Three steps to avoid overloading parents with too much information

Posted by Justin

There are so many things a school wants to tell parents. From upcoming open evening to the latest sporting achievement. But have you, however, considered what it feels like as a parent, being on the receiving end of a huge volume of stories and reminders?

In one school, we recently worked with, Friday afternoon was a popular time. The school team were keen to tell parents about important dates and actions for the next week, particularly as their children approached exam time. Parents, approaching the end of their busy week, sometimes received four or five school related emails. These were often without a clear call to action and included a difficult to read PDF document. Reading these was a job for another day. As we know, this ‘other day’ seldom arrives. When the emails land directly in the spam folder they are literally never seen.

So what’s the solution? We recommend a three-step approach to managing information effectively with parents at any school. Once implemented this approach ensures important messages are acted upon and reduces pressure on the school team answering queries.

Step 1 – Air Traffic Control

You need visibility and to manage every message that is going to be sent to parents so that the school team can spot if parents are likely to be bombarded from all angles. We call this ‘air traffic control’. Just like when landing an aircraft, it is about ensuring messages land one at a time in an orderly manner.

The simplest way to do this is by creating a spreadsheet on your shared drive which captures date, target audience (which parents), the key message, how it will be sent (email, text, etc) and who is responsible. Put in place a process to ensure teachers check your air traffic control spreadsheet before sending any message. They will soon see where there are potential overload situations. If necessary they can negotiate with each other to reschedule various messages to avoid clashes. It’s also a great way for school leaders to see quickly what communication with parents is planned and to inform their teams accordingly.

Step 2 – Traffic Lights
Parents (and the school team) need to quickly identify the importance of each message so they can prioritise the most important ones and act on them. We recommend using a red, amber, green code within your school.

Red messages are urgent and of high importance so take priority and are sent using an appropriate method such as direct text. They should be marked as urgent. Amber messages are important but not urgent so can be sent by email. And green messages are just for information so could be posted on your website.

Using these colours within your air traffic control spreadsheet allows school team members to quickly see what can be moved and what should be avoided.

Always aim to include a clear subject heading of ‘For information’ or ‘For action by’ and include deadline dates, for quick replies.

Step 3 – Information Finder

Every school team receives many questions every day, such as when are the holidays or what do I need to do when my child is off sick. You can save time repeating yourselves by identifying those commonly asked questions and creating an ‘information finder’. It shows the common questions on one side and where to find the answer on the other side. Put this on your website and give it to parents at the start of every year to help address some of their queries, saving everyone time.

If you would like to discuss any of the above please contact us.

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