We have things to say–is anybody listening?

Posted on behalf of Shannon K’doah Range of the San Francisco Friends School

At the San Francisco Friends School, we have a lot to say. We are only nine years old and we are the first Quaker school in San Francisco. We are constantly educating our current and prospective parents about what we do, what a Quaker education means, and why silence is revered in a Friends school. We use a lot of the usual tools to get our messages and information out:  e-newsletters, Facebook posts, quarterly magazines, snail mail letters. We try and target our communications to specific audiences: our current parents, prospective parents, our young alumni, our immediate urban neighborhood.

But are we having any success? We spend hours and days and weeks and months pushing out our key messages about our schools, telling nuanced, carefully-written stories about our fantastic programs, and designing beautiful promotional materials. But rarely is that feedback loop closed. We hear some thanks from this parent, a critique from that parent, some feedback from a teacher, and other crumbs from various sources. What we don’t have is a real sense, beyond these anecdotal accounts, of whether people are hearing what we are saying.

To some extent, this is due to the nature of independent school communities. They are not set up for rigorous feedback loops about communications, responding to surveys or attending focus groups. Members of independent school communities receive information about the school from so many direct and indirect sources, it is nearly impossible to pin down what techniques and tools really move the needle in managing perceptions of the school and conveying messages about a school.

This is one of the many challenges I face at the San Francisco Friends School, a young K-8 school in the urban Mission district of San Francisco. What would really help me in addressing these issues is to hear what other communications teams are doing. Learning peer-to-peer would be a great source of understanding and collegial support.

If other independent school communicators are interested in discussing issues like communications feedback, strategic planning, or digital vs. print publications, I invite you to come to our pre-conference Communications Roundtable. A group of 20+ communicators is planning to meet in Seattle on Wednesday, February 29 from 10am-12pm at the Hyatt Olive 8 right before NAIS kicks off.

If you are interested in joining us, please go to our Google Group at https://groups.google.com/group/commsroundtable?hl=en and request an invitation. We’d love to have your experience, stories, and insights in the room as we collectively face our individual communications challenges.

Written by Shannon K’doah Range, Director of Communications, San Francisco Friends School
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