Pawlas on PR for Principals...
More Tips for
Newsletters can be a valuable public relations tool that generates interest and, probably even more important, goodwill.
That is confirmed by several surveys I have seen that indicate that parents rate school newsletters as their second
most important source of information about the schools -- second only to what their children say about the school.
In an earlier column, Newsletters: An Essential Tool for Every
Principal, I talked about the purpose of a school newsletter, and I offered some do's and don'ts. This month,
as we arrive at the midpoint of the school year, might be a good time to use your newsletter to look back or to encourage
parents to think ahead. And it's not a bad time to review some school procedures or to publish some student work.
Here I offer a bunch of ideas -- maybe a few will serve as good reminders to you -- as well as my "Fifteen Tips and
Reminders to Help You Write Right."
Here are some general suggestions for items that many principals include in their school newsletters.
- A personal message from the principal should lead off each newsletter.
- Provide an updated list of your school's needs that the community might be able to help fill.
- The start of the second half of the school year is also a good time to remind parents to check on their children's supplies. Do they need to be replenished?
- Involve the school's dietician by sharing some extra special touches that parents can add to lunches brought from home. For instance, cut a plain sandwich with a cookie cutter. Wouldn't that be a great surprise for a kid to find in his or her lunch some day? Or pack frosted cupcakes by slicing them and "sandwiching" the frosting between the cake instead of putting it on top. That would probably bring a smile to your child's face! Perhaps you can also include in your newsletter a few suggestions for what makes a good and healthful snack.
- Remind parents that fire drills and other safety drills are conducted at the school on a regular basis. Ask if they practice such activities at home.
- Because citizens tend to complain that the only time they hear about the school budget is when the schools need more money, share information about budget priorities, costs, and possible increases. Remember to keep the information in simple, everyday language.
Following are just a few thoughts about topics that might be covered in the next couple of issues
of your newsletter:
- Maybe it's time for a little refresher course. Are some routine procedures getting a little "sloppy"? Review basic rules for dropping off students in front of the school or for writing absence or tardy excuses or Which of your procedures might be reviewed?
- Provide information about end-of-semester report cards, parent conferences, and parent organization meetings.
- Reiterate how your school's instructional program is meeting the needs of all students. If parents think more could be done to meet their child's needs, encourage them to contact the teacher.
- Updates on annual testing need mentioning. In some grades, testing might be coming up; for others, you might report results or let parents know when results should be expected.
- Include a poem or an inspirational message for an upcoming holiday (Valentine's Day, for example). Even better, include some student-created artwork or writing related to the holiday.
- Give front-page recognition to your school's teachers and students. Highlight your school's teacher of the year, teachers who earned National Board Certification, and students who were awarded honors and scholarships.
This is a good time to start preparing a list of ideas you want to remember to include in the newsletters that will be
sent home closer to the end of the year.
- As the second half of the school year gets underway, ask parents if they will be moving from the school's area. Include a short fill-in-and-return form at the end of the April newsletter. Be sure that when the form is clipped the parents will not be losing any essential information printed on the reverse side.
- Elementary school principals often include a back-to-school supply list in the last newsletter of the year. Parents can clip that list as a reminder.
- In the final newsletter of the current school year, be sure to include the start date for the next year.
Finally, all of us can use an occasional reminder of these 15 tips for writing newsletters that are easy to read.
- Vary sentence length so that your words will dance with greater rhythm and pace.
- Visualize your audience; this will make your writing more personal, more warm, and more effective.
- Be positive -- stress what can be done, not what cannot.
- Sometimes place important words or thoughts at the end of the sentence rather than at the beginning. For instance, "The biggest problem in our schools is discipline" is better than stating the reverse.
- "Dejargonize" your writing. The general public continues to criticize educators about their reliance on the use of "educationese."
- Enhance your newsletters by including anecdotes, quotations, examples, humor, and figures of speech.
- Whenever possible, make people the subject of your sentences. Put the names of people in CAPITAL letters and underline them too.
- Remember that appearance counts. Use headlines, underlining, italics, lists, boxes, and ample white space. Avoid the temptation to overuse clip art.
- Get perspective by letting what you have written sit for a day or so. At that time, you will be more objective about what you have written.
- Proofread, proofread, and proofread again. Involve others in the review of an issue before it is printed.
- Any day of the week to distribute your newsletters is better than Friday. I found the first and third Tuesdays of the month to be the best days.
- Use the same color of paper for each issue so your newsletter is instantly recognizable.
- Occasionally ask for feedback with a clip-and-return form to determine if your intended audience is receiving and enjoying your newsletter. (This also can be done if your newsletter is included on your school's Web site.)
- Before you decide what to include in each newsletter, place yourself in your readers' shoes. Ask, "What do my readers want to know and read?" rather than, "What do I want to say?"
- Exchange newsletters and feedback with other school administrators.
Newsletters will always be valuable tools for communicating with your school's immediate audience and supporting communities. Archive copies of each newsletter in a folder dated with the school year. This archive will serve as a reminder a year later of some of the important information that should be included in each month's issue. And someday you will be able to sit back and enjoy what you wrote about people, events, and issues in your school -- and have fun reliving "the good times."
NEXT TIME: Working on the Public Perception of Your School
Article by George Pawlas
Copyright © 2006 Education World
Link updated 07/26/2006