Ah, summer’s here. Time to kick back and get away from the grind, right?
Well, in between the trips to the beach and the Netflix binging, I recommend you take the time to do a little communications housekeeping. After reviewing the pressing topics that keep percolating among school communicators, we’ve determined that your time would be well spent by focusing on four key areas: web accessibility, website analytics, social media planning and communications calendar.
I’ll do a flyover on each of these topics and point you to some resources for completing your summer assignment. Don’t worry, these tasks won’t take long, and the best thing is that next school year and beyond, you and your communications team will be well-equipped to handle the challenges facing every school communicator these days.
1. Conduct a website accessibility audit
Your school website needs to be ADA-compliant and otherwise accessible for anyone with disabilities. And don’t think because you have a few videos close-captioned that your website is in compliance. Disabilities come in many forms. Besides sight, there are hearing, physical, cognitive disabilities that present obstacles to many students, staff and parents trying to access your website. (Imagine trying to navigate your website without using a mouse. Well, your site needs to accommodate that and many other considerations.)
Your very first step in discovering and understanding website accessibility for schools starts with an audit. Check out Steve Williams article on How to Conduct a School Website Accessibility Audit. It covers all you’ll need to get your school’s website examined for accessibility issues. It also includes helpful links to infographics, videos and other resources you can share with your school staff to educate them on the importance of school website compliance, and give them the tools to keep your website fully accessible. There’s also a free download in that article: The Complete Guide to School Website Accessibility – great summer reading.
2. Analyze your communications mix
Okay, you have a website, maybe a mobile app, a Facebook page and some other communication channels that are being used to some extent, but do you really know how effective they are? Consider these kinds of questions:
Who’s visiting your website? When are they visiting? What pages are they visiting the most? On what kinds of devices are they viewing your website? Check out this article, How Schools Can Use Google Analytics, to get a fuller understanding of how your website is performing now, and how it can improve going forward.
What about your email, which is still one of the most effective ways to engage parents. Are you using best practices to reach parents?
Is your social media stagnant? Most schools are underutilizing social media and not getting true engagement value out of it. What kinds of content are you sharing via social media? If you’re using it just to promote events, you’re woefully neglecting some great potential opportunities to engage. Here’s a social media guide for schools to help you get much more out of these important communication channels.
How about notifications? Are your voice and text notifications being heard or read? Do you know that without official permission from your users, you should be using notifications only for emergency situations? Do you make it easy for your users to opt-in to receiving your schools’ other, non-emergency notifications?
3. Establish social media branding consistency
Social media presents almost limitless opportunities for schools to project positive images and imagery. Telling your school stories in words, pictures and video has never been so easy to do, really, thanks to the simplicity, immediacy and reach of social media channels.
But often, schools are not very organized and consistent with their social media. Some have, for example, ‘unofficial’ school accounts out there that, while well-intended with the content they’re sharing, don’t necessarily reflect the district brand. Other schools are not taking advantage of some templates and approaches that can transform their social media into a strategic tool rather than an ad hoc tactic.
Social media can be a great tool for crafting and reinforcing your brand, so make sure you look at how your school or district is being portrayed on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other channels. Examine ways to bring some consistency to the look, the content, the formatting of your social media messages.
For a good overview ongoing about managing a school social media program, watch this video, How to Build a Social Media Program for Your School.
4. Organize and plan your communication calendar
Finally, or perhaps foremost, is every school communicator – including you – should be operating from a plan. Whether it’s your newsletters, social media, open houses, big events, blogs, whatever, give some thought to the big picture and when it makes the most sense in promoting or chronicling these opportunities.
There is a predictable seasonality to a lot that goes on in any given school year, so build on your school’s past experiences and schedules to create a master communication calendar. Work backward from graduation and post-school-year in-service events, and be sure to include all your digital channels when plugging in calendar items.
Check out this handy School Communications Planning Guide and this video, Improving Engagement Using Today's Digital Channels when organizing next year’s communication calendar.
While this may all seem like a lot to do over the summer, it’s all actually quite manageable. Watch a couple videos, download a couple of helpful guides, and before you know it, you’ll hit the next school year better prepared than ever to improve your school communications.
Oh, and don't forget to squeeze in a few Netflix binges while you're at it this summer.
Other related resources:
- The Complete Guide to School Website Accessibility
- How to Conduct a School Website Accessibility Audit
- How Schools Can Use Google Analytics
- How to Build a Social Media Program for Your School
- School Communications Planning Guide.
- Steps to Creating a School Communications Plan
- The Ultimate School Communications Planning Checklist
- Improving Engagement Using Today's Digital Channels
As co-founder of Campus Suite, Steve believes behind every great school is great communication. His tech savvy and passion for design fuel his desire to help administrators understand, embrace and seize the power of web communications.