As we get deeper into summer, it is important not to step back from efforts to communicate. Throughout the spring, keeping staff, parents, and students informed was crucial to ensuring that everyone remained calm, focused, and moving forward. Hopefully, you also kept other stakeholders and groups informed so they understood that learning did not stop even though brick and mortar schools were closed. Your commitment to keep everyone informed likely went far to answer questions, quell rumors, and maintain support for the efforts of your staff, families, and team.
Now, the focus of your communication needs to shift and widen. Stakeholders still need to be reminded of the learning that occurred, lessons that were taught, and other services that were provided during the spring. You need to do all that you can to counter natural tendencies for people to assume the worst if they are not aware of the truth.
Added to these key messages, stakeholders need to hear what is happening this summer, even more than during most summers. Predictably, many questions about whether and how schools will open in the fall are generating anxiety across the community. Your efforts to keep stakeholders informed about planning and preparation, even if detailed, specific information is not available, will make a positive difference. Just knowing that you and your team are busy working on the problem and the confidence you project that a plan will be ready when the time comes to convene the school year can provide important reassurance.
Even though many variables remain and plans to restart school are still taking shape, you can share the core priorities and principles—ensuring safety, supporting learning, minimizing disruption—that will guide planning and decisions in the coming weeks.
Further, you can reassure stakeholders by sharing timelines and venues you will use to communicate decisions and plans as they are finalized.
Be sure not to forget that during this time especially, the audiences you need to reach are broader than may be the case during times of calm and relative certainty.
- Of course, staff, students, parents, booster clubs, etc. still need current information.
- Also remember that city, village, or township leaders need to hear your progress and plans so they can be positioned to provide support.
- State and federal elected officials need to be informed so they can advocate for your needs and share your progress.
- Local service, civic, social, and religious organizations will be interested so they can coordinate programs they offer and schedules they need to develop.
Further, these groups are made up of people who, if informed, will pass along information and can provide reassurance that serious work is underway to meet the challenges ahead.
Each community is unique, so be sure to do an inventory with your leadership team to identify groups and individuals who need to be “kept in the loop” as the summer unfolds. Of course, local news media such as radio, television, or newspaper, can help to “get the word out,” but do not forget the opportunities that reside in blog posts, podcasts, videos and other communication technologies to share your messages and keep them fresh.
The credibility and support you experience in the fall will likely be influenced by the strength, dependability, and frequency of communication provided during the summer months. It makes sense to take maximum advantage of this opportunity.