Communications Tips for School Leaders
by Kira Keane and Anthony Kim on Mar 20, 2017
There are many elements critical to the success of change management initiatives, including those involving blended and personalized learning. Having worked with almost 200 districts across two organizations, we have learned that communications is one of the areas districts have the least experience with, but which can have the biggest impact. That's why we've designed a communications guide for school leaders and districts, with tips, examples and resources. Here's where to start:
- Plan first, then worry about tactics. It is really easy to come up with a list of great tweets. Harder is developing clear goals for communications, determining key messages and audiences and developing a comprehensive approach to communications. Take the time to come up with a strategy before you dive into tactics - you will be much more effective.
- Listen, don’t just talk. Too many communications strategies focus on what a district is going to tell its stakeholders. Just as important is listening to what your stakeholders have to say. Whether its teachers, leaders or community members, it is important to make sure you have two-way communications. Think about how to use Twitter, surveys, and town-hall style meetings for your communications. Don’t forget the power of small groups and 1:1s when possible. Build a culture of engagement, transparency, and trust.
- Determine your messengers and your messages. Just as we know we can’t treat all learners the same, we have to think about each audience as having different needs too. For each audience consider both the right messages and also the right people or channels to use to deliver those messages. At a minimum you want to consider school leaders, teachers, students and parents but there may be more audiences to think about or more ways to split them up (for example you might want different messages for your secondary vs elementary teachers). And just because Facebook works for the district down the road doesn’t mean it will work for you; take the time to figure out what channels work for your district.
- Show, don’t tell. For many, seeing is believing and your strategy needs to include ways to bring this work to life. Find videos and visuals from other district to share when you are starting out. But don’t stop there. There are likely examples from within your district you can use even at the beginning, and you can grow that list of resources as blended learning spreads. Capture testimonials, go into classrooms and videotape what you see. It makes it tangible and highlights for everyone what is possible.
- Invite in the Media. As you start to succeed, invite in local and regional media to help you tell your story. Ask the media to join meetings with your community, capture what is happening in the classroom or interview key stakeholders involved in the work. This will help you reach a larger audience and also help you build out a set of resources to refer to throughout the year.