What's Your Communications Strategy?

"We put a newsletter out once a week and have a website and Facebook page". Mmmmm that's not a strategy. A few years ago I asked a number of schools what their communications strategy was.

The first response was contorted facial expressions. Squinting eyes mainly and pursed lips. Followed by a lingering glance up at the ceiling like this had to be a trick question. That meeting spawned a curiosity that lead me to pull apart 200 school newsletters in search of the answer; why do schools communicate?

Here’s what I discovered.

Firstly, I realised that I’m the only person on the planet that has willingly read 200 school newsletters. No mean feat!
I discovered that you create only two types of content and in two time-frames;

  • Logistics; this is what you want parents to do. Bring a form in, register for parent teacher interviews, remember a date etc
  • Public Relations; this is what you want parents to feel. It’s how you want to be seen – you want to manage perceptions.

Further, around 15% of the content you create is logistics and the remainder is PR. Now here’s the paradox. Parents value logistics content over PR yet it’s the lesser of the two content types by volume. See if little Johnny (yes clichéd name I know) rocks up to school in his uniform and it’s footy fun day and everyone else is in their Bulldog’s jumper (go the dogs….hey I’m writing this and I can put in any team I like) then Johnny’s mum will be thumping the reception desk asking why she wasn’t told.

Let’s swing this and look at PR content. There’s no great stress if a Grade 5 parent hasn’t read anything about the Grade 2’s for several months. Yet it’s important to you. It’s your story.

The newsletter research culminated in the model shown below. In the diagram you’ll be able to find a home for every piece of content you’ve ever created. Your writing is either logistics or PR based and you write in only two timeframes. I've labeled this as 'Timely' and the creatively labeled 'Not Timely'. Hopefully this will help you realise what you’re writing for.

Writing logistics content is easy; it’s factual, short and sharp. Writing for PR is a little more from the heart and should be informed by your school’s key messages. What are key messages? Well that’s enough for now, we’ll talk key messages next time.

Denis Masseni 

Denis is sponsor-ed's director and Monash University sessional lecturer in digital communications (bio)