Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Communicating in the Information Age

In case you didn't know we had quite a bit of snow last night in the Northeast. As I was outside in the bone-chilling cold shoveling piles of snow I began to reflect upon how my professional practice has changed in a few short years when it comes to snow days.  Typically in the past, I would have received a phone call compliments of a meticulously developed phone chain.  The only problem was that if one person missed their call then the chain was broken. This fact of life posed quite the problem for many years.  In my early years, I often misplaced the snow chain or my wife would throw it out accidentally. Talk about throwing a wrench into the system.  Thankfully technology came to the rescue and I wised up by saving it on my computer. I had a bit of a paper addiction that had to be overcome. 

Fast forward to 2014 and my district, like many others, now uses an automated notification service.  Talk about convenience. I now, like everyone else in the district, receive a pushed-out call with a message that district leadership develops. This message is then delivered by a polite robotic voice basically telling me that I can sleep in if I wish or spend the day slaving over my snow shovel.  Now don't get me wrong, this service is great, but like anything in life it is not full-proof or the preferred way to receive information.  There is also a cost associated with any service like this.  

Now here is the part of my night yesterday after receiving the snow day call that I left out.  Without hesitation, I immediately went to my computer and sent out the news using the NMHS social media channels (Facebook and Twitter) as well as pushing the notice out using the official school app developed by Beeonics.  To some, this might seem a bit redundant, but in reality, I am covering all of my bases to ensure that my stakeholders get the information. In my opinion, the "Information Age" demands this now. 

As a digital leader, I can no longer assume that an automated telephone call will reach everyone.  With all of the free social media tools we have at our fingertips today it is important that we leverage them in a variety of situations to get information out to our stakeholders.  We now live in the "Information Age" where access is 24/7. People routinely consume information on a variety of devices in an array of places.  Virtually every other profession has not only acknowledged this fact but has seized on the opportunity to provide the information that potential consumers want using a multifaceted social media strategy.  Education and schools have been notoriously slow when it comes to adjusting to changes in society.  This no longer has or should be the case.

In my opinion, schools need to embrace a new vision for school communications both externally and internally. We need to think about how we also provide information in real-time to our most important stakeholder group - students. In turn, think about how our students then communicate information related to learning and school culture with each other as well as members of the community.  Here are a few tips and ideas that have worked well for NMHS over the years:

  • Create a school Twitter and Facebook page. Make sure information is updated consistently
  • Have a company develop a school app or have your students create one
  • Develop, use, and promote a school hashtag that can be used across multiple platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Google+). We use a school hashtag (#NMHS) as well as one that our Digital Journalism students created for their class (#NMHSdigijourn)
  • Use a Google Doc for student announcements that cab be accessed through a school website and pushed out using social media
  • Create QR codes and place them around the building. Information is then just one click away for a variety of stakeholders
  • Move from a traditional school newspaper to a digital version
  • Begin using ZippSlip, a tool for going paperless
Give your stakeholders options when it comes to accessing and receiving information related to your school. Even though snail mail and even email still have its place in a school communications plan we must press forward with the use of digital technologies to increase authentic engagement with our stakeholders.  So what did I miss?  Please feel free to add other ways you have enhanced school communications to align with the Information age in the comments section below.


  1. This information is not only fabulous, but necessary. I will share, retweet and then share & retweet again hoping schools will read it and follow through.
    About updating Facebook and Twitter consistently: I would also add that districts should not simply "parrot" school announcements, but to use those powerful tools to elaborate on information, expand the scope of the information and engage in meaningful dialog with the community.

  2. Great points! The key is to use social media as a two-way communications tool to increase authentic engagement with stakeholders.

  3. Some useful points. I think it is also wise for your readers to explore emerging communication services as a means of engaging with home and the school community.

    In particular, check out Signmee (, a new networking service for managing home/school communications. Bit like a social network, but designed for work purposes.

    Rather than publishing to Google docs and pushing notifications out, Signmee enables schools to publish web-based forms (consent for participation, events, information collection, fundrasing and charges), distribute to connected Signmee account inboxes (parents), and monitor in real time who has opened, who has responded, and what the response was.

    Signmee takes the great things about social networking, and applies it to the business process of collecting and sharing forms. Signmee works much the same way as email, with the facility to build form fields into the body of the message (how email really should work).

    Check out the explainer too:
    And the Signmee blog