Newsletters are often found in the school setting. Principals and instructional coaches use them to communicate with faculty members. Teachers use them to communicate with families. District offices used them to communicate with staff and stakeholders. During a recent instructional coaching training I facilitated I shared examples of the newsletter format I used as a coach. The sample was a springboard to the development of their own newsletter concept. I am looking forward to seeing what they create!
My newsletter incorporated four key elements. Since I love acronyms I decided to create one to guide your newsletter creation! We’ll use F.A.C.E.
Newsletters can come in many forms – both paper copies and electronic. My newsletter was somewhere in between. I created my newsletter in Word, but sent it as an attachment to eliminate the cost and time of running it off. The format is up to you and your readers. My first thought was to use a blog, but in 2011 the blogging concept was new to many – including myself. The electronic Word document served its purpose well.
Feel free to follow these 4 elements – F.A.C.E. – to develop your own communication tool.
It is important to determine the frequency of your newsletter communication. I chose weekly, but the frequency is your decision. The key is sticking to your plan. What does your schedule allow for and can you stick with it? Credibility may be lost if you do not follow through with your intentions. It may be better to start small and build up if necessary.
I have to be honest, weekly was a stretch for me – but I kept with the plan. During the week I jotted down potential ideas to add to my newsletter. I kept a folder of ideas on my computer desktop as well as a physical manilla folder for ideas gather offline. I typically wrote my newsletter over the weekend to send out on Monday.
Who is your audience? Knowing your audience and their passions and needs will help drive your content. If your are an instructional coach your newsletter can plant seeds to enroll teachers. For example, one feature of my newsletter was to have an area for my weekly schedule – especially when I was demonstrating in classrooms. I would mention the strategy being demonstrated. This often drove additional inquiries and coaching cycles. I also mentioned a variety of strategies through the year and provided resources. Ongoing conversations about the strategies usually lead to working side-by-side with teachers to try them out in the classroom.
Content is probably the most important aspect of a newsletter. We all receive newsletters or other communication that goes unread and quickly filed in the nearest wastebasket! What will make your content compelling? Once again, knowing your audience is important. Sometimes my content would be based on strategies teachers were working on during professional development. Showcasing resources from teachers was always a hit. Teachers love to learn from each other and be recognized for their accomplishments. It is important to remember to get the teacher’s permission before sharing with staff through your newsletter. This builds an important level of trust!
Creating an EASY plan for your newsletter will allow you to focus your energy on your compelling CONTENT that will inspire your AUDIENCE with the FREQUENCY you desire. I created my newsletter template in Word and used the same template all year long. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and love adding graphics – but I knew if I were going to stick to my weekly schedule I would need to forgo changing the template each week. I did change the color scheme with a click of a button. Having a set template insured I spent my time on the content.
I also kept my newsletter to two pages. I have been the recipient of longer newsletters and found that I didn’t always read all of the content. Teachers are busy! If my newsletter was going to be of assistance I needed to respect the teachers’ time.
As I mentioned before, the template I used was found in Word. The top and bottom graphics and quotes on page 1 and the top of page 2 stayed the same all year long. Each week I changed the color scheme, issue number and date, my schedule and the content sections (one on the front and 2 on the back).
Below is one example of my newsletter. It is my very first one so that you can see the format I used. I have uploaded a few other examples to my Slideshare account.