What’s a School Communicator to Do?

Nobody Reads it

What’s a School Communicator to Do?

A major frustration for communicators is that many of our audiences often do not read or even scan the materials we prepare just for them. In the communication audits we conduct, we are often amazed by the lack of awareness — let alone understanding — that school district staff at all levels demonstrate about key issues.

Often content is sent directly to them, either through electronic or print delivery systems. But often these staff members delete, toss, or just set the messages aside and never read them. “They” tell us they are too busy to read “the fluff” from the central office or even from their principals’ or supervisor’s office. In some cases, they are partially correct; our observations tell us that the communication materials may not be the best or most inviting. The material is often too long, too short on relevancy, out-of-date, and, yes, frequently full of too much puff and not enough substance.

Staff Obligation to Read as a Condition of Employment

The best internal communication materials are authentic and, at the same time, deliver just enough “puff” to make staff feel good to celebrate the accomplishments of their colleagues and students. But the real culprit in the breakdown of most internal communication rests with the staff person who refuses to read the info you send them. Early in the relationship, you need to note that it is their job to read the information their employer gives them.

The late and great PR guru, Pat Jackson, told us that each employee needs to sign an employee contract agreement that stipulates that reading your internal newsletter, Just for You (or whatever you call it) is a condition of employment. Pat used to say, “Yes, reading our corporate materials is part of your job, too.” (Actually, he said with a bit more color and flavor than that, but you get the point.)

Create a Communication Component for Staff Orientation

Now I understand that this idea may be a bit over the top for some of you, but, at minimum, all new staff members must be taught through orientation sessions about their responsibilities as employees when it comes to reading your official internal newsletter,  additional internal devices, and social media policies in your systems.

In its marketing efforts for many years, The Washington Post has used the tagline, “If you don’t get it, you don’t get it.” In our schools, we shouldn’t have to worry about staff actually receiving the info, but we do have to do a better job of making sure that they actually take the time to review and read what we send.

And, of course, our end of the bargain is to make our internal pieces as readable, engaging, timely, authentic, and relevant as possible.

Rich Bagin, APR
NSPRA Executive Director

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One Comment on “What’s a School Communicator to Do?”

  1. Betsy Kohn Says:

    Our associate supt. sends an email newsletter to all principals and cabinet members weekly. He has made it clear that we are all held accountable for anything in that newsletter…. so that’s where we all submit important items that need a response or action. Other random emails that come to principals are not held to this same standard. EVERYONE reads that newsletter carefully.
    Did I mention our principals now have a merit pay raise system?

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