23 Feb 2022
Much of school marketing is focused around communicating consistent themes and messages in a stable environment - but from time to time there's the need to communicate major changes to multiple stakeholders. Occasionally this is due to external shocks (such as the COVID pandemic) but often they're due to proposed changes in organisational strategy - whether that's a restructuring, a merger or a new venture such as an online school!

Whatever the reason, it's important to plan your communications around this carefully - to maximise the benefits of the change, to minimise negative reactions and to help those who might be adversely affected. Here's an outline plan to help. 

1. Start your planning with the wider purpose or vision 
Be clear why the change is happening and how it will benefit parents and students going forward. It's a good idea to frame this as a story that links to the past of the school and projects it into the future.

2. Think about all the stakeholder groups involved
Take time to consider all those affected (as well as the obvious groups such as parents and teachers, what might former students or local residents think and do in response?). Adapt your story for each group in a positive but honest way - highlighting the benefits for them but also addressing any risks and fears. You also need to include your local media in your planning - how and when will you let them know? 

3. Use multimedia to make the story real
It can be difficult for people to imagine what the change will look like if it's just written down. If you have time and budget, use pictures, videos or infographics to get across the key messages and introduce key people who might be involved in the school in future. 

4. Create a timeline
It's important that people know when change will impact them, so be as specific as possible. If there is uncertainty, set and stick to a date when you will update people, even if nothing has changed. 

5. Plan your launch in detail
Try to roll out the launch to all stakeholders as quickly as possible - as in all small communities, news will travel quickly and you may lose control of the narrative. And make sure that you have tested and checked your communications and any technology (from websites to projectors) that you will be using. 

6. Give people the chance to reflect and feedback
It can be tempting to make an announcement, call for questions and then move on, but many people will want to take time to process change and ask questions later. Make sure there are ways to do this - either through formal discussion groups or simply giving people the chance to email questions. 

7. Keep the story going with regular updates
Change can take time and stakeholders can easily become disillusioned. To avoid this, make sure you report on 'quick wins' as well as responding to feedback. Doing this through a regular newsletter or website update means you won't forget! 

If your school is facing major change and you'd like help with the communications challenge, please get in touch with us!