Jamie: Hello [inaudible 00:03], my name's Jamie Shiers, and I am the Technical Director at Digital School Limited. Today, were going to be talking about how your school can improve its outbound communications and how that can save your school a significant sum of money, as well. Today, we're joined by Raymond Ritchie, who's our Creative Director. So, Raymond, why should schools really concentrate on their outbound communications more in today's day of the Internet and social media?
Raymond: Well, I think they have to concentrate on their outbound communications like they've always done because they need to get in contact and stay in dialogue with all their stakeholders. The stakeholders, of course, are the students themselves, the teachers, the other associates, staff and the parents and carers who go out into the community, and also the connections with the community itself. So, lots of schools have outreach programs that go to cement them within the community that they're setting.
That is why schools should really pay a lot of attention to their communications and they should pay a lot of attention to it because what they want to do is to project their values from within their organization to the outside, so that everybody who is in the organization understands what those values are, and everybody outside understands what those values are. That's what will make it attractive to people so that they'll come to that school.
Jamie: So, when we talk about values, we mean hard-working teamwork [inaudible 01:48].
Raymond: So all the values that you associate with your particular organization. Every organization, every school, particularly, because we're talking about schools, has their own set of values that they have. No two schools are the same. Those values are decided upon by all sorts of factors, by the governing body to the head teacher, to some extent, to the local community that it sits in, also, informs those values. That's what I'm talking about. The thing that makes that particular school special and draws people to it, that is your brand value, it's the old-fashioned thing. It's about brand value, not just visual, but every aspect of your brand, its identity, its draw, all of those things.
Jamie: Okay. So, when we talk about outbound communications, or new forms of communications, we mean Facebook, twitter, email and text messages.
Raymond: Yes. Everything, really. Yes, I mean, everything. Obviously, in our context, as a technology company, we talk about communications in the electronic sense and, obviously, that's becoming more, and more significant and schools need to address that. That's the thing that many schools don't really know where to start.
Our proposition, if you like, for improving up on communications for schools, is to think a little bit differently. Rather than thinking, "Oh, we've got to send a letter back with little Johnny or, Janice or whoever in the bag." It never gets to the parents. We have to get schools to engage with the whole thing about electronic communication and that will include their email systems, how they communicate with parents, their website, which would be their main, kind of, hub for communication, a Facebook presence, maybe a YouTube channel and Twitter and anything else that comes along, because, obviously, things come along all the time. New ways of engaging with social networks come all the time. Every five years, we've got a whole paradigm shift, and schools need to engage with that.
It's a bit frightening if you're still sending letters home in envelopes and all that, but the process is not that much different. The concept, rather, is not that much different. The process, you have to tweak it. You're using the same things. You're still trying to communicate the same thing, the same values, the same ideas, but you just need to think, "Well, how can we turn this even into something simple, like a PDF. Can we make it available for download? Can we send it on parent mail or any other system that you might use to communicate? How can we put this event on Facebook and create a bit of a buzz about it?" You might be having your prom. You might be having your parents consultation about something, like a trip out, that sort of thing.
Jamie: Okay. What we see quite a lot of though is that email and text messages have both got their way in there but social media hasn't. So, should schools now really trying to weave in that Twitter feed or that Facebook fall update set up, into their website and their other communications channels?
Raymond: Yes. They should. The thing about Facebook and other social media sites, is that they are a little bit scary because schools have issues related to job protection, and so on, that needs addressing, but, you can still, as a company, as it were, as an organization, you can create a Facebook presence and that sort of thing. So, you can control it. Obviously, you don't want students to be able to be endangered by an interaction with social media but there are ways of doing it where you protect everybody and that you're still able to communicate effectively your values.
Jamie: I think the really good thing about social media is, one, it's free and, two, if we have a snow day in the UK, a lot of schools have website issues, so it would be an excellent way of communicating, "We are actually closed. Our website is down. It's all okay," on that particular day.
Raymond: Yes. That's right. You've got to communicate. This is what's increasingly brilliant about modern communication methods, that hang off the Internet. You're communicating to where people actually are, at that time, sort of, in the context of what they're looking at it on, like, it might be a phone, it might be an iPad, it might be some other generic tablets, or whatever. The more channels you have, the more likely you are to get hits with people, and you're less likely to have problems where your website goes down, because thousands of people are looking at it to see if the school is closed or open.
The other thing is, there are other benefits of this approach, as well. If you have, as it were, a communications hub, and then from that, you've got your different channels, like Facebook and email system and all the rest, piping stuff out in PDF on your website, you've got consistency. You've got a joined-up communications process, so you're always communicating effectively, your brand, consistently. That's the thing. So, you're making connections between all the different channels. You're making connections with the people who are inside the community. You're also creating connections outside of the school, or the other stakeholders [inaudible 08:33] responds to the device they're looking at it on, and also, there's a possibility of two-way interactions, as well, in those.
Jamie: So, if we look back to email, or text messaging, we can be very, very specific with that as well, can't we? We can send out to a small segment of the [inaudible 08:55] group, or even the boys in one year. So, if they can buy and email and the twitter and something else, they'll have a very, very joined up process of sending out the communications information.
Raymond: That's right. Yes. Not only are you making communication that's effective on the device that your targeting, you're also targeting, like you said, very specific bits of your audience, the ones that you actually want to connect with. There might be a situation where you want to communicate with the year-eight girls only, because it might be for girls netball teams, say, or another girl's football team, or whatever it is, and you want to communicate with your particular groups. So, you're right, that's another benefit of it. That's much harder to do with paper communications.
Jamie: I know, than paper, it's going to be a lot cheaper, as well.
Raymond: Yes. Oh, yes. That's right. The cost benefits go without saying, even if you send out a text message to your entire school. Say you get 2000 people and you're sending out text messages at 5P each. That's much, much cheaper than sending a letter. It's almost cheaper than printing it and then sending it out.
Jamie: So, what should schools be concentrating on, then, and doing next? Should they be setting up the Twitter feed, or should they be looking at getting an email provider set up, or someone to do text messages?
Raymond: I think they need to sit down and draw a diagram, actually, just draw big circle and, in it, put their school and just draw lines out of it. On each one of those lines, they just draw a channel, whatever that might be. They might not want to do twitter. They might have a bespoke system, which still drawn on, like "Parent Mail". They might draw another line saying, "a Facebook page", and so on. That's where they should start.
What you need is the one central place, as it were, where one group of people or one person knows what all the channels are. It doesn't, necessarily, mean that they're in charge, or that they are the person who communicates everything to everyone. It's just that they've got their eye on it, in a way, like a communications director's or something, which some schools do have, especially nowadays, where there is increasing competition between schools, with academy status and the money is not there as it once was, and you've got to draw people in, and students. That's the thing.
Jamie: I also think schools need to take control of existing channels that someone else may have already set up. So, somebody may already have set up another Facebook page on their behalf, or Wikipedia page. So, you need to be active in monitoring what's going on these pages, seeing if they can get control over them, even if they have to go through the courts to get hold of them, or direct it to Facebook. It's very important that they control what has their name associated to it.
Raymond: Yes. That's a very important thing, that you brought up there, that I hadn't thought about immediately, which is that when you look at the Internet, particularly, Google and so on, and you look at Google maps and see all these little tags, and stuff that comes up here, there, and everywhere, you realize that actually, there is a little bit of a free-for-all about it. So, the sooner you start thinking about these things, the better, because if you can intervene at the beginning of the process, and do your own descriptions and tags and reviews, you're not going to get stuck with a situation that some of the schools found themselves in, which is that somebody has put something, not necessarily inappropriate, but something that's not very good for your school, and it's ever so hard to shift it. You've, kind of, got to get control of it. Obviously, it's always much harder after the horse has bolted. So, yes, you're right.
That is increasingly a problem, I think. But, if you get to grips with it first and say, "We're going to have a communications policy that includes looking at how we're represented on Facebook, how we come up in the Google search on Google maps, how we come up as a business," or whatever else, whatever registers you might be in, because there's a nasty habit of these things being indexed by something else and something else and something else, and before you know it, you've got this thing that has sort of grown out of one comment that somebody's made. So, you're right. You have to get a grip of it. You can't control everything. Sometimes, people say bad things about you, and perhaps you actually deserve them.
Jamie: Yes. But, it's all about managing that comment, that someone's made and making sure that you get in contact with that person and you reach out to them and you say, "We're sorry that you feel this way, but this is what we're trying to do to make it right."
Raymond: Yes. That's right. Yes.
Jamie: So, basically, schools have really got to start thinking like businesses do. I hate to say this, but, the students are now becoming a product that they buy into, or sell.
Raymond: That's right. Yes. That's right. You have to attract students.
Jamie: Okay, then. So, I think we've covered most of the issues of outbound communications and what schools can do to better those things.
We'll put some other information below this video, maybe a little diagram of what the diagram you describe should look like, and maybe some other little guides onto how to let your Facebook page or your Twitter account or something like that. Well, I hope you've enjoyed today's video. As always, you can always leave us a comment below the video. Goodbye.