summit School District welcomes visitors to its website by giving them four clear choices: Explore, Experience, Enroll, and Engage. Toggling over each button explains each choice in further detail.

26. Don’t overwhelm users with notifications

No one likes their inboxes getting flooded by a ton of irrelevant communications. Prevent user opt-outs and user fatigue by sending targeted emails and notifications.

27. Enable Personalization

No more varsity game updates for parents of kindergarteners, and no more elementary school news for graduating seniors. With a mobile app, users can select which updates, news, and announcements they want to receive based on their constituent data.

pop up screenshot

28. Make it POP!

We often have numerous tabs open, constantly switching between tasks—parents and families are no different. To help them manage, we need to ensure that information on the school website or other communication channels is easy to see yet not disruptive. Page-pops can provide accessible, on-brand, and timely information. 

29. Highlight Time-Sensitive Information

Parents will want to see urgent notifications and current updates on their mobile phones and the website. Ensuring that these urgent messages are prominently displayed in an accessible location on the website is essential for keeping everyone informed.

30. Optimize for Mobile Viewing

You’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but it really does come back to the mobile experience. While we still use our laptops throughout the day, the mobile experience is crucial for on-the-go moments. If the content is hard to read or not engaging, people usually stop skimming it or delete it altogether.

Key Takeaway

Improving school district communications is all about small yet powerful adjustments. By crafting personalized subject lines, optimizing emails for mobile devices, and ensuring clear calls to action, you can significantly enhance engagement across all your district communications.

Ultimate Communications Planner

Emily Howeth Headshot

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Emily joined the Finalsite team 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, two children, and two 60-pound lap dogs.


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