Successful School Newsletters: The Secret Sauce

Communicating with parents seems easy.  However,  it can be intimidating. We wanted to share the secret sauce to successful school newsletters!

Newsletters are a great way to give parents enough information to be able to ask their kid about the school week.  Here we share a few tips and tricks so you have a successful school newsletter!

1.     Newsletter Owners are Key for Successful School Newsletters 

One secret to a successful school newsletters is choosing an owner or owners.  Principals often think they have to be the ones doing newsletters. It is true. Principals have a lot to share.  The reality is all you need is someone who is a solid writer.  You could even choose a newsletter committee for your school.  Consider teachers who were Communications or Marketing majors. They might want the opportunity to try their hand out at a weekly or monthly newsletter.

Programs like Google Docs allows multiple people to input information into a newsletter.  Your principal can even leave a voice memo with the key points they want included in the newsletter.

2.     Timing is everything

For successful school newsletters you want to think about both frequency and timing.

  • For frequency, what is a reasonable amount of time you can put together a newsletter?  Some schools choose every week.  Some schools choose every month.  We recommend either weekly, bi-weekly (e.g. every other week), or monthly.
  • You also want to think about when to send the newsletter.  For example, consider sending a newsletter on Friday. This is best if there are things parents might need to prepare over the weekend.  Consider sending a newsletter on Monday. This is best if parents typically only “check in on school matters” once a week. Consider aligning your newsletter with something else that goes out regularly ex. progress reports, lunch bills, etc.

Successful School Newsletter

3.     Keep the tone positive

As many a parent loves to say, watch your tone.  Tone matters a lot.  You’ll want to use a tone that is positive, optimistic, and communal. To have successful school newsletters, parents can’t feel like they are being lectured every week on what they’re doing wrong.

  • Write as if the newsletter were from your faculty as a whole directly to parents.  “We at Smith Elementary…” “Please make sure your child…”
  • Keep it positive!  Here’s an example.
    • Bad tone: “please don’t break this rule”
    • Better tone: “please remember our expectation of…”
    • Best tone: “we could really use your help with…”
  • Use an enthusiastic tone and assume that everyone who reads your newsletter is as excited as you are about the information you present.

4.     Format, format, format

There is what you say, how you say it, and how you format it.

  • Use a predictable format and only change the content from issue to issue.  Sometimes we try to do a little too much when trying to make newsletters creative.  Can you imagine if every time you got your favorite magazine or went to your favorite website it had a different design?  Yet somehow we do this with parents. By using a predictable format your school helps parents read and skim more quickly.
  • Present information from most important to least important.
  • Use a “snapshot” to give a quick overview of dates of upcoming events then describe events in detail later in the newsletter.
  • Give brief yet precise information in your newsletter (dates, time, locations, other details that might answer questions parents may have).  Help parents review the newsletter as quickly as possible.
  • Always use underlining and highlighting in a predictable manner (ex. dates always highlighted, most important detail always underlined).

5. Picture It

Pictures help communicate in a universal language! Pictures are so helpful in creating successful school newsletters.

  • Pictures can spice up your newsletter!
  • Use pictures of past events to promote upcoming events (people will literally visualize themselves attending) and to celebrate and share the positivity.
  • Real life pictures can provide an example for things things that need detailed attention (ex. dress code reminders).
  • One quick tip is to use pictures of kids who were celebrated in their school or classroom that week

5. Include “Well-being” notes  

Remember to express that you care about your students and families by including extra information that might help with general family well-being (ex. food resources, summer resources, enrichment opportunities, ideas for families).

6. Avoid the traps

There are lots of keys to a successful school newsletter — and a few things that you’ll want to avoid.

  • Extreme informal language
  • Too many pictures
  • Grammatical errors and incorrect information
  • Serious topics (Address those separately with a more formal letter)
  • Only including events or important notes one time
  • Using the newsletter as the only form of communication (flyers for special events, robocalls, and teacher texts are all still important too!)

Enjoy celebrating your school, students, staff and families through newsletters.  We have a template you can use here: newsletter template.

Kimberly Robinson, Contributor
Family Engagement specialist who has worked at a diversity of schools as a teacher and a Family Engagement leader shares her secret sauce for schools creating easy and fun parent newsletters.