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Posted on Nov 1, 2010

Communication Basics

Communication Basics

by Gerry Ebbers, SCSBC Consultant for Stewardship and Development, and Ron St. Hilaire, Media Specialist and Director of Development (rtd.)

Assumptions can be dangerous, especially if they are wrong. Take communications for example. Schools often assume that their board members, staff and parents are able to clearly and convincingly articulate the mission of the school to those who ask – prospective parents for example. Is that true for your school community? How do you know? How can you find out?

Test your school community with a few questions? Do you know the mission of the school? What’s different about our school? Why did you choose this school for your child? The answers may suggest that you need to do some educating of those very people you assume know your school well.

Your school’s communication plan starts on the inside with staff, board members and parents. Your plan needs to be intentional, targeted, measured. Every time part or all of your community comes together, you need to review your mission, share concrete examples of your mission in action, point to the results of what you are doing, and give people the speaking points that they can use in communicating the school to others.

Start with formulating some examples to fill out these sentences:

  • This school is great because …
  • My child loves this school because …
  • This year our school is doing …
  • I teach social studies differently by …

Your speaking points must not be long or complicated. Don’t plan to share the whole story in one session. Your goal in communicating is to entice your audience to want to know more, to seek more information, so your speaking points need to be simple, succinct, dynamic, engaging. Practice summarizing your key messages in a few short sentences. And share your story with excitement, passion and conviction.

How can your community improve their communication? At every meeting, board members can take time to put into their own words what they have learned about the school or what they have seen happening in their own children. Staff meetings are a good time for teachers to give concrete examples of their fulfilling the mission of the school. Prepping parents can be the hardest task since few schools ever require parents to come to the school for an evening of instruction and discussion. Some schools have mandatory parent meetings; you might consider implementing this. But if your parents are the school’s best cheerleaders, use all your opportunities for teaching them “the cheer.” Use time at concerts, plays, open houses, parent-teacher meetings, society meetings, whenever you get people together. Your suggestions will need to be repeated many times so use all of the opportunities that come your way. Consider supplementing what you do at gatherings with print materials: put your mission and vision statements on every piece of communication to parents. Design a short card with speaking points. Create an annual DVD that captures how your school is different and why all Christian parents should enroll their children. If you brainstorm this challenge, you’ll be surprised at the great ideas that come forward.

Have a plan, be intentional, test your outcomes.

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