The pandemic brought many challenges that required school divisions and districts everywhere to find creative ways to share information with stakeholders quickly and efficiently while providing a platform for two-way communication.
Earlier this month, our team hosted a webinar in partnership with the Virginia Association of School Superintendents (VASS) on how to reduce school communications overwhelm. With many divisions facing staff shortages and limited resources, school leaders and communicators have turned to Let’s Talk! to help manage inbound communications.
During the webinar, two Virginia school communicators, Tara Helkowski from Fauquier County Public Schools and Natalie Allen from Virginia Beach City Public Schools, shared how they evolved their communications during the pandemic and how they’re using Let’s Talk! to keep their school communities engaged and informed. Here are three takeaways they shared:
1. Streamline communication.
Prior to implementing Let’s Talk!, both school divisions received hundreds of emails and phone calls each day. Questions were sent to the wrong staff members, resulting in inquiries getting lost in the shuffle. Additionally, frequently asked question pages turned into long lists flooded with information.
“Every facet of education was impacted by COVID-19, which was overwhelming for everyone. We needed a solution where we did not have to sort and sift through questions.” – Natalie Allen, Chief Communications & Community Engagement Officer, Virginia Beach City Public Schools
With the help of Let’s Talk!, both school divisions streamlined two-way communications and made it easy for families to receive instant access to the right information while making sure questions and concerns were directed to the right people.
VBCPS received 700-900 inquiries over the last few months, with two-thirds of those resolved through Let’s Talk!
2. Make communications accessible and user-friendly for stakeholders.
When FCPS and VBCPS evaluated communications solutions, a top priority was finding a platform that could accommodate non-English speakers and be ADA-compliant, and Let’s Talk! was that solution.
Additionally, it was important to have an accessible and mobile-friendly solution for stakeholders. For many VBCPS families, they use cell phones to communicate, and Let’s Talk! provided the ability for families to send messages to the division regardless of the device they use.
Once FCPS and VBCPS implemented Let’s Talk!, they launched a soft rollout of their Let’s Talk! pages — including it in newsletters and website forums, and replacing contact buttons on their website — so families and staff could transition to the new platform.
“Once our folks were trained, they said, ‘Oh — this is very simple!’ Most of our employees have software fatigue, but Let’s Talk! is a simple and helpful dashboard. We made sure the transition was gradual so everyone could get acclimated.” – Natalie Allen, Chief Communications & Community Engagement Officer, Virginia Beach City Public Schools
3. Foster a customer service experience for stakeholders.
Parents have many choices today for where to enroll their children, and customer experience is a critical way to keep them engaged and satisfied.
Making two-way communication a priority has helped both FCPS and VBCPS engage their families and promote a culture of proactive communications in their divisions. Helkowski says information overload is a real thing, but stakeholders feel more informed with clear and consistent communication.
School districts have shifted into a sounding board for many families, which is why providing a customer service environment should remain at the forefront of school leaders’ minds. A silver lining from the pandemic is parents are more involved with their children’s education. Giving them an interactive technology platform like Let’s Talk! grows their appreciation for a school district willing to listen.
“Parents want to get involved while knowing information and participating in their children’s education. Now more than ever, we need to listen.” – Tara Helkowski, Public Information Officer, Fauquier County Public Schools