By Blake Seufert
There are some consistent areas where schools can all do better with their newsletters. All the studies show that people’s attention spans for concentrating is waning. They expect information to be more summarised, more to the point and more exciting. Authors have to continually fight for the attention of their readers. It is easy to understand why a school’s parents miss information or totally ignore the newsletter; they are not excited to read something that has not changed in format or presentation for 10 years or more.
So, below is a list of things schools should avoid when creating newsletters – it is these simple mistakes that detract and taint parents’ expectations of what a well-produced newsletter should be.
- No photos
When parents are asked what the number one thing they look for in the newsletter is, it is photos of their kids. The most engaging thing schools can do for parents is to include plenty of photos. The more the merrier.
- No Comic Sans
Schools should be exciting and enticing their readers to want to read. The same old look and font is not compelling. First impressions matter. If the newsletter looks slapped together, parents will notice and disengage.
- Designing for desktop screens
Parents are on their mobile phones. The newsletter should work on tablets and phones as easily as the desktop. Most parents read a newsletter in and around their busy schedules. If it is clumsy to read, or parents need to pinch to zoom on a phone, it is not going to happen.
- No point of view
Writing is hard. But writers need to do all they can to liven it up. Make it more casual – parents are human and want to see the writer’s perspective or flair in their articles. Just sticking to the facts comes across as mechanical and is not great to read.
- Spelling mistakes
When an educational institution misspells words in the newsletter, it does not project quality and effort. Everyone makes mistakes, and spell check is far from perfect, but doing a good proofread is worth the effort. Parents need to feel that the newsletter is high quality and put together with lots of thought and care in order for it to be worthy of their time. Being able to fix mistakes quickly is a good way to ensure quality.
- Thinking only the school’s parents will read the newsletter
If the newsletter is good, the school’s students and wider community will read it too. This is a golden opportunity to impress the school’s values and beliefs on the school community. Make sure anyone can read and understand the articles. Pro tip: Try to avoid abbreviations for camps or school events.
- Not listening
How often do schools ask their parents about the newsletter? Do schools check the readership data or statistics on viewership? If schools are not listening to what their parents want, it will be hard to create something they want to read.
- Biased articles
Newsletters help build relationships and being as honest as possible is best. This generation can smell disingenuity. Writers, if not excited about something, should not say that they are overwhelmed with excitement. Luckily, schools have so many great things to share – simply pick something great and talk about that.
Is your school making any of these mistakes? A lot of the issues have now been covered, so what are the options for a better, more streamlined newsletter? In the next issue, ways to get some quick wins, regardless of how a school builds its newsletter, will be investigated.
Blake Seufert is the Systems Manager at McKinnon Secondary College and the co-founder of Naavi and iNewsletter.