All schools have a culture: the norms, values, and beliefs that make up the school’s identity. But truly great schools have an intentional culture that their entire community knows about and understands.
As our company develops the very technology that enable schools to communicate to their fullest, we are continuously reviewing what the great schools are doing with their websites and other online communications. In just about every case, there are shared attributes common among the schools that communicate very well. And it's no coincidence that these same schools that have figured out how to communicate are great in just about every other area.
Here are seven shared communications traits of great schools:
1. A voice for the school community
By definition, communication is a two-way street. It’s ineffective to simply saturate your audience with information without ever asking for feedback. Communication is a valuable tool that provides you with insight into what your community is thinking, doing and feeling.
For example, blogs and social media accounts are wonderful tools for school communications, but these accounts can’t be static. Blogs and social media should provide an opportunity for parents and students to interact with the school through comments, shares and replies. Posts should initiate dialogue with questions and encourage engagement by responding to each comment.
2. A focus on customer service
Many educators don’t like to use the term “customer service” in reference to schools because it implies that a school is a business, which it isn’t. But a service mindset is still an integral characteristic of school communication.
Excellent communication is centralized around the community you’re serving – in the case of a school, this community is comprised parents, families, and students. A school with great communication has quick response times, thorough answers to all queries, and all communication is conducted in a professional and friendly manner.
3. Sharing the vision and goals
All communication should reflect a school’s culture. The staff, students, parents and wider community should be familiarized with the school’s values and mission. This communication should be explicit (e.g., including the mission statement on all emails or blog posts) and implicit (e.g., posting regularly about the school’s community service efforts to demonstrate a culture of volunteerism).
Excellent schools have an excellent reputation because they have communicated their culture to everyone in their sphere. Their name is recognizable and linked to its vision because they have made the effort to share their purpose. A well-communicated culture is an identifying feature of a great school.
4. Great leadership
Your school’s leadership must participate in your communication strategy. When principals and superintendents are communicating directly with the community via blogs or other outlets, this reflects a culture of inclusiveness and involvement. Giving the community access to leadership via several communication channels builds confidence. If your principal or superintendent isn’t a natural written communicator, it’s still important for them to participate in the communication strategy with a ghostwriter or some other type of help.
School leadership transcends sups and principals. Department directors, assistant principals, athletic directors and other staff all contribute to thought leadership.
5. Parental involvement
Another way to demonstrate involvement in your communication strategy is to include parents. Parents present a wealth of potential content for all levels of school communication when given the opportunity to contribute. Provide parents with the ability to tweet about school events, post a photo to the school’s Instagram, or even author a guest post for the school’s blog.
6. A climate conducive to learning
All schools have a culture of safety for their community and this culture should be continued in the world of communication. Communication should not only be for professional or logistical purposes — rewards and achievements should be shared, both on an individual and group level. This builds trust and warmth among the community by recognizing members who are positively embodying the school’s culture.
7. High expectations for students and staff
The entire school community needs to recognize the importance of communicating the school’s culture to the wider world. It’s important that students and staff be expected to represent the school in their communications with the rest of the community.
Host professional development events for teachers and staff where they can familiarize themselves with the school’s communication strategy and find a way to participate. The Campus Suite Academy has a number of resources like blogs, videos, and webinars that can be used to help educate students and staff about the importance of communication.
Questions for you...
Technology is at the heart of great communication, and schools must be prepared to change their communication strategy with the rapidly evolving world of technology. This readiness to change their approach reflects a culture of adaptability and progressiveness.
This teachthought article explains this need for adaption quite well: “When technology changes, it impacts the kinds of things we want and need. Updates to technology change what we desire; as we desire new things, technology changes to seek to provide them. The same goes for – or at least should go for – education.”
Communication is the way a school articulates its culture to the community. Great school cultures place a premium on excellent communication, which operates with a focus on service, adaptability, and integration of technology. It’s impossible to have a great school culture without great communication, which fosters other elements of excellence in a school community.
As the needs and wants of the community evolve, so will the school’s communication strategy. To continue embodying a modern, responsive, high-achieving culture, schools must continue to improve the ways they communicate.
How is your school using new technology for communication?
In what ways does your school communicate its culture?
How many of these traits does your school possess?
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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 email@example.com or follow him @jay4schools.