5. Survey your audiences. For less than $50 a year, you can use web-enabled software like SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang to create online surveys to gauge whether your messages are connecting as intended with parents, teachers, students, community members, and other key publics. Research will help you focus your communication efforts more strategically and get better results. It’s not enough to count hits. Find out where people are going on your web site and why, and bring the most frequented sections to the forefront.
6. Use new tools in new ways. It’s always tempting to use new tools in old ways. Don’t. Web sites are meant to serve as interactive communication channels, not as static repositories of outdated information. Build in feedback loops such as surveys, eMails, monitored chat rooms, live web chats and webinars, online quizzes, and other tools that engage site visitors.
7. Start blogging, podcasting, and video streaming. If you’re still asking “Should I bother?” or “What good will it do?,” just remember that people once said the same thing about whether school districts should invest in web sites. What was new and novel just a few years ago is standard now. Get started, or get left behind.
8. Free control of web sites from IT. Now, I say this with all love and respect for my colleagues in information technology. But the fact is that the web is a communications, marketing, and public relations tool. Control over strategy, content, navigation, and branding should rest with communications, not IT. What IT brings is the know-how to make the communications ideas happen. Great eCommunication requires great collaboration and cooperation among a wide variety of school and district departments. Get everyone around the table, and start mapping out sites that serve external customers first rather than internal egos and power struggles.
9. Improve site navigation. The good news is that school-related web sites have become much more robust in terms of content and services in recent years. The bad news is that too many are far too difficult to navigate. The most common mistake is to fail to distinguish between various levels of content. When everything on the page receives the same graphic treatment, it makes it harder for site visitors to find what they need. At the very least, incorporate a site search engine tool and spend more time plugging metatags into your HTML, so searchers don’t have to know the exact wording to find key content.
10. Learn from the kids. Kids are natives when it comes to technology. Find out what they’re using and why, and then figure out a way to incorporate it into your classrooms and school communications. The next generation of parents is more tech-savvy than ever before. Growing up with instant messaging, they’re going to expect higher levels of responsiveness from school personnel.
Note to readers:
Don’t forget to visit the Mass Notification Systems resource center. Terrorism. Severe weather. Violent crimes. Water main breaks. Gas leaks. All of these scenarios can occur instantly. The question is, will your schools be prepared to communicate urgent news before it’s too late? Go to: Mass Notification Systems