In preparation for a recent Zoom interview with Aubrey Bursch of Easy School Marketing in Maryland, USA on the subject of schools reopening in the context of COVID-19, I posted a question to my LinkedIn network.
I received a flurry of responses and the post was trending on LinkedIn under #education so I decided to write a blog post. I wanted to take the opportunity to share learnings and prompt a look at our own school communications effectiveness at this time.
We’re all learning as we go along, but it’s an ideal opportunity to collaborate.
Here’s the wording of the LinkedIn post for context (posted around the 29th June 2020):
“Can you help? I’m looking for examples of independent schools who have communicated their reopening very well. This can be from your perspective as a staff member, a parent, a pupil, a school leader, an interested party. It can be anywhere in the world. I’d like to know the name of the school and why you feel they have done so well in communicating their school’s reopening, despite all the challenges facing schools. I’m participating in an online interview this week on this subject and would like to add some examples beyond those I have seen. Thank you!”
The link to the post is provided here.
There were eight schools mentioned in the comments on the post as having done well in communicating their school’s reopening. The geographies of these schools ranged from South Africa, to Asia to UK.
Please bear in mind this was in no way a scientific exercise as it was only in my LinkedIn network and via a single social media post. But I did find the responses informative, especially the six who explained how the communication had been excellent, from their perspective. Let’s consider what we can learn from them, as a sample of many others out there who are also making significant efforts in their communication.
The list of schools mentioned consisted of:
- Jerudong International School, Brunei, South East Asia
- Crawford Pre-Primary School, Lonehill, South Africa
- Curro Academy, Protea Glen, Soweto, South Africa
- Thomas More College, Kloof, South Africa
- Treverton College, Mooi River, South Africa (no information provided on motivation)
- Crawford, South Africa (no information provided on motivation)
- Pinnacle College Founders Hill, Modderfontein, South Africa
- Forest School in Timperley, Warrington, UK
The words used in the comments by contributors when motivating their recognition for the school’s excellent communications are listed as follows (in no particular order of school):
- “They’ve taken the time and effort to brief the parents on all the health and safety preparations they have taken, and the kids remain their primary priority.”
- “How they kept in touch with parents over the lockdown and sending weekly activities for kids was phenomenal. Also have a clearly articulated program for returning back to school.”
- “This is the video we produced for our social media and parents to explain what was happening. Our goal was to be clear and reassuring to students, parents and teachers.”
- “Clear communication, transparent, honest and practical.”
- “…communicated with parents on an ongoing basis, set up an App and Videos for parents and students to inform on best practice at all levels, used surveys to gather information quickly and through this have built trust.”
- “It’s a great example of an amazing ‘can do’ attitude in a situation where they could have simply said, ‘we haven’t enough space’ and the communication with parents and pupils was second to none – confident, positive and effective whilst actually building excitement in its pending opening.”
As I’ve mentioned, this is a fairly random sample of schools. It has no scientific basis. However, all these schools have been seen in the eyes of those who commented as having communicated excellently. I do believe in celebrating excellence and learning from each other.
Therefore, here are my seven insights from this exercise, which fed so beautifully into the online interview that followed with Aubrey Bursch:
- Even if we think we are communicating enough as a school, we must keep finding ways to communicate more and to communicate better, in line with what our families need
- Asking our customers how we are doing, what they liked or disliked about what we have been doing and where or how we have been doing it (e.g. platforms, tools and messages) helps us to keep refining our approach (online surveys and interviews are useful)
- Acting on these findings is vital, be seen to be listening and applying the learnings
- Clarity and transparency of communication is more important when there is a crisis or a period of significant and ongoing change with much uncertainty, it’s better to be authentic and speak from the heart than to recite a written speech
- Video is an essential part of school communication, and it doesn’t have to be professionally made, but it should match the brand and ethos of the school
- Apps can help increase the effectiveness of school communications and operations, so keep seeking relevancy through software applications
- Anxiety of parents is high, and this is passed onto the children, and vice-versa, so communications need to aim to build confidence and trust in an environment of uncertaintyWell done to all these schools for being recognised on a public platform as having communicated their reopening well!
One thing that I’d like to emphasise from these examples and from others I have seen is the importance of empathy and encouragement. I have found that the tone of communications has changed during the pandemic. Please have a look at my video on this in my Black Swan series below:
So, how can I help you with YOUR school communications?
Firstly, please do watch the interview referred to in the first paragraph, which motivated this blog post and the original LinkedIn question to my network. I think you’ll find it very informative.
Secondly, my expertise is in marketing strategy for independent schools. Communications is only one area of your school’s marketing strategy, but in the COVID-19 environment and with the reopening of schools, it’s more vital than ever. If you’re communicating without a marketing strategy, your impact will always be limited, especially in your target market. I can help you with this.
I offer online consulting and coaching in marketing strategy. I have a download of a free cheat sheet for school marketing strategy that leads into a 5-day coaching course, including a daily Zoom call and worksheets for £200. Simply complete the online contact form to request your copy of the free cheat sheet, for more info, and for booking.
I look forward to hearing from you!
I'm Keryn House
I enjoy creating marketing anecdotes and visuals related to my horse as there is a lot to be learned from animals, and this provides a unique context to my writing. My horse Slick (aka Sports Express) has been with me for many years and is a source of inspiration and relaxation for my strategic mind. He lives on a friend’s farm in KZN and I see him twice a week.
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