Helpful Guide for School Leaders: Communicating Your Back to School Plan
While it is clear we may never return to the same school environment that existed before COVID-19, following a few guidelines may produce a more welcoming and seamless return to the new standard of daily operations. Plus, a few innovative EdTech companies have stepped up with a new crop of specialized capabilities designed to help schools and families.
Never forget the fundamentals of communications. There are messaging principles that should be incorporated into every communication-now and always. Using brevity, empathy, transparency and providing solutions are the key to keeping your educators and families engaged. Too often, people relate these principles only with crisis communications, however, they need to be considered in any situation, especially now.
Focus on the now. The one thing that has remained true throughout the pandemic is that nothing remains the same. Predictions made in April hardly resemble today’s reality. For that reason, we must be ready to adapt again, and again, and again. Don’t set policies that assume a set future. Leave yourself room to evaluate your policies regularly and reassure your stakeholders that you will update them on updates just as frequently. This also means that you need to provide open channels of communications back to your leadership so that teachers and parents not only feel heard, but also find it easy to communicate.
Make sure you have clear and monitored channels of communication. A recent survey by PWC revealed that 83% of organizations surveyed didn’t have a process or system to communicate quickly with their stakeholders. Now is the time to make sure that you have effective channels of communication that can reach everyone relatively quickly. That may be through an internal portal, through email, chat, or platforms such as www.actionaly.com. Having strong communications and messaging doesn’t matter if your stakeholders don't receive important messages quickly.
Communicate plans beyond your staff, teachers and families. While it is always critical to communicate clearly to your immediate stakeholders, be cognizant of the broad range of people that may be entering your office space or simply interacting with your teachers or students. This may include vendors and even family members of your employees. Schools are complex environments. Don’t overlook a third party that may undermine all the efforts you have made if not addressed in your communications and policies.
Keep your people front of mind. There is no question that everyone in your school from the youngest students to the cafeteria staff have been affected by the pandemic. The impact on the morale of school communities is not yet clear. Do not forget as the leader of an organization that you are responsible for not only rallying the troops but also being a calming force that provides guidance amidst the chaos. Make sure that you communicate often.
Navigating the complexity of internal and external communications can be difficult, especially in these chaotic times. The proper technology and communication channels make it easier to engage with your community. Don’t let the fundamentals of how you typically communicate disappear when you need them most.