Fishing is a challenge much like communication is for leaders. We are constantly trying to hook each member of our community to our mission. Beneath the surface, community stakeholders are swimming around our hooks consuming a smorgasbord of communication. If all we have is one fishing pole and one hook, what's the real chance that we will be able to catch all of our stakeholders with our communication?
Communication in the 21st-century school must transcend itself from fishing with one line of communication into combining multiple lines of communication and weaving together to create a net of communication. There is no one lure that will hook all of your stakeholders. There is no bait that will make them bite every time you throw out the hook. Let's face it. The people in our school community are way too busy to wait for us to give them communication in the manner that best suits us. Our message has to be wherever they are whenever they are ready to receive it. Communication has to be a net that catches every person every time the message is thrown out to the community.
In addition, communication can no longer be from one person. If we are going to create a net of communication, everyone has to play their part in our fishing expedition. Everyone has to hold their end of the line because everyone has
the responsibility of making connections and maintaining them with all members of the school community. For every member of the organization that fails to except this challenge, the result will be one more fish that slips through the net.
What Lines are needed to make a Net of Communication?
Verbal & Face-to-Face
Every member of your school comes in contact with stakeholders in your school community through verbal and face to face encounters. Of all the hooks, this is best way to communicate with your community and the best way to ruin your relationship with them as well. Capitalize on every meeting you have face-to-face with your community to project a positive image of the school because there's not a second opportunity for a good first impression.
While this is the most traditional form of communication, it is still the preference of many members of our community. With all of our efforts to connect virtually, we can't stop sending things home for people to pull out of the backpack. For many people, paper is the only bait that will connect them to our school.
Webpages are great one way communication tools. They can inform people whenever they are needing instant information. The biggest turn off about webpages is when they're not updated or are too difficult to navigate. If you plan to connect your community through a webpage, there are 2 rules of thumb.
1. Make sure every page you create stays current and updated frequently with relevant information. It will hook members of your community on 24-7 basis.
2. Make sure people can find the page they're looking for in 3 mouse clicks or less. Anything more than 3, and they'll stop biting.
Nothing gets two way dialogue going with more people better than social media. People are always on their phone thumbing through their newsfeed of choice. Schools with daily or even hourly updates on multiple social media platforms and blogs promote strong lines of communication with the community because parents and the community can get involved in the discussion and even start discussion on topics that leaders weren't even considering. Finally, social media is the best way to identify the undercurrents that are beginning to form in the community.
Text Message Services
This is a great one way communication tool that schools can use to update their parents with important information immediately. With the click of a button your entire school community can be informed of extremely important information. Remind 101 is a great example of this tool.
Many gradebook software programs have features where parents can subscribe for email updates and alerts about their student's grades. Schools need to take advantage of this opportunity and encourage parents and even teach them how to subscribe to their child's grade book. Making the grade book transparent gives parents the opportunity to be proactive in helping their kids improve their grades.
Catch More Fish!
Commercial fishermen could cast out fishing lines and wait for the fish to come to them, but they don't leave their success to chance. These fisherman are successful because they go to the fish and use strong nets to catch more fish. If schools wish to strengthen the lines of communication with more parents and community members, leaders must put down the fishing pole and make a net. They need to assemble their organization and multiple communication tools into strong nets of communication each time they send out their message. If they can adopt this philosophy of communication, they will always pull in a much more informed school community.