Now’s your chance. Whether it is due to a crisis like COVID-19 or just summer break, while schools across the country are shut down for various lengths of time and staff and students work remotely to ensure students continue to learn, administrative staff can focus on improving communications. Without the minute-by-minute distractions of typical responsibilities, you can focus on the strategies that will help improve school communication when things are back to normal. And yes, they will get back to normal—or at least to a new normal!
Where to begin
Take a look at your website. If it is outdated and not responsive (mobile-friendly), use this time for a redesign. You can gather input from your remote staff who might have more time to focus their thoughts and share their ideas. Include your office staff so the most frequently asked questions from parents are included and can be easily found.
Some tips to consider when doing a website redesign are covered in detail in these articles:
- How to get a website redesign that pays for itself
- Responsive school websites: it’s a whole new world out there
- Transformation of school websites from concept to reality
- What makes the best school websites (Part 1) (Part 2)
While you are at it, be sure to include accessibility in your website redesign. It is far easier to do it right the first time than to try to mitigate the situation when the Office of Civil Rights attorney comes knocking at your door. This includes making sure the documents you link to as PDF attachments are also remediated so they are accessible to screen readers. The following articles will provide more detail for those of you who need a bit of guidance.
- Is your school’s website ADA compliant?
- What every school administrator should know about website accessibility
- ADA Website compliance (Part 1) (Part 2)
Social media strategy
While it is tempting to become discouraged over the negatives of social media, you can’t let fear of engaging stop you from participating. These platforms are where your customers (both parents and students) are getting their information, and if you aren’t out there, someone else is providing information that you have no control over. So, be a proactive participant.
Be a positive and trusted resource for information. And, as many schools found out during the COVID-19 outbreak, having an effective social media presence in place prior to a crisis is critical.
In conjunction with your website, create both a communications’ plan for the events you know about in advance, gather information from your staff to keep the stories flowing, and share impromptu posts that arise along the way. You’ve got such good news happening every day, so get those stories out there. Your parents and prospective parents want to learn about your school, your student and staff successes, the engagement, the excitement, and the enthusiasm—so share it. We all like to be a part of something good, so let parents know that their children are a part of something great.
Here are some helpful articles that will help you get started or learn more about what works well for other schools:
- Social media managers: a voice amid the storm
- Instagram for schools
- Social media management 101 (Part 1) (Part 2)
- How to build your school’s social media following
Remote customer service
Customer service is more than just a pleasant smile in the front office; it is the experience provided by your website, phone calls, parent messaging, teacher to parent conversations, staff interaction, and social media. Outstanding customer service becomes the culture and sets the expectations. So, use this time to improve and smooth all of those customer interactions.
Is your website intuitive and is it easy to find information? Do phone calls and messages get answered when someone calls in? Are forms and parent requirements available online? Can parents contact your staff or, in an effort to avoid spam, is it impossible to contact anyone at your school? It is important that you view these experiences through your customers’ eyes (and your customers include your staff).
Not convinced that this is a critical issue? Find out what poor customer service is costing your school. Look at some ways to improve your online customer service through emails and written communications with Customer Service Netiquette. Take your school customer service from good to great!
Preparation for back-in-session
In preparation for going back to school, take the time now to plan a communications strategy that covers the most important concerns parents will have (and those they have now about when school resumes).
- Are there make-up days or weeks?
- Is there information to share about graduating seniors?
- Are the start or end dates for the school year changing?
- Are there learning opportunities for students to make up specific classes?
- What social distancing procedures will students and staff be required to use upon returning?
Create online resources with all the necessary information on your school website and use your social media to let parents know where this resource is located. Put in the time and effort to make these website resources valuable to your parents and the community.
Speaking of being back in session, be sure to gather stories from your staff and students about what positives they experienced during the downtime. What did they learn that they might not have considered before? What interests or talents did they discover or develop? What did they learn about themselves that will help them in the future? Who made a positive impact on them during the crisis and in what way? Use these stories in your social media as a regular series or a series of articles on your website that you link to from your social media posts.
During a crisis, there is much to struggle through. But, more often, we gain strengths and learn life-altering lessons that make us better people. By sharing the positive, everyone is encouraged and strengthened to see what our fellow men and women are capable of, and these stories inspire us to be stronger and more optimistic as well.
We’re here for you!
Of course, for many of the areas we’ve discussed above, School Webmasters is here to help you succeed. Unlike our competitors, we actually do the work and become your behind-the-scenes staff to do the grunt work efficiently and affordably so your own staff can focus on education. Whether it is website design, accessibility or remediation, social media management, or public relations support, let us focus on what we know so you can focus on what you do best (and save money and time in the process). It’s a win-win for your staff and your students and their parents. Get a quote or give us a call at 888.750.4556 and tell us what your biggest challenges are. If we can’t help, we can make recommendations for who can.
Bonnie Leedy, CEO, School Webmasters, LLC.