New wave products and ideas for education

This is the 2nd part of a 3 part series:
One afternoon a few years ago, while working as McKinnon Secondary College’s Systems Manager, I tried to read our school newsletter. Check out part 1 for my journey so far.

There are some consistent areas where we can all do better with our newsletter. All the studies show that our attention spans (as humans) for concentrating is waning. We expect information to be more summarised, more to the point and more exciting. We have to continually fight for the attention of our readers. It’s easy to understand why our parents miss information or totally ignore the newsletter; they aren’t excited to read something that hasn’t changed in format or presentation for 10 years.

Our Newsletter format was stale, old and not relevant.

So, I’ve compiled a list of things we should avoid when creating newsletters - it’s these simple mistakes that detract and taint parents expectations of what a well produced newsletter should be.

Top 8 things to avoid in school newsletters

  1. No photos
    When you ask parents what the number 1 thing they look for in the newsletter is, it’s photos of their kids. The most engaging thing we can do for parents is include plenty of photos. The more the merrier.
  2. No Comic Sans
    We should be exciting and enticing our readers to want to read. The same old look and font isn’t compelling. First impressions matter. If your newsletter looks slapped together parents will notice and disengage.
  3. Designing for desktop screens
    Parents are on their mobile. The newsletter should work on tablets and phones as easily as the desktop. Most parents are reading a newsletter in and around their busy schedules. If it’s clumsy to read, or parents need to pinch to zoom on a phone, it’s not going to happen.
  4. No point of view
    Writing is hard. But you need to do all you can to liven it up. Make it more casual - your parents are human and want to see your perspective. Just sticking to the facts comes across as mechanical and is not great to read. When writing try adding your perspective or flair in the articles.
  5. Spelling mistakes
    When an educational institution misspells words in the newsletter it doesn’t project quality and effort. We all make mistakes, and spell check is far from perfect but doing a good proof-read 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.
  6. Thinking only your parents will read the newsletter
    If your newsletter is good, your students and wider community will read it too. This is a golden opportunity to impress your school’s values and beliefs on your your school community. Make sure anyone can read and understand the articles.
    Tip: Try to avoid abbreviations for camps or school events.
  7. Not listening
    How often are you asking your parents about the newsletter? Do you check the readership data or statistics on viewership? If you’re not listening to what your parents want, it’ll be hard to create something they want to read.
  8. Biased articles
    Newsletters help build relationships and being as honest as possible is best. This generation can smell disingenuity. If you’re writing an article and not excited about something, then don’t say that you’re overwhelmed with excitement. Luckily schools have so many great things to share - simply pick something great and talk about that.

Are you making any of these mistakes? We’ve now covered a lot of the issues, so what are the options for a better, more streamlined newsletter? Check out Part 3 where we investigate some ways to get some quick wins regardless of how you build your newsletter.

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