Too often, when we devise communications strategies, we’re focused solely on getting news and information out. In our eagerness to keep families and the community informed, we can easily do too much talking and not enough listening.

A good communications plan should emphasize that engagement is a two-way street. Our stakeholders don’t just want to receive information; they want to share their perspectives, offer ideas, and ask questions. Therefore it’s critical to create opportunities throughout the year for authentic engagement with our audiences.

Technology presents a vast array of tools for easy digital communication. It’s important for families and the community to know how they can send comments and questions to leaders and decision-makers — and to get responses — through websites, social media, email, and other platforms. Online surveys also provide powerful data about parent satisfaction at the school and district level.

Even in the Digital Age, though, it’s still important to ensure face-to-face communication. Particularly when introducing a new policy or addressing controversial matters, be sure to schedule live meetings to present information and answer questions in person. Don’t rely only on formal venues like School Board meetings, where public testimony is often limited in time and impersonal in nature. When possible, create opportunities for facilitated conversations. Forums that foster give-and-take help strengthen relationships and build trust with the community.