5 best practices for communicating with parents
It takes very few push notifications for most mobile users to turn off app notifications. While most parents are invested in their children’s education and want to be “in the know,” schools must be strategic and purposeful in how they are communicating. Bombarding parents with messages is not an effective way to keep them informed and engaged and could have just the opposite effect. As the director of communications for Waterbury Public Schools in Connecticut, I try to strike a balance with communications that is informative, but not overwhelming.
Here are five tips I’ve developed for structuring smart communications so parents and guardians are not bombarded with your messaging:
Space individual messages out
If an organization floods you with messages, how long does it take to block, mute, or turn off app notifications? Probably not long. Parents deserve the same consideration. While they may not unsubscribe from an email or block all school notifications, too many interruptions can hurt parent satisfaction and dampen their willingness to engage. Critical messages also risk getting lost if too many uncoordinated announcements are competing for attention. Optimizing the volume and timing of regular school-home communications is a powerful way to increase parent engagement and reduce the risk of message fatigue.
Consolidate communications for fewer interruptions
What number of school-home communications go out on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis? Consider messages from the attendance office, district leaders, principals, teachers, counselors, sports teams, the PTO/PTA, room parents and so forth. It can add up fast. Consider grouping regular communications into a single, daily message for your families to review all at once. A unified communications platform such as ParentSquare can support this automatically. Or, consider a manual process at the district or school level, like a centrally managed, daily bulletin. Both are effective ways to consolidate messaging.
Let them pick the schedule
Utilizing a school-home communications platform that empowers families by encouraging them to choose when and how they want to receive routine school notifications is ideal. Parents should have the option to receive all messages in one batch early each evening. While parents should not be able to override emergency announcements, a digest feature is especially helpful for parents with multiple children at different schools.
Consider the time of day
Rather than immediately sending messages that aren’t time-sensitive, identify the best time windows and schedule your communications to maximize attention and engagement. Many districts and schools schedule messages for 6 p.m. or later when working parents are likely to be home and family members together. To identify the best time of day to send regular announcements, consider typical parent, home, or work schedules in your area, and/or ask families about their communication preferences.
Establish a regular cadence
Create a consistent communications schedule so announcements are expected and don’t seem like interruptions. Having an agreed-upon, reliable schedule across your district or school also reduces the risk of too many uncoordinated messages arriving on the same day, which can overwhelm families. You may also want to:
- Identify standard, recurring communications (Superintendent’s or Principal’s update, classroom memos, community resources, plus routine messages from athletic teams, PTO/PTA, after-school clubs and more)
- Collaborate with the appropriate staff members or “communications champions” to agree on daily, weekly or monthly timing and a schedule
- Measure and improve cadence by getting feedback, adapting, and adjusting until everyone—including parents—are on the same page and satisfied
A school's ability to effectively communicate with its families has never been more important. That's why it's critical message content and cadence is well thought out beforehand. These five strategies can help any school or district ensure that families stay authentically engaged, instead of interrupted or inconvenienced by your announcements.
Sujata Wycoff serves as the director of communications for Waterbury Public Schools. She uses ParentSquare to communicate with families in her district.
If you liked this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free email newsletter on EdTech. It’s among SmartBrief's more than 250 industry-focused newsletters.
Have a TechTip you want to submit to SmartBrief? On Tuesdays, SmartBrief Originals publishes fresh pieces, written by educators, that address issues in the edtech space. Pieces should be between 450 and 600 words and include an author bio and headshot. You can send pitches and submissions to editor Katie Parsons at email@example.com.