In my opinion, newsletters are one of the most used — and abused — communication tools in education marketing. Don’t get me wrong, when executed well and with a clear target group in mind, a school newsletter can be an incredibly effective communication tool. In many ways, whether it’s an online communication or printed version, the school newsletter remains the school equivalent of ‘the bush telegraph’.
But where I see so many school newsletters fail is with dull, repetitive, unprofessional and content-heavy information that has little relevance for parents.
imageseven’s own school clients have asked many of the following questions of me at various times. So I’ve compiled them into a list of the most frequently asked questions that apply to the creation, editing and distribution of newsletters. And the same rules apply whether it is an email, online or printed newsletter.
1. Do newsletters really work?
Yes they do ... but only when you get it right. I know that sounds like a lawyer covering his backside, but it’s the plain truth. Does a water bore work? Yes, but only if you drill where there is water and keep it well maintained. A newsletter can never be the cover up for a poorly written or published teacher article, school crisis or ongoing issue.
Newsletters seem to not work when:
- There is little care or thought about the content.
- There are unclear expectations about what the communication is to achieve.
- The layout and presentation is amateurish.
- The content has no real value to the parent/reader.
- The content is compiled in a way that does not take into consideration the parent/reader’s point of view.
Newsletters seem to work best when:
- Teacher articles and notifications have been carefully structured and thought out.
- Teachers/contributors are following a specific style and visual guideline.
- They have been edited and proofed by a fresh set of eyes.
- Information is useful and relevant to the parent reading the newsletter.
- Content is not too heavy, as most parents do not have the time to read long winded articles.
2: What is appropriate content?
The first thing to consider when preparing a school newsletter is content and frequency. You don’t want to bombard your parents with numerous newsletters per week, or per day even. Limit the amount of newsletters from one to three per week. Any more than that and your parents will become disinterested, with the possibility of trashing the newsletter before even opening it.
It helps to think of your content falling into one of six broad categories:
- Message from the Principal.
- Messages from Heads of Departments.
- Messages from teachers.
- Important notices.
- Upcoming events.
- School products to buy/sell. For example school cookbook, summer/winter uniforms.
3: How often should I publish?
As most schools are pushing their weekly newsletters to be published online rather than as a printed copy for students to take home to their parents, the frequency of publishing changes accordingly. As mentioned earlier, if you are sending out your newsletters online you should limit them from one to three per week, the same goes for printed newsletters as well. It can be difficult at times to condense your newsletters into a simple four-page publication.
Frequency is key. In some instances, you may get better results from publishing a shorter newsletter more frequently than a longer one less frequently, but this is all dependant on the size and type of your school. In some of the most successful newsletter repair engagements we’ve undertaken, we’ve halved (or more) the number of pages in a newsletter and doubled the frequency.
It must be noted that email communications make it much harder to get your message through (opened) and read. They are more likely to be perceived as spam. It is essential that you use an email publication tool that gives the receiver the opportunity to opt in and out. Anti-Spam legislation outlaws unsolicited emails, so, give people the option to join with the chance to opt out and you have a ‘permission based’ list.
In part two of 'How to create effective school newsletters', I’ll look at which media to use, and the most common mistakes to avoid.
In the meantime, if you want to ask us some more questions, simply contact us for a chat, we'd be glad to help.
This blog was written by Brad Entwistle
Brad Entwistle is founder and Managing Director of imageseven. For more than 25 years he has led the imageseven team on a crusade to lift schools’ brands and reveal the true value they deliver to students and their families. When he is not working with schools on their marketing strategy, Brad sits on the boards of two national not-for-profits and enjoys looking at antique maps.