Successful school communication stems from crafting messages that are concise, targeted, and to-the-point.
According to Constant Contact, a commonly used e-newsletter platform, the average open rate for school newsletters is 24%. This may seem disheartening to those who take the time to put together lots of important school information for newsletters, but the good news is that there are strategies and best practices to implement that will help ensure a higher-than-average engagement rate with your audience.
Keep in mind that parents do want consistent communication from the school. While we don’t advise that you do away with school newsletters completely, we do recommend re-considering how you share news with your parents. Consider the volume of information parents receive and how much time they realistically have to read it. Your news should be whittled down the most important information and be communicated in brief sound bites to those who need to know.
Consider a recent situation in one of our partner schools: the February 2019 teacher strike in Denver Public Schools required administrators to be in close communication with parents to ensure them that their children were safe and secure despite many absent teachers. Lisa Schuba, the principal of Isabella Bird Community School made regular classroom check-ins during this time. After visiting a classroom, she would send a quick update to the parents in just that classroom. The messages were short, concise, and often included a photo. Because the information was directly related to each parent’s child and was a digestible bit of information, the engagement rates on those messages ranged from 78-93%. Those circumstances were unique, but IBCS’s weekly bulletins to families typically hover around 66%, speaking to the success of their targeted messaging and easy-to-read information.
At another DPS partner school, Samuels Elementary, the Family Liaison on staff sends out weekly bulletins to families that have a consistently higher-than-average engagement rate of 52%. Their team attributes this to the use of short, relevant, and concise messaging that is also always translated into Spanish. The rapport offered by the message source - in this case, the Family Liaison - will often result in a higher engagement rate, because families trust that person to share what they need to know.
In an age where information is fast-moving and readily available, it’s only possible to digest so much. Something like a newsletter may contain an excellent summary of important school information, but important details can easily become buried. Timeliness can also be missed with the common method of everyone funneling information to the one person in charge of the newsletter. If after-school club applications are due on Thursday, wouldn’t it be be best for the person in charge to send a one-sentence reminder to eligible students, rather than hoping that that one important reminder is included - and read - in a longer newsletter? Breaking up information into smaller chunks and sending it out at strategic and relevant times will benefit everybody involved.