Sometimes district-wide family engagement appears to be stalled on the launchpad, held back by the weight of commonplace myths. Myths can feel overpowering, but with a closer look, they provide us with solutions for further action and engagement.
These 5 common myths simply show blocks in communication steps. Communication strategies for outreach help districts meet families where they are and invite them to have meaningful engagement. Both 1 and 2-way communications are essential for this. 1-way––or broadcast––communications are invaluable ways for getting information out quickly and to as many families as possible. The next step––2-way communications––are a direct and personal way to strengthen relationships and support across your district.
SchoolStatus Connect Advanced Tier helps districts excel at both steps. The data-based communication hub allows districts to send mass notifications, easily bridge school-home communication divides with updates in the family’s preferred language and channel––including SMS, email, phone––help build classroom communities with event notification and volunteer coordination directly in the portal, and also make event management easy for your staff & educators.
Let’s identify the best approach to help us “debunk” these myths.
Myth 1: “We said it, they read it, we’re engaged”
Logically, this is clear. Yet, there may be extra steps to take. For example, if we don’t have tools to provide confirmation of delivery, we should pause before assuming our communication was actually received, read, and understood.
One way to remove any barriers in communication is to implement a system that ensures our messages are going out in the preferred languages and channels of our district’s families. SchoolStatus Connect also provides data-reporting for acknowledging reception of the messages and opens up dialogue channels with invitations for feedback from families. If a message was read, you can easily follow up if there appears to be no engagement.
Your district-family engagement and school-home communications can debunk this myth by building trust and inviting collaboration via your notifications.
Myth 2: A “Like” on Social Media = They’re Engaged
There are many ways to use social platforms strategically and successfully. 72.3% of Americans are on social media, so it makes sense to use these platforms to circulate information. However, social media sometimes creates the illusion of engagement as well. Posts and feeds may appear more active than they actually are. Most of the leading platforms are designed for superficial interactions, with “likes,” “retweets,” and “shares” dominating activity.
Broadcasting over social media is powerful when it is used in tandem with other strategies that provide more follow-up tools for family engagement. Value-added responses are difficult to gauge on social media platforms. So, share photos and event announcements online and also send them in a district-wide newsletter or email. Have classrooms send follow-up communications with students’ families directly to solidify deeper engagement.
Myth 3: “Traditional Marketing is Dead”
Yes, digital strategies are invaluable for district success. They add efficiency, support customization, and help us keep better records of our engagements. It’s also true that 85% of Americans have smartphones, so the chance of getting messages delivered through digital channels is extremely high.
Analog tactics also still have value. The look, feel, and weight of a flyer, printed newsletter, report, or insert, provides a different qualitative experience distinct from what is on screens and devices. For items that might be posted, re-read, shared, or marked up, physical documents have many advantages. Hard copies also add personal value for families. If there is a letter from a district superintendent praising a student’s attendance record, this could be a keepsake for families to celebrate and remember their child’s success.
Myth 4: “Reach = Engagement”
The breadth of communication is powerful and important. The ability to reach families all over our districts is crucial. This is why 1-way––or broadcast––communications are key.
The depth of communication is the next step. More meaningful 2-way district-family engagement depends on fostering personal connection. Engagement isn’t a numbers game, it’s a names game. Naming your prospects, naming their motivation, and listening as they name their expectations will provide more insightful, exclusive, and attentive messaging strategies.
Myth 5: “They’re Just Not Interested”
When outreach efforts appear to fail, we sometimes conclude that our audience was disinterested. The amount of work and dedication our districts put into events and campaigns deserve reciprocal attention from the community. If something was not as successful as districts anticipated, voice this with the community.
Like the first rule of attraction, we pay attention to those who pay attention to us. When our efforts didn’t garner enough engagement, ask families what they would be more likely to respond to. Understanding any unmet expectations or unresolved questions is the catalyst to energize family attention.
Family-district engagement is a relationship, and customized messaging, targeted follow-up, real-time reporting, and plans for future communications are how we strengthen community. Moving past these myths will allow you to skillfully foster meaningful and more well-rounded engagement.
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