Open and Transparent Communications Critical for Schools Amid COVID-19
If you tuned into the Lambert webinar on school communications amid COVID-19, you understand that the next phase of communications for schools amid COVID-19 must center around open and transparent contact with families. What else did attendees learn during the recent webinar?
As we look to the next phase of the pandemic, there are several communications considerations schools should take under review. Parents’ expectations may be increasing as they assume school districts will have determined a path forward for reopening schools, and as a result, their patience may be dwindling. Families will want to know the plan for graduation, summer learning programs, and the 2020-2021 school year.
Regardless of what the next phase entails, districts should focus on controlling what they can control. That means developing a communications plan that will be nimble enough to adapt as needed. The foundation of a solid communications plan is key messages, which should be at the center of all communications moving forward. Key messages should focus on protecting the health and well-being of students, teachers and staff; maintaining confidence in the district; and demonstrating a long-term view.
With key messages in hand, districts should consider several aspects of their communications moving forward. First, consider cadence—how frequently are you communicating, and through what channels? Tone is important, too. During times like these, it’s crucial to be open to the extent that you’re able, and empathetic, understanding the personal and financial hardships many are facing. Finally, consider your mediums. You should use a wide variety of channels to communicate, including social media, e-newsletters, robo calls and even food distribution sites, as word-of-mouth marketing goes a long way. In doing so, you can ensure communications are equitable and able to reach all families.
Next in your communications plan, you should establish roles. Identify the individuals who will lead your strategic planning, media outreach and responses, write and develop communications, distribute content and monitor social media channels.
While it’s easy to get caught up in reactive communications, schools should remember to share positive, proactive stories, too. Now more than ever, families want to hear good news. Consider opportunities to recognize your Class of 2020, share video messages from teachers and students, coordinate media interviews with superintendents, host teacher chats on Instagram live and develop weekly communications updates from the superintendent.
There are a variety of possible scenarios for reopening in the fall—blended learning, an early start to the school year, a “normal” start to the school year, or even the continuation of online learning. While we can’t predict what will happen in August and September, we encourage schools to be active and transparent in communicating with families. In doing so, you can build goodwill and trust that will last the long-haul.
Watch the full webinar and next steps for school communications amid COVID-19 below.
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