Home' Teacher : October 2010 Contents 54 TEACHER OCTOBER 2010
An effective communications plan has a
number of essential elements:
an executive sum mary
the school's operating or strategic plan
an overview of the school
the purpose of the strategy and commu-
a communications audit
identification and analysis of target audi-
school positioning statements and
An effective communications plan also
details the tactics and the specific channels
or disciplines of communication. It's the
'how' of your communication.
Let's look at the various elements in
The executive summary
This is always at the front of your docu-
ment -- but write it last. The executive su m-
mary is just that, a one-page summary of
and introduction to the elements of your
It is intended to give the reader an over-
view only and is designed to be read by
people who don't have the time to read the
whole report in the first instance or who are
assessing whether they need to.
In most cases, you'll be presenting the
executive summary to the person in man-
agement who will approve the budget and
resources to implement your communica-
Your executive summary needs to say
as much as possible in the fewest possible
words. It should briefly outline the com-
munications strategy, the background, the
scope of the strategy, the methods of plan-
ning and analysis, the raising of any impor-
tant issues in developing the strategy, the
main activities to be undertaken and the
bottom line outcomes.
The executive summary should be writ-
ten so that it can stand on its own and
encapsulate your school's communications
strategy accu rately and concisely.
This is a profile of the school and a state-
ment about the school's place in its envi-
ronment, externally and internally, through
Environmental scanning involves the sys-
tematic gathering of objective and subjective
information from your internal and exter-
nal environments for strategic and tactical
This collected information directly
assists you in analysis by way of identifying
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and
threats (SWOT) as the basis for your com-
munications strategy. The results of your
SWOT analysis are valuable in this section
but need to be kept to a concise report.
Purpose of your communications
Why are you developing this communica-
tions strategy? What's your current position
and why does that position need to change?
What is the background to your school's
communications? Where do you want to be
in the short, medium and long term?
Is your communications strategy pro-
active or also reactive? Reactive strategies
should form part of the overall com munica-
tions strategy for your school but a stand-
alone issues or crisis communications plan
also needs to sit alongside it as a document
to be retrieved and used in the unfortunate
event of an issue or crisis.
Auditing your previous and current com-
munications strategy and activities is an
important process before either modifying
or developing a new strategy for the future.
There are two primary criteria for your
audit, performance and perception.
Performance should be assessed at the
strategic level as well as the tactical level.
Strategically, did our communications plan
connect us with the right people and deliver
the right messages? Tactically, did our com-
munications plan select the right channels
to facilitate efficient and effective delivery
of our messages?
The audit will often throw up gaps in
analysis and highlight issues relating to your
school's ability to assess performance. This
is a good outcome as it ensures effective
and achievable measu rement and evaluation
processes are addressed and documented in
the next plan.
Perception forms part of the evalua-
tion process. Did your communications
plan alter the perception of the school in a
positive or negative way or was it neutral?
Perception is the lifeblood of your school's
reputation and you need to build, enhance
and protect it.
If negative perceptions have not been
improved, this should be a driving force for
change as you review your plan.
Many schools keep doing the same as
they have always done and produce a school
newsletter, send flyers home to parents,
have the principal stand up in an assembly
and say something, build a brochure-style
website and hope that things will change.
Doing the same things will always take you
to the same place.
How you implement an audit and meas-
ure results of communications is always a
burning question. The measure mechanism
must be built into the strategy.
Measurement tools are many and varied
research -- face-to-face, anecdotal or
call-to-action campaigns -- a call-to-action
campaign that requires a target audience
to respond in some way provides you with
very specific and easily measurable data
on the number of, say, telephone calls
or emails, or enrolment applications or
responses to teacher recruitment adver-
tising, remembering that even the lack of
response provides data
trends in parental feedback, such as an
increase in positive correspondence or
contact from parents or a reduction in
negative correspondence or contact
awards or industry recognition, and
participation of alumni students in school-
endorsed alumni activities.
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