Communicating on Communucating

Vince Durnan
Island School Families,

Here’s an elephant in the room as we get settled into the school year—who actually reads this newsletter, or any newsletter, for that matter? Obviously I’m preaching to the choir, since, to my eternal gratitude, you’re choosing to read this one. But the challenge is not small, and the solutions aren’t easy, though they may be simple. Here’s a little bit on where things stand:

For starters, the Compass, or any school newsletter, should carry headlines, with links to the rest of the story for those who choose to read it—that shortens the task for skimmers when they open the weekly document. The full texts live on the school website, making a useful connection between those two essential info sources for parents, families, alums, and other friends of the school. 
So the plan is to make the Compass timely, brief, and relevant, so everyone at least opens it and does a quick scan. The alternative is a divided community, with a group of folks who geek out on all things Island School, another group who only know things by happenstance or accident, and a third bunch somewhere in between, depending on the day. Doing that, in addition to tending our Instagram feed (I think you’re now spared seeing tweets from me/us), and messages from classroom teachers, coaches, and program leaders, should combine to tell our story.

In case you might be wondering, so far the “open rate” when we send a Friday newsletter sits around 65%. Not terrible, when the rate for newsletters in general hovers in the high 30%s, per a recent study, and maybe a little higher for school newsletters. But that means a third of our families are never even seeing anything. How do they then know what they do know? Phone a friend? Just do without and guess? Ask their kids and hope they’re right? That can’t be good for our community spirit.

The fact is that we’re competing for time in an oversaturated media environment, where videos rule and attention spans shrink, and here I am using actual words to make an impression. Total uphill battle, but for now, for me, this is the best shot. I know if I made a TikTok of our construction project it would probably get 500 views by sundown, or if I captured myself baking bread with my iPhone, but my choice is to believe that you care enough about your school and our students and faculty that you’ll push back against those trends and not settle for less. And we’ll send the occasional video, too.

Meanwhile, I promise to keep finding topics worthy of your time and finding ways to present them that have a chance of keeping you engaged. We are so much better together, not fragmented into interest groups to the exclusion of Island School’s larger narrative. In exchange, would you mind suggesting to less dialed-in folks in your circle of influence the idea of reading the Compass every week? I’ll keep tabs on how we’re doing, starting with aiming for 75% as a near-term goal for opening it at all and charting which stories get how many clicks after that.

And since my coffee invite is probably sounding a little worn out at this point, let me add that I’d love to get together over dinner etc. with you and a group of your choice to talk about any of this. Really, I mean it—just say when. Am already seeing the sand run through my hourglass here.

Thank you for reading and for caring about this uncommon school,