Strategic planning can be a tremendous communication and
marketing campaign, don't miss the opportunity. Build your
communication plan before strategic planning begins, don't wait
until the end to do PR. You will benefit tremendously with a good
communication plan which:
- Will act as a binding agreement. When you tell people
you're going to do something, having a communication plan
or commitment in writing will force you to carry through
with your efforts and you will have given others the
opportunity to provide you with input.
- Assures that you will take advantage of all
opportunities, including on-going implementation.
- Helps keep communication focused.
- Helps prevent unwanted surprises.
When developing your communication plan, keep the following
tips in mind:
- Set up a tracking system (i.e., journal, scrapbook, video
- Have a creative person develop a look for all your
strategic-planning documents and printed material.
- Incorporate two-way communication utilizing your local
area network (LAN).
- Consider all of your audiences as "customers."
- Build in community involvement.
- Use the plan to your advantage.
- Segment the community into separate, manageable parts.
- Organize a steering committee where membership allows and
encourages discussion. Make sure the members understand
- Possible communication vehicles include: PTA/Home-school
meeting programs; community town meetings; media
- Begin early. Announce the district's participation in
- Announce public meetings, dates and locations.
- Request volunteers for action teams.
- Acknowledge significant milestones through the process
(i.e., vision, beliefs, environmental scan surprises).
- After the draft plan is completed, allow for a 30-day
public viewing. (Mark all draft documents with DRAFT
during a review.)
- Incorporate on-going implementation activities.
- Include detailed information on beliefs, missions, etc in
a district newsletter.
- Allow the completed plan/final document to be used as a
marketing tool for group presentations, discussion
starters, town meetings, etc.
Tips for Communicating Change
- Ask people for their opinion before you implement change.
- Be so thoroughly familiar with what you are communicating
that you can summarize it in a short sentence.
- Explain the change in language people understand.
- Explain the change in terms of how it will affect them
rather than what's in it for the school district.
- Anticipate how people will react, the questions they'll
raise and the issues that may result.
- Design your communication to answer those concerns
- Keep your personal key communicators up-to-date
- Expect the change to generate a corps of resisters and
- In addition to encouraging them to participate in the
implementation of the change, listen to what they have to
- Solicit ideas that will strengthen what you want to do.
- Identify the people in your community who you can come to
for advice regarding new ideas.
- Be direct in stating the change and explaining the
rationale for the change in relation to the overall goals
you wish to achieve.
- Keep communicating about the change after it has been
made. Recognize and celebrate its successful
The Importance of Internal Communication
Make sure your people know what is going on. It's demoralizing
to hear about what's happening where you work from someone
outside the system.
Don't forget your support staff, research indicates that they
are the most important communicators/public relations specialists
you have in your district.
Keeping staff informed can be done through:
- Staff Newsletter
- Strategic planning columns, ongoing updates regarding
- Recognition for those involved in the process
- Focus groups: building/staff/department meetings
- Soliciting their input on mission, belief statements,
- Build two-way feedback into already scheduled meeting
- Strategic planning speakers bureau
- Sharing the vision, mission, and strategic goals
- Soliciting community members to participate on action
Outreach Strategies for Involving the Community
As indicated above, involving the community can be a key
ingredient in your vision. When involving the community:
- Include results and activities from each in-district
meeting in a newsletter.
- Distribute broadly within the community and school system
and post at media centers. Ask for comments and
- Have planning team members review and discuss actions
with colleagues, neighbors, PTA members, etc. Ask for
comments and suggestions.
- Collect comments and suggestions and produce on overheads
for discussion and action as the first item on the next
in-district meeting agenda.
- Present a draft of the strategic plan at a public forum
with community and all school district employees invited
to discuss and offer comments.
- Encourage discussion and comments throughout the entire
process. The more people who own the plan, the better.
- Prepare a communication plan.
(These materials are excerpted from the Washington State
School Directors' Association's "Passport to
Leadership" program materials.)