Learn What They Want to Hear — Just Not What You Want to Tell Them

Making your messages connect with all of your school audiences is harder than ever. Most people are so busy with their jobs, lives, and preferred mode of entertainment that they don’t make the time to focus on your school messages.

Let’s face it — most of our parents and other community leaders are bombarded with texts, email, streaming videos, photos, and their infatuation with their new favorite app. It is extremely difficult to penetrate the clamor with our messages about Common Core, budget decisions, new tech ventures, and more.

Like most PR counselors, I need to first give you the old “research mantra.” You won’t even make a dent in connecting with your audiences if you don’t know what they know and what they want to learn more about. Research will make your messages more relevant and connected. And yes, research proves that research works.

Psst… Here Comes a Shortcut to School Messaging Research

Let me share a shortcut for developing messages that your school audiences will better receive. The shortcuts are based on more than 20 years of experience and research of working with school audiences in school districts, both big and small, and urban, suburban and rural.

NSPRA has just co-published a book entitled School Communication That Works, by NSPRA member Ken DeSieghardt, CEO and partner of Patron Insight, Inc. The quick and enjoyable read (well, to those of us who are into school PR) gives you the rationale and messaging insight to regularly reach more of your audiences.

Ken talks about content — what parents and community leaders really care about. Unfortunately, it often is not what we have been telling them for many years. He cleverly bridges that content gap by first telling us to give them what they want and then we can begin putting a bit of medicine in with the pudding to get some of our preferred messages across.

This Is How Parents, Patrons, Taxpayers Think

One of my major “take-aways” from this new book is the section in each chapter labeled This Is How Patrons Think.

Here are two examples:

  • Continually show me that you manage your money with an understanding that it is actually MY money, and I’ll be much more likely to support you when you need additional funds.
  • I’m too busy to remember complex plans and details. The only way for me to track anything this detailed is for you to break it down for me into small pieces. Each time you have something to say, make it simple: what you did, why you did it, and what I might have forgotten from the past that ties to what you are telling me now. And, above all, don’t forget to tell me why I should pay attention.

Nothing will ever replace direct research with your target audiences. But if you are looking for a time and financial shortcut to begin grasping the type of audience-based messages that may stick, consider taking Ken’s advice.

Ken will also be speaking at our Baltimore Seminar next July. His new book is available from NSPRA at www.nspra.org/store.

Rich Bagin, APR
NSPRA Executive Director

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