Community Outreach can mean different things to different organizations, but, for school districts, Community Outreach requires letting your community know all the great things that are happening at your schools while also listening to them for feedback about how they perceive your school district’s practices.
Below are three tips to get your district started on the path to conducting effective Community Outreach.
Tip #1: Develop and implement an effective ongoing communications plan.
An informed community means the difference between having the community support a school district needs to thrive or having to regularly struggle for resources in order to promote excellent student learning.
Throughout the course of a busy day, expecting an administrative team to remember to tell the community about the great student learning taking place in your schools can take a back seat to focusing on the day-to-day operations.
Having an effective, thoughtful, and implemented communications plan means your community will know about the hard work and investment of your staff and teachers, plus, when your district needs support, whether that means passing a bond or just getting volunteers – your community will show up.
Tip #2: Learn about what your community thinks of your school district.
What does your audience want to hear and learn from your organization? Have you ever asked them? Without knowing what your audience wants to learn about your organization, you won’t be able to craft effective communications. Reach out to your audience for feedback about what they want to know about your organization and what you do.
There are a variety of ways to reach out to your audience. Here are just a few examples:
- Surveys. When your organization’s audience is large, a survey can be a great way to generate ideas and perceptions about what your audience thinks of your organization and its products and services. Surveys offer a great first step in beginning to understand your audience and planning your communications. However, keep in mind that surveys can only provide a 30,000-foot view of your organization. You may learn that a certain percentage of your audience has a specific belief about your organization, but surveys often cannot tell you why your audience believes what they do. For that, you will need to conduct more in-depth approaches like those mentioned below.
- Key Stakeholder Interviews. The Key Stakeholder Interview Process begins with identifying a number of key stakeholders related to your organization. These stakeholders include members of your audience who love and support your organization along with those who may be critical of what you do. After identifying a group of stakeholders, typically between 15-25, one-on-one interviews taking approximately one to one-and-a-half hours are conducted. The results of those interviews are collected, collated, and analyzed to provide a comprehensive document featuring intensive analysis of the valuable qualitative data collected from your stakeholders featuring trends, specific responses, and other points of interest. The Key Stakeholder Interview Process provides your organization with a detailed plan for both the present and the future.
Using the above methods to learn more about your audience can provide eye-opening results and will help ensure that your organization’s future communications will give your audience the information they want in order to learn more about you and what you do.
Tip #3: Offer methods of two-way communication so your community can talk to you.
Social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter can be an excellent way for your community to offer immediate feedback so you know how they perceive your school district.
Let’s be clear about social networking – it is no longer optional. With over one billion active daily users, Facebook has become a primary method for members of almost every audience to receive news about their friends, family, their schools, favorite companies, and brands. Every school district and organization needs to have a Facebook account regardless of the district’s size.
Twitter continues to gain in popularity, and although its 140-character message capacity might seem limiting, many users rely on Twitter to get up-to-date news on all of the organizations they follow. Twitter also offers its users the ability to send messages directly to your school district, giving you a method to reach out directly to community members, parents, students, and staff who might have questions.
Do you need help planning your Community Outreach strategies?
We encourage you to contact us by phone (800) 983-8408 or learn more by visiting our Facebook (www.fb.com/edTactics) or Twitter accounts (www.twitter.com/edTactics). edTactics will provide you with our experience and expertise so you can focus on what matters – student learning.
Art Edgerly and Eric Jacobson
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