I’ll be honest . . . I’m a talker. Conversations that should take 5 minutes often take me 20! So when I took on the leadership role of our elementary school’s parent organization, I quickly learned some important lessons about how not to waste my words, but how to channel them effectively. And as the leader, strategy is everything—particularly a PTA communication strategy. Following these five tips will go a long way towards communicating better with your school’s parents.
1. Piggyback on Teacher Communication
Have you ever experienced the weekly “emptying of the backpack/binder” ritual? Regardless of how conscientious we try to be, our ritual seems to always take place on a Sunday right before our bedtime routine. As we speed read through the various announcements, permission slips, and past assignments, we try to retain the most important information for the week to come.
TIP: If you have the opportunity to combine your message with something else that’s already going home with students, take advantage. One way we do this at Bridgewater Elementary is by e-mailing information to teachers that can be included in their weekly newsletter that goes home via print and e-mail.
2. Diversify Your Communication Channels
Effective communication is about reaching people where they are. In today’s world that means using some combination of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, a website, weekly e-mail blasts, and the old-fashioned paper flyer. To reach your families, it’s essential to have a presence in at least three to four of those spaces and more importantly, to make sure you maintain them. Few things are more frustrating than seeking out information online only to find that the most recent update was posted three years prior.
TIP: Don’t forget about using some of the amazing (and FREE!) online tools out there to enhance and streamline your communication. At Bridgewater, we’re fans of using sites like Sign Up Genius and Perfect Potluck to get information out to large groups of people quickly and easily. Countless tools are available—so do a Google search and take advantage!
3. Be Clear and Concise with Your PTA Communication
Today it seems that everyone is vying for our attention. Given this constant communication bombardment, it’s easy to see how much of it simply turns into noise.
TIP: Be selective about the information you send home. If parents want the minutes from your previous meeting, they’ll find a way to get them. But most of the time, key bullet points will suffice.
4. Don’t Let Your PTA Communication Get Lost in Translation
Obviously, when you’re trying to communicate with your school’s families, your goal is to reach every family. Consider reaching out to bilingual parents and teachers who might be willing to translate your message going home with students. Don’t let language be a barrier to communication and participation!
TIP: If available, you could also tap into student volunteers through a local college or university. If your organization has a website, create a page to host translated materials.
5. Create a Communication Schedule
When it comes to communication, consistency breeds familiarity. People like to know what to expect, and if you work to communicate thoughtful and pertinent information on a regular schedule, soon you’ll find that families will be looking for your communication instead of filtering it like junk mail.
TIP: When you communicate with your school families, try to do so on a regular schedule. Maybe it’s once a month in the school newsletter, or perhaps each Friday in a weekly e-mail blast.
Shari Sneary lives in Dundas, Minnesota with her husband Bart and their two boys, Eli (12) and Parker (10). Shari has served at Bridgewater Elementary in Northfield for the past seven years and is looking forward to an exciting last year as her youngest enters 5th grade. (Her boys have told her she’s simply not allowed at the Middle School. Spoken like true Middle Schoolers!)