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Summer Reflection: How Effectively are You Communicating With Your Community?

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June 1, 2016

It's that time again--you've finished another school year and most likely are already planning the next. When you think about what you would like to improve, consider the following questions: how well are you doing at communicating with your community at large? Do they know what's going on in your district (upcoming bond issues, celebrations, upcoming events)? Do you need to create a more open line of communication where they can provide feedback and voice any concerns or praise? These are critical questions to ensure you are involving your community in the goings-on of your district. The strongest community advocates are educated and informed on issues for which they can not only provide helping hands but for which they can also provide vocal support (i.e. education legislation). So let's look at these questions:

How well are you communicating with your community?

  • Are you using various outlets to convey information? This can include Twitter, Facebook, your website, a newsletter and robo-calling systems (e.g. School Messenger). More and more parents prefer to get information through social media, so if you haven't already done so, consider polling your community to find out what outlets they prefer. If you don't have social media accounts set up for your district, we can help set up accounts and train you on best practices. Social media is an avenue you cannot ignore as a valuable communication tool. Of course, you don't have to use every outlet imaginable to convey the same message; it is wise, though, to pick a few and consistently use them.

Does your community know what's going on in your district?

  • Of course you want to share your celebrations and your successes, but are you sharing information about upcoming events and fundraisers? Many community members want to be involved but don't get information about the event until after the fact (if at all). Make sure you are posting the information on all your communication outlets, and ask people to share/retweet it.
  • Do you have an upcoming bond issue vote? The majority of those that fail do so simply because of a lack of information about why the bond is needed and how the money will be used. This is critical to get it passed! Explaining to your community why you are asking for the bond goes a long way to ensuring its passage. This is also something we can help with. We have created several bond issue websites with videos that helps the public understand the intention.
  • Are you sharing the negative press as well? Nobody likes negative coverage in the media, but making a statement about how you are handling the situation can go a long way to build trust with your community. Remember that parents want assurance that their children are safe when they are in your buildings.

Do you need to create more open lines of communication with your community?

  • Have you considered sending out surveys to your community at large to compile a list of their concerns, frustrations along with their praise? While you more than likely cannot implement all their recommendations, it can be helpful to get an outsider's take on things that might need to be addressed/changed/improved.
  • You can create a free, simple survey using Google forms to get the job done. This tool automatically compiles all the answers into a spreadsheet for you to review. You can even set it up to be anonymous so people feel free to speak their mind without worry about reprisal.

The key point in all of this is to say that you have a community full of supporters who are able and more than willing to help your district, especially during severe times of need. Make use of that resource whenever you can to engage your community and show your students that with all hands on deck, great things are possible!

About the Author

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Sarah Julian

Director, Communications

Sarah serves as the Director of Communications for the OPSRC. In this role, she will provide support, consultation, and training on communication plans, social media policies, crisis communications, media relations, and website content.

Sarah has dedicated her entire professional career to Oklahoma public education: over 14 years in communications, technology, and teaching college-level English Composition and Humanities. Sarah holds a Master’s degree in Writing & Communications.

Want to learn some fun facts about Sarah? Click here!

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