What pops into your mind when you hear “internal communications?” Someone else’s job? Newsletter no one reads? Happens once a year at convocation?
When you’re pushing a change agenda, these traditional avenues may fall short. It may feel like you’re putting a lot of information out there, but maybe it’s time to step back and ask what you are trying to achieve.
Kate Rogers, president of The Holdsworth Center, says education leaders should be preaching a common message to everyone who works for the district, from bus drivers to teachers:
“How do we engage every single one of those audiences in a common mission? How do we make sure they feel inspired at work? How do we make sure that when they interact with a parent that they represent the brand of the school in a very positive way?”
Uniting folks around a shared vision takes passion and zeal, but also organization and dedication to stay the course. You’re more likely to succeed if you’re armed with a good plan and a clear, simple rallying cry.
This concept is central to Holdsworth’s focus on building a strong culture within a district, and we believe it’s not fair to leave this important work to the communications office alone.
After one of our recent sessions, Mike Rockwood, chief of staff at Lamar CISD, said this: “Communication is something that everyone has to own, whether you are the superintendent, a department head, a principal — everybody has to be a leader in communications.”
When Klein ISD worked as a team to create a new vision for the district, they packaged it with colorful branding and a catchy motto, Promise2Purpose: Every student enters with a promise and exits with a purpose. Superintendent Bret Champion took Promise2Purpose on the road to introduce it to campuses and the wider community.
One month later, as Klein’s Deputy Superintendent Jenny McGown referenced Promise2Purpose in a meeting, a teacher stopped her and said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about right now.” It was a wake-up call for district and for Jenny, who realized it was going to take more than a roadshow to start a revolution.
After more than a year of consistently talking about Promise2Purpose at every opportunity, the vision (and more importantly, the values it represents) has saturated the community at every level, from parents and students to business owners, custodians and bus drivers.
“Communication isn’t about the message that’s sent, it’s about the message that people receive,” says Elizabeth Del Toro, Holdsworth’s director of institutional advancement. “When people start quoting your vision and values back to you without being prompted, you’ll know you’ve succeeded.”
So what’s the end game? To turn pretty-sounding words into daily practices that benefit students (or customers or clients). In Klein ISD, leaders have outlined clear pathways toward the goal that every student exits with a purpose. When students, parents, teachers and staff are all holding the same map and moving together in the same direction, they stand a far better chance of reaching the destination.