Chapter 1

This chapter includes a step-by-step approach to assuring your school's digital communications plan is on sound footing. It starts with using a strategic approach with goals, includes tapping very helpful school communication resources and tools, and provides examples of communication goals that will help you drive enrollment and engagement.   



How to live your mission and school brand


A sound communications strategy starts with a mission. One that’s clear, practical, shared, and practiced. An inspiring mission statement for your school district is central to your school communications plan. If you begin with the end in mind, your entire school community will have clarity as to what it is you’re trying to accomplish as educators.

A mission statement should reflect what your school stands for, what it values, and it should serve as a standard for behavior for the staff, students and other stakeholders. Everyone at your school should be prepared and equipped to walk the walk that your mission espouses.

Likewise, your mission should be reflected in your school brand, which is much more than color schemes, fonts and logos. Your school brand is the sum total of how your district wants to be known and recognized. It's how you want your parents, students and staff to feel about their experience with the school. 

School leadership and frontline personnel need to embrace the importance of a professional, nurturing school culture and live up to the brand promise set forth in your mission. 


There’s no need to reinvent the wheel when creating a district mission statement. Get some inspiration for your own from examples of school mission statements published in Education World.



A solid mission statement helps your administrators and teachers develop and align their goals with consistent focus. It’s that overarching mantra that should be visible at every turn in your communications. A clear mission statement can serve as a positive reminder to keep everyone who’s involved in educating your students on course.

When formulating or refining your district mission and brand, ask yourself if it truly reflects all the great professional educators you work alongside? It's people, after all, who personify your district with your school brand. 


How to ‘live’ your communications mission:

1. Involve school leaders.

Don't develop your mission statement in isolation from other key stakeholders. Your communications lead (or committee if you have one) should own this assignment. In addition to district leaders, involve instructors, other school staff, parents and even students in this fundamental step. Mission statements built as a team have a head start for ready assimilation into the school environment.

2. Keep it academic.

When crafting your mission statement, keep in mind the task at hand. Don’t get too far afield from the realistic impact your school can have on its students. It’s okay to think big, be altruistic and global and all, but academic achievement, after all, should be driving the bus here.

3. Make it accessible. 

Avoid jargon and eduspeak. You’re creating this not for academicians with advanced degrees in learning methods, but for students, parents, staff and others who want to get a feel for the goals and culture of your school and rally around it. TIP: If there are too many syllables, reconsider word choice.

4. Spread the word.

Don’t create a mission statement then bury it on an obscure web page. It should be communicated in classrooms, school lobbies, student handbooks, websites, online profiles, gymnasiums, auditoriums, emails, videos and other school touch points. 

The keystone of the foundation of your communications is a well-conceived, well-articulated mission statement. Be sure that mission is shared – verbatim and in practice – with all the key audiences you’re trying to reach. Every communication tactic and message you develop should serve to connect with staff, students, parents or the community at large. 

Engaging your entire school community

Communication success is all about engagement. As with any communications endeavor, you have to first know just who it is you’re trying to reach.

While parent engagement is key to school success, there are other key groups that are essential to communications success.  Beyond parents, school communicators must consider how to reach their entire group of stakeholders by segmenting and tailoring communications tactics and messages accordingly.


Internal audience

Your internal audience – school board members, instructors and non-teaching staff – are perhaps your most important group. Within this broad group there will be times when you need to address subgroups, but, as a whole, these should be the first to receive that initial volley of communications on most school matters. They’re the ‘foot soldiers’ after all, who can carry or drop the messages going to your other audience groups. 

Especially in terms of policy and procedural changes, an informed staff is a prerequisite to supporting communications with your other audiences, helping to execute your message delivery. Conversely, an uninformed staff can obfuscate and blur an intended message – or even resent the message if not made aware of communications to other school stakeholders.



Parents are not only a major audience group, but also are allies in helping spread your messaging.

Getting the word out to parents is actually easier than ever today, given the multitude of digital communication channels available. Given the heightened role of social media, for example, 'organic' parent leadership can surface at just about any time. No longer just the domain of PTOs and booster groups, parent voices and leadership can emerge around the myriad issues school districts face. 

Engaging your district parents has become an around-the-clock challenge that requires increased diligence and vigilance. Keeping parents informed on their terms through personalized parent communication methods can serve to build support of key district-level and school-level messaging. 



The media and the community at large are the extended audiences that factor into your communications. Nearby businesses, elected officials, civic organizations, senior centers, churches, community groups and citizens at large are often overlooked.

School districts are a community asset. They are the heart and soul that helps define neighborhoods, towns and counties. Local governments, businesses and other community groups are key stakeholders that need to be on your radar.



Many school communications plans ironically neglect – if not totally overlook –the role students can play in delivering messaging. Be sure to factor students into your internal communications mix. They can haul the load when it comes to personifying and sharing your messaging.

Don't overlook students in your internal communications mix. They can have a major impact on reaching all your other audiences. Students, after all, are the manifestation of your school mission. 


Don't leave out anyone

When sharing content, don't forget anybody. Keep all your audiences in mind, and develop strategies, goals and tactics targeting each.


The kids are all right.

Many school communications plans ironically neglect – if not totally overlook –the role students can play in delivering messaging. They are all about sharing. Be sure to factor them into your internal communications mix. Find some student ambassadors who can haul the load when it comes to sharing and personifying your school brand.

Just how they like it

Reaching your entire school community in today’s digital, mobile world requires a mindset, strategic approach and the tools to connect how and when your audiences prefer.

Setting realistic, achievable goals

The communications goals you establish for your district or school will vary on strategic initiatives. Give your goals a lot of thought before setting them, make sure they align closely with overall objectives, and give them a chance to be met. 

Know your school’s strengths and weaknesses. Confirm them through stakeholder surveys. Consider your current communications with staff, parents, and students.


The big questions to ask when setting communication goals:

  • What are the barriers to improving dialogue with your parents? 
  • Have there been misunderstandings because event information isn’t transmitted as smoothly as it could be between staff and parents?
  • Is time-critical information being conveyed quickly enough?
  • How can you better engage staff, parents, and students at your school? 
  • What makes parents decide to enroll their children in your school? 
  • Are there any disconnects you need to eliminate? 
  • Are you reaching prospective students effectively?

Perhaps your communication with staff is excellent, but there have been issues with enrollment. Maybe you’re finding it challenging to connect with parents regularly. Identify the main target groups that you need to communicate with more effectively and set your goals accordingly.


Achievable goals to consider:

  • Increase opportunities to share good news about staff, students and school issues with the entire school community.
  • Increase amount of content being pushed to parents with regular information on important district-level, school-level, and classroom-level information.
  • Better gauge and be more responsive to the communications needs of school community stakeholders.
  • Measure parent engagement with metrics made available using digital channels.

Goal-setting and other fundamental steps to creating a strategic school communications plan can be found in this article on the SchoolNow Academy blog. The National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) website also has some excellent resources for this stage of your planning. There’s even a sample outline of a strategic communications plan on the NSPRA website.

How to set school communication goals

Setting communications goals for your school is easier than you might think. Take a look at these great examples of strategic goals sure to improve parent engagement.

  1. Redesign school website
  2. Create a speakers' bureau
  3. Increase social media following
  4. Add or enhance communications channels                  
  5. Create a superintendent’s blog
  6. Create a district Youtube channel
  7. Expand social media
  8. Establish a social media internship
  9. Recount popular retired teachers and staff
  10. Develop school mobile app
  11. Enhance uniformity of classroom (teacher) websites
  12. Increase social media content (more postings)
  13. Better integrate social media onto website
  14. Survey stakeholder groups
  15. Increase messaging around key programs
  16. Better depict the fun, human interest side of your school
  17. Spotlight teachers and non-teaching staff
  18. Better utilize intranet for in-service and professional development
  19. Develop social media ambassadors
  20. Create a school style guide for staff emails
  21. Launch a school Instagram account
  22. Form a communications advisory committee
  23. Highlight successful alumni
  24. Spread school board news
  25. Appoint web accessibility coordinator