In today’s saturated media environment, many school districts are one blog post or tweet away from a crisis. Crises can happen easily and unexpectedly — like after a small error occurs or a miscommunication between school staff members reaches the public.
One Michigan school district found themselves in this situation when an internal communications mix-up about mask mandates for the new school year accidentally went public. By the time the error was corrected, it had already gained attention from the community and the media.
No school district is immune to a crisis and it can happen at any time. To effectively mitigate this risk, having a strong internal communications strategy in place is crucial.
Internal communications focuses on the exchange of information between an organization and its employees and is essential for helping employees feel informed, included, and empowered to do their best work.
Effective internal communications can prevent crises and misinformation, and, when done well, keeps staff engaged and informed while ensuring they receive accurate information in a timely manner.
Whether you’re building an internal communications strategy from scratch or looking to enhance your existing internal communications, here are six best practices to consider:
1. Create an internal communications strategy.
Successful internal communications begins with a strategy. Every school district should have an internal communications strategy that outlines the following:
- Channels used for internal communications (email, intranet, software, etc.)
- Audiences (teachers, staff, building leadership, district leadership, etc.)
- Key messages for internal audiences
- Processes for handling internal communications
- Tactics used for internal communications (employee newsletter, talking points, etc.)
2. Build a calendar for internal communications.
For many school districts, there are likely internal communications routinely shared every year. These communications may include:
- HR related announcements
- Information regarding the school year calendar
- Professional development opportunities
Creating a calendar that highlights key milestones and employee announcements for each year will help you plan internal communications in advance – such as emails, taking points, and presentations – and be prepared for new or unexpected announcements.
3. Provide a platform for two-way communications with teachers and staff.
Whether you have hundreds or thousands of employees in your district, it’s essential to provide a platform that makes two-way communication between your internal communications team and staff easy, and makes employees feel heard.
Using Let’s Talk, you can create a landing page on your website for employees to ask questions, submit requests, and provide feedback – while ensuring information gets routed to the correct department.
For example, Fort Bend ISD in Texas created a hub for human resources on their district website using Let’s Talk to collect questions and feedback from current and prospective employees.
4. Commit to timely, consistent communication with staff.
One of the most important qualities of effective internal communications is ensuring employees receive the timely information they need to do their jobs well.
Before sharing critical announcements for employees, have a plan in place. Prepare talking points for principals and key leadership members, create a list of anticipated questions with answers ready, and develop communications to keep staff informed.
To simplify your FAQs, use Knowledge Base to build a bank of informational articles and answers to commonly asked questions. This way, you can ensure staff, families, and community members receive accurate information when they visit your website.
5. Implement a media protocol.
A reporter can reach out to your district or contact a school at any moment. Make sure customer-facing staff are equipped with a media protocol that details your district’s process for handling media requests. You can also create a media request landing page through Let’s Talk that makes it easy for frontline staff to share with reporters.
You can also include a simple set of talking points with your media protocol to help customer-facing staff in real-time.
For example, you might provide a simple statement for your staff to provide such as: “Thanks for your question. I cannot speak on behalf of the district. If you provide me with your name, contact information, and deadline, I can share that with the correct person to help get you the answers you seek.”
6. Celebrate your successes.
As your team works hard to create processes around internal communications, be sure to celebrate the successes of your team.
Employee recognition is an excellent way to strengthen your team’s morale and openness. An easy way to celebrate your team is to capture employee recognitions through a Let’s Talk form. For example, Georgetown ISD in Georgetown, Texas collects Way to Go Grams through Let’s Talk to honor employees for their hard work.