Uniting your community, the ‘write’ way

“The art of communication is the language of leadership,” said writer James Humes. As a speechwriter to five United States Presidents over several decades, Humes had more than a little experience with inspiring a broad, and usually divided, audience.

As the school Head, you are often responsible for rallying stakeholders around a shared purpose, direction and culture.

A good school leader needs to be able to build trust and strong relationships with all participants in the school community – students and their families, alumni, staff and other stakeholders. Motivating these diverse audiences to work towards the school’s mission is one of your greatest challenges as a Head.

But even excellent communicators, with engaging messages, need the right soapbox from which to shout from.

Choosing your channel

Thirty years ago, regular ‘From the Head’ messages were mostly found in the weekly print newsletter sent home with students, alongside event reminders and sports results. In today’s digital landscape, a wide range of channels are available to you including emails and e-newsletters, website blogs, parent portals, social media, podcasts and video.

Each platform has its own benefits and disadvantages. For example, though video is effective at audience engagement, it requires a significant investment in both equipment and time. When considering the channel that is best for your communications strategy, consider:

What channels are your audience already engaging with?

  • Do you personally have a strong preference between verbal or written communication?
  • Are your messages appropriate for public access (i.e. social media channels)?
  • Does your communications team need upskilling to utilise certain channels?

What are you saying?

“When the winds blow hard and the sky is black … ducks fly together,” said Coach Gordon Bombay (Emilio Estevez) to his team, behind by three points with one period left of the game in D2: The Mighty Ducks. We know the importance of developing targeted and relevant communications for different stakeholder groups to ensure everyone feel valued. But sports coaches (and screenwriters) also know the power of a collective message to rouse everyone to ‘fly together’.

These communications reiterate the story, values and philosophy of your school. Bringing your school’s story to life in your ‘From the Head’ address can reiterate to families why they chose your school and help you develop a shared language with your community. Some examples of content to inspire your community can be:

  • stories of success and achievement
  • exciting programs and opportunities
  • strategic plans
  • your school’s philosophy, values and mission in action
  • resources and helpful hints.

Finding the right frequency

On average, a school Head spends 11 percent of their time communicating and engaging with their community (Deliotte, 2017). For many schools, this increased dramatically during the pandemic.

For every community member that thinks the school communicates with them too much, there is another that feels it’s not enough. This tells us there is no perfect formula: you should find a frequency that works for you and your community. Be realistic and honest – what can you and your team reasonably manage? Having something genuinely interesting and inspiring to say once or twice a term can be more effective than struggling for content each week.

Great communicators can connect to audiences by bringing them together to feel part of a shared purpose. Harnessing your skills in the art of communication, in a consistent forum, will help you inspire your community to join the journey.

Cassandra Kirkpatrick is a Senior Account Manager at imageseven. With a background in arts marketing, she’s passionate about applying her communications, events and customer experience knowledge to support her clients in achieving their mission.  

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