Crafting Your School’s Newsletter

Vol. 10 No. 1

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Over the past 10 years (that’s right, this season marks ten years of ISM’s e-Letters—happy birthday e-Letters!), ISM has published several articles about creating the perfect parent newsletter. Of course, 10 years ago the focus was more on printed newsletters and now the buzz is about greener, electronic alternatives. But, regardless if your school has moved over to an electronic-only format, sending out both printed and electronic variations, or is still relying on print solely, the content is what matters most.

The new school year is a new chance to really open up your communications with parents. This year, set a goal to make your newsletter the ultimate tool for parents and alumni—and, see it through with these helpful tips.

Invite your entire faculty and staff to contribute. Let’s be honest: You’re the Admission Director not a fly on the wall of every classroom and meeting. Ask that faculty and staff share important news and events with you for the intent of publishing. For example, if Mr. Fossil, your school’s biology teacher, has been using online applications to further his classes' experience and it’s been an exciting addition to their learning experience, you’ll want to include that in your parent updates. You can’t possibly know everything that is going on in your school (not even your Head can be expected to know everything), but you can gain insight by inviting everyone to contribute to your publication.

Link to resources. Even if your production is only in print format, you can include URLs to share more in-depth resources. For example, if your school has recently incorporated iPads into your first grade class, give parents links to resources that support 21st century learning. If you have a video clip of students using their new technology, even better—share with parents the link to view their students in action. And, if your teachers have set up blogs, make sure to give parents the URL. They can easily follow their child’s class as well as other classes on their own if pointed in the right direction. Added bonus—if you’re sharing a video clip of your students in action, parents can share the link with their friends and family, helping to broaden awareness for your school.

Include multimedia. Again, even print-only newsletters can share multimedia resources. Have a screen shot of your latest video upload, a picture of students in action, or a link to a sound clip on your school’s Web site. The more media you include, the more engaging and valuable your newsletter will be.

Distribute, distribute, distribute. Tweet about it, share articles and/or links on Facebook, upload to Google docs, and post a PDF download on your school’s Web site. Don’t let your hard work go unnoticed; share with as many interested readers as you can in as many formats as you can.

Practice consistency. All newsletters need a format. Sending out a fresh look each month or quarter is confusing to readers. Set a standard for what you want to achieve and communicate each time and stick with it. Create a checklist of important inclusions you intend to deliver. Such as, multi-media, sports updates, student news, a column from your Head. Then each month (or quarter), as you prepare your newsletter, check off from your list making sure you’ve stuck with your plan.

Have a team of proofers. This is an important step in any document preparation. Select a few people from both your faculty and staff who are willing to proof your newsletter before it’s distributed. Have them check off from your checklist, too. And ask for feedback. Do they know of additional resources to include or an event that should be mentioned? Don’t let this be a solo project—the more insight and feedback you can get, the better the end result will be.

Ask parents for feedback. Ask parents what they care about knowing the most. Is it facility updates, classroom reports, a monthly calendar of events? How do they feel about the layout? Does it have a nice flow? Is it easy to navigate and read? Are the sections consistent and relevant? If you’re not sure that what you’re putting out there is valuable, the best way to gain insight is to simply ask. And, of course, if you’re using an electronic delivery system, don’t forget to check on your open and click-through statistics. These can give you important feedback about your efforts.

Other ISM articles of interest:
ISM Monthly Update for Admission Officers Vol. 8 No. 3 How to Make Your School Newsletter Interactive
I&P Vol. 27 No. 11 (For Consortium members only) Cyber News: Designing Your Online Newsletter
I&P Vol. 27 No 4 (For Consortium members only) Cyber News:The Transition to Paperless Parent Communication
I&P Vol. 35 No. 3 (for Consortium members only) The Growing Importance of Technology in Parent Communications

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