Communication in Crisis:Tips for Schools During COVID-19
Updated: Nov 23, 2020
Getting the ‘right’ message across to your parents, staff and students may not appear to be a priority. However, it’s critical in order to help ensure:
Maximum engagement and output from your staff and students, and
Your school’s parents continue to ‘see’ the value of paying their school fees.
No doubt you’ve all been bombarded with COVID-19 messages from organisations that you work for/with or follow. How many of these messages failed to connect with you? In this time of message flooding, it’s not necessarily about the number of times you communicate with your stakeholders, it’s about what you say to them and how you say it. It’s about ensuring that your message connects!
Following are some tips for your school as you navigate the impact of COVID-19 on the delivery of learning and the relationship with your families.
Need some help?
If you read the tips and think you need some customised help in your communication efforts, contact Complete the Picture Consulting (CTPC). CTPC is offering schools short and tailored, ‘1-1’ workshops to help school leaders in their communication efforts during this time. For more information, contact Marisa on 0430933307 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The 3 R’s of the Communication Message: Remind - Request - Repackage
Don’t assume that parents understand the challenges and thinking that has gone into moving learning online. Remind them that the core values of your school are still at the heart of what you are delivering and the service that you are providing to them, and their children.
Remind staff and teachers
When was the last time you praised your staff and teachers? It may seem like an obvious thing to do, but so often we get caught up in surviving and the day-day tasks that seem to now take longer than ever. We all respond to praise, so remind your staff that they are valued, and that their efforts are recognised.
Ultimately, it’s about the students and ensuring that their learning is progressing and it’s a positive experience. Remind them that this is still the key aim of the learning your school is providing, regardless of the mixed mode delivery.
Communication is fundamental in any relationship. It’s also a two-way process. So, encourage some level of input or engagement to strengthen the relationship at this time of crisis. This could be a feedback survey, a specific feedback question, providing a dedicated feedback channel or even organising a simple ‘game of skill’ competition. The key focus is to encourage engagement and connection, although the added benefit of feedback for an improved service or for use in marketing is a powerful secondary motivation. Just remember, if you ask for feedback make sure you’re seen to respond or address the messages that you’re receiving.
Finally, and this one makes up most of the current correspondence of many schools, is relaying key and relevant information and updates from the Department of Education and other advisors. However, schools may wish to consider distilling the key points and what it means for their families, as opposed to simply forwarding the material on to parents. Rather than a relay mechanism for the passage of information from external sources, consider adding value and making it easy for parents, teachers and students by repackaging the information into easily understood summaries.
The 3 S’s of Communication Delivery: Specific - Simple - Short
Now that you have crafted your communication, remember the 3 S’s of communication delivery.
Specific: Ensure the message is specific and tailored to your audience, be it the parents, your staff or the students. One communication does not fit all.
Simple: Keep the message simple and clear. Ask yourself what is the key message you want the parents, teachers and students to understand from this communication?
Short: Don’t go into too much detail in the core communication. If there is a lot of information to convey, provide a link where they can find additional details. If this is not an option, consider an opt in series of communications that allows those interested parents to opt in to receive more regular (and non-essential) communication.
Finally, effective communications with your staff, parents and students during this time is not only essential to navigate the impact of COVID-19 on learning, but it is an investment in securing the future strength of your relationships with your school community and in this regard the successful future of your school beyond COVID-19.