23 Mar Covid-19 Communications Tips To Sustain Trust With Parents/Families
Prioritize parent/family education/engagement to support positive college student outcomes this spring
Covid-19 presents a unique opportunity for colleges – big and small – to strengthen trust, build community and cultivate parents/families as true educational partners.
We have been watching with interest how colleges and universities are communicating with parents/families and other stakeholders as the Covid-19 crisis continues to unfold. Last week, we reviewed several dozen announcements from colleges and universities – large, small, urban, rural, public and private. The good news is that campuses appear to have struck the right tone in the initial communication. Safety is always paramount.
Moving forward, do you have a communications strategy specific to parents/families?
In our work with colleges and universities, we recommend the following:
• Craft action plans
You might be thinking, is this necessary when we are already communicating with students? Absolutely! Parents/family are vital to the success of each undergraduate, and they should be prioritized as one of your most important stakeholder groups in your ongoing communications mix. We suggest crafting 30-, 60-and 90-day communications action plans specific to your parents/families. Nearly two decades of research affirm that parents/families are vital to the success of students. We need them working with us now to ensure their student finishes strong this academic year.
Strive to craft attainable communications action plans. Be realistic about what you can and cannot do given your circumstances and limitations imposed by the spread of Covid-19. If you need help, consider short-term contracted support. With plans in place, you will be more likely to sustain parent/family trust and confidence in your campus and will surround your students with the support they need to finish the spring term.
• Customize communication whenever possible
As the crisis evolves, it is important to segment communication to ensure you are addressing the information needs and concerns specific to parents/families. Recognizing that campus closures are impacting every facet of the educational enterprise, do your best to provide frequent, transparent and factual information.
Beyond communicating the necessary, Covid-19 also presents an opportunity to cultivate parents/families as partners. During this time of isolation and social distancing, students will need additional emotional support. Given all the uncertainty, families and students are anxious, stressed and depressed. This is your chance to provide parents/families with the information and resources to help them help their student. After all, they are the most vested in their student’s success.
Furthermore, it is easy during crises to forget that not all of our first-generation students come from households where English is the primary language. That is why the content we prepare for colleges/universities is often translated into Spanish, and can be made available in other languages so that none of your parents/families are left out – especially now when their support is so critical to their student sustaining momentum through the spring term.
• Use multiple channels
Some campuses use digital portals with built-in email marketing capabilities to keep parents/families informed. These tools can be effective in broadcasting the general PR information that is already available on the campus website. We caution you, however, on relying too heavily on these portals now, as they are limited and impersonal. For that reason, we recommend that your communication action plans include channels that allow for immediate feedback.
As President John F. Kennedy said, “When written in Chinese, ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters: one represents danger and the other represents opportunity.” The Covid-19 crisis is an opportunity to strengthen support for your campus community by proactively engaging parents/families. If your campus needs extra support this semester to effectively communicate with parents/families, we are ready to help. Contact us at 615-436-4500. Learn more at www.parenteducationpartners.com.