Communicating with the families in your district is one of the first, and most important, aspects of your program’s actions in the coming weeks. However, we understand the challenge of establishing communication in a time of crisis.
Here are some tips on how you can effectively and thoughtfully communicate with families in your community.
The shifting world around us places higher importance on the messages you share with your community. By focusing on the basics in your messaging you create genuine communication.
Wish them Well — Health and safety above all else. Take the time to wish the families in your community the best of health. It might feel redundant, but it’s a necessary reminder of what’s most important.
Set the Stage — Address the current situation from both Federal and State standpoints. Reference all necessary government updates. For example… “In accordance with Minnesota Governor Walz’ address on Sunday 3/12, Minnesota is suspending all school aged child care and enrichment programs.”
Align with the District — Many programs are aligning communications with their larger district as the district releases updates. This approach provides a consistent message to your community. Use your communication to reinforce district messaging. It's a clear, unified message during uncertain times.
Be Empathetic — When developing communication to families, it’s important to lead with empathy. Ensure your community that they’re being listened to and understood. This crisis impacts us all in a unique way. We’re going through it, together.
Be Honest and Transparent — COVID-19 is an ever-evolving situation, and it’s OK to let families know that your situation is changing daily, just like there’s. Let them know your program’s current status and where you’re at in your response. Ask for patience and understanding, and as your district knows more, you will keep the community updated, frequently.
Be Resourceful — Regardless of the exact topic of the communication, your families are going to have a variety of questions. Use your communication as a place to list out who the best person to go to with each question is. Also, this approach helps make sure no audiences are being left behind.
As mentioned, it’s important to reassure your community that when you know more, they’ll know more. After your initial outreach to the community, provide updates as they pertain to the status of current and upcoming programs. Updates could include:
- Larger Federal, State or District statements
- Closures, cancelations or postponements
- Virtual program alternatives
By forming a steady stream of communication to your community, you establish trust and reliability.
If possible, divide and triage your communication and response strategy. Establish priorities, then create separate channels (emails, phone numbers, etc.) to address different types of issues your community might need help solving. Some examples:
- Refunds and vouchers
- Course cancelations and suspensions
- Child care
- Enrichment (adult, youth and events)
- Facility rentals
- Recreation (adult and youth)
- General questions
Program sizes vary, but if possible, dividing communication streams helps reduce the load on your staff while shortening response time to parents.
Your social channels are a valuable resource to communicate widely to families. Use them as a vehicle to spread your messages. Once messages are shared, monitor and actively listen to how your community responds. Use comment sections to address feedback and reinforce messaging.
Tracking & Distribution
It’s critical to closely monitor the communication you’re sending and receiving from your community.
Outlook and Gmail allow grouping and tracking messages and responses as conversations, which helps monitor communication streams. If you are not already using an email distribution tool, MailChimp, Constant Contact, MarketVolt, Sendinblue and more allow you to easily scale and track your communications, helping you understand who in your community has received each update.