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Staying in Touch

In a day and age when so many are competing for one's attention, how might we ensure that valuable information makes it to those who need it? 

Perhaps this is a question you ask yourself regularly, as it pertains to students, families, staff, etc. At Lutheran Schools Association, we ask this question regularly as well. How might we ensure that administrators have good information pertaining to regulations, available funds, opportunities for their staff to learn? How might we ensure that teachers in the schools know what is available to them through LSA? How might we also ensure that the larger Lutheran community in our region is aware of what is happening in Lutheran schools, and how they might support those great things?

Big questions. And, there's not just one right answer. What we're learning is that getting closer to ensuring that we are optimizing communications means using multiple channels and approaches.

Where? 

With so many outlets for communication as the social media landscape grows, it is really critical to know what is out there, and where those you want to reach actually are. For LSA, email is the main form of communication, and we've moved, in the past couple of years to an email marketing approach as opposed to a traditional email. This allows us to tailor the format to the needs of the group, to the message we wish to convey, and to receive valuable data about how our messages are received, such as open rates and click rates. We do this through our website, via Firespring, but it can be done through other outlets, such as MailChimp.

Outside of email, we've been working on our presence on other social media outlets. With a small staff (just two of us!) it can be overwhelming to be on all of them. Lately, we've decided to focus on Facebook and Twitter, but have realized that the vast majority of our audience favors Facebook to Twitter. This has freed us up from the pressure to post everywhere and allows us to focus on the types of messages that work best for each platform. In face, we are just launching a new closed Facebook group as a way to bring together educators from LSA member schools, encouraging them to ask questions, share ideas, and connect with colleagues around the region. Find the group on Facebook by searching LSA (NY) Educators!

Email and social media should encourage travel to your school's website. But, what do people find when they arrive? Last week, Firespring provided a wonderful webinar about websites for our members. The major take-away? The website should be well-designed, accessible (via smartphone, especially!) and easy to navigate. 

Lessons Learned:

  • Use email marketing - it helps you manage your email lists, provides professional templates, and allows you to collect valuable data. 
  • Know where in the social media world your constituents are - focus on that platform. 
  • Don't forget about your website!

What? 

If you've decided on the platforms you will use to communicate digitally, it's important to consider what you'll communicate. If you've been around Lutheran Schools Association for a while, you know that before we moved to email marketing, communication about upcoming events came in the form of one weekly email. In fact, we still send a weekly email, chock full of ALL of the information. We know, however, that these emails are not always read in their entirety. So, we adopt some similar strategies of retailers - we work on our subject lines, we pull out pertinent information and send it in a separate email. We don't expect that ever receiver of these targeted emails will read it, but we also don't expect that of our weekly emails. Instead, we hope that if the subject line resonates, a reader will be pulled in and find information that they can use. 

On social media, we've found that videos are optimal. A post a couple of months back (video update from me) brought more interaction than we typically find out on our Facebook page. Videos draw people in in a way that text and photos don't. If you don't have a video, try to have a photo. We've also worked on (though it's not perfect right now) a few hashtags to organize the kinds of things that people can expect from our page. #schoolspotlight is when we share something that a school is engaged in, #lsapossible is when we share about an opportunity provided via membership in LSA, and #lsablog is for when we link to posts, like this one. 

Lessons Learned: 

  • Don't forget about subject lines.
  • Figure out what information needs to be separated from your weekly newsletters and call attention to it in a dedicated email.
  • Try videos and hashtags on social media platforms.

When?

Recently, a development executive told us that he'd learned that it often takes 14 touches before someone gives. 14! While that seems excessive, think about your favorite retailers. If you are subscribed to their email lists, you likely get emails from them on a weekly basis. For some, you may hear from them closer to daily. Personally, I often delete these, unless the subject line (see above under "What?") grabs me. But, don't be afraid to put the word out multiple times in multiple ways. 14 touches on the same topic is probably excessive, but chances are the first time you put an event or request out their to your constituents, a small percentage read and retained, let alone acted at that moment. Reminders don't hurt, and those on the receiving end can control what they open, read, click, and/or delete. Eventually, it will click, we hope. 

Learn when your folks are on their social media pages! Start to see when you friends are posting or commenting. Think about using those trends to inform when you might share information. 

Lessons Learned:

  • Don't be afraid to put information out there more than once.
  • Learn about the patterns of your audience. And, be visible when they are active!

What are you doing to communicate with your constituents? 

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