It’s a time of rejoicing, reflection and rejuvenation. The holidays provide that first big needed break in the school year just when you need it. But I’ve also discovered it’s a time when many school administrators either catch up on some work or start planning for the coming year or even the next school year.
Whether it’s addressing some overdue tasks or looking forward to a new initiative, there are 5 holiday break to-dos that every school communicator should consider.
1. Create a social media planner
The holiday break is the perfect time to strengthen your school’s social media program. Because so much of the communications lead’s responsibility involves parent engagement, social media can be your best ally in connecting with your parents. And fundamental to boosting your social media is utilizing a social media planner.
Your approach to using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram specifically, should not be a haphazard, occasional, I’ll-get-to-it-when-I-have-time kind of thing. Posting to and managing multiple social media channels can be made much easier with a social media planner.
A social media planner helps you think strategically about your communications, enables you to examine the kinds of content you’re sharing (to assure it’s balanced and productive), and it streamlines your workload. With a social media planner, you can build a social media mindset and structure for this important aspect of your school communication. Download this Social Media Guide for Schools for help in creating a planner and more.
2. Conduct a website accessibility audit
Now’s a good time to check in on your website to determine if it’s accessible to people with disabilities. Many websites aren’t – many school websites aren’t. An ADA-compliant website is not only the right thing to do, but it’s a legal requirement to assure your website pages and any documents that link to the pages are accessible.
Conducting a website accessibility audit for your school starts with understanding your website's shortfalls then taking the right steps to make them compliant.
Nearly 1-in-5 Americans have some sort of disability (sight, hearing, motor, learning) that creates potential obstacles to accessing your web content. Many schools have learned their accessibility lessons the hard way. In some cases, the U.S. Department of Justice and DOE’s Office for Civil Rights and disabilities advocacy groups have come down on school districts, exposing them to fines and public embarrassment for not addressing the needs of the entire school community.
To get started on conducting an accessibility audit and get the full picture on school website accessibility, download the School Website ADA Compliance Accessibility Guide or visit the Website Accessibility Education Center website.
3. Grade your website
Okay, let’s say your website passes muster when it comes to ADA compliance and accessibility, but what about the rest of it. How is your website performing?
Maybe it’s suffering from one of the 7 Fatal Mistakes of School Website Design, as Steve Williams outlines in this article. Maybe it suffers from a lack of fresh content, no social media interconnectivity, poor navigation, etc. Every school needs a school website report card to determine if its website makes the grade.
Besides these website maladies, how would you grade your site on: branding and design; usability; mobile-friendliness? Well, you’re probably not equipped to grade your own website, so I recommend requesting a Website Grader, which entails a comprehensive website assessment including a combination of software scans and a review by a Campus Certified specialist in digital communications.
4. Start planning for videos
Another holiday-break to-do: video planning. You don’t need me to tell you that videos are the preferred way people like to access information these days. Video clips on your website, Facebook posts, live-streaming video, school Youtube channels – more and more schools are utilizing this popular medium to tell their school stories.
The huge turnout at a recent Campus Suite Academy webinar presented by school video guru Jake Sturgis is a testament to how school communicators are embracing this very engaging medium. In his presentation, Show vs. Tell: How to Use Video to Engage Parents, Jake shows how to shift your school to a storytelling mindset, providing many tips, including tailoring your videos for social media.
Jake also wrote a very informative article, Video Tips to Tell your School Stories, which, along with this article, How to Create a Great YouTube Channel for Your School, should provide some helpful guidance as you map out video planning for your school communications.
5. Take a look at your analytics
The final holiday break to-do I recommend is examining your website using an analytical approach. As Steve Willams tells us in his article, The Essential School Website Design Planning Checklist, analytics is an important fundamental step if you want to give your website a fighting chance for success. And success is measured by helping your district meet communication goals.
Google Analytics is a free service that provides a wealth of data such as tracking where your visitors are coming from and what pages are most popular. You can learn how your website visitors are interacting with your pages, which helps you do things like better position popular links. Check out this article, How Schools Can Use Google Analytics, to really get to know your website.
A thorough, data-driven understanding will not only help you design more effective pages and offer up the right content but help you how to set school website goals using google analytics.
So enjoy your upcoming break. Relax, recharge, and maybe reflect on these 5 holiday break ‘to-dos’ that might just help make you a better school communicator.
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.