Here are some strategies for creating a successful message using our parent notification system, SchoolMessenger. If you are unsure how to use any of the following methods, click on the link to view a step-by-step tutorial (pdf). If you have any questions, you can email SchoolMessenger technical support or contact your communications liaison.
Most school and/or department messages should be categorized as “General”. Do not use “Emergency” or “High Priority” unless you want a critical email, phone call, and text message to be sent out simultaneously. SchoolMessenger will automatically generate email, text or phone messages in “High Priority” mode. It is much more effective to create different messages for each medium.
Use this tutorial to find basic start-up information such as logging in, retrieving a forgotten or lost password, a getting a general overview of program features. Because teachers have different rights within SchoolMessenger than secretaries or administrators have, make sure you are following the correct set of instructions:
Strategies for Emails:
- This should be your most common method of communication
Parents like to receive frequent updates from their school but don’t like them to be intrusive, making email the perfect option. Use this method for important as well as general information.
- Write your message out
Begin with the important information (who, what, when, where and why) and get right to the point. Good messages always contain your name, your school and your position at the school. Have someone else review the message before sending.
- Repeat important information such as the date, time and location of events, or emphasize only a few phrases in bold or in italics. Refrain from using multiple font styles and colors. The MMSD standard font is Century Gothic.
- Be professional, but don’t be afraid to have fun: Many schools have found that they can achieve the goal of getting important information delivered while putting a smile on a parent’s face.
- Get to the Point
Samples of successful emails:
Strategies for Text Messages:
- Use sparingly
Families will quickly unsubscribe if they receive texts that do not include critical information – if it’s not urgent or time sensitive, send an email instead.
- Keep it short
Never use more than 160 characters. Some parents may have to pay for receiving text messages. Sending more than one text for the same event/activity is excessive.
To keep your message short, it is okay to use abbreviations. However, be aware that not everyone in your target audience may know what they are. Make sure you are using common abbreviations only and don’t change them from text to text (i.e. always use “info” for “information” and don’t start using “inf” or “infor” instead).
Samples of effective text messages:
“Don't forget this Friday is an early release day for all elementary schools!”
“Reminder: NO SCHOOL Thursday or Friday this week - mmsd.org/calendar”
“Unpaid school fees are due before 6/13. Pay via Infinite Campus or call your school secretary. Ck your email for details.”
“Don't miss Conversation with the Superintendent TONIGHT at 6:30pm at La Follette HS. more info at mmsd.org/superintendent-entry-plan”
“Improve school/home communication. Take the MMSD survey @ mmsd.org/survey or call 663-1879”
Strategies for Phone Calls:
- Use sparingly
Keep this method effective by using it infrequently. Think about how important the message is – if it’s not critical, send an email instead.
- Use your own voice
Do not use SchoolMessenger's automated voice to send out phone calls. It is not clear and often the message is misunderstood. It is best to record the message with your own voice, or have another staff member record the message for you.
- Keep it short
Only voice messages only if you’re able to keep the message short. You generally have about ten seconds or less to convey your purpose before losing people’s attention. Time yourself reading the message slowly and clearly.
- Write your message out
Begin with the important information and get right to the point. Also, have someone else read the script and give feedback before sending the message.
- Repeat important information such as the date, time and location of events so parents have time to write it down. Use the following order for most effectiveness:
- What is the event? - Get to the purpose of the call right away
- What day, date and time is it?
- Where is it?
- Repeat day, date and time
- Include a contact phone number. If you must include a URL/email address, keep it very brief and clear, such as lowell.mmsd.org.
- Articulate clearly
You should us a natural voice, and speak slowly and clearly when recording messages – but not so slow as to lose the recipient’s interest. It can be difficult to understand callers who speak too quickly. Always listen to your message before sending it.
- Create a good impression
Messages are often your first contact with a parent so you want to make a good impression. Smile when you speak; people can hear it in your voice. Take a deep breath before you start recording; you want to keep your voice from trailing off. Put some energy in your voice and change the inflection; avoid sounding monotone. If you sound bored, your recipients will be less likely to pay attention. Remember, how you say something can be just as important as what you say.
- Only mention one topic per call
Trying to cover a variety of complicated and/or unrelated issues in one phone message is not effective.
- Ask for feedback
Do not be afraid of feedback from your recipients. Ask recipients if the messages you are sending are clear and how they could be improved. Also find out the type of information recipients desire and how often they want to hear from you.
- Send the call at an appropriate time
Many cell phone users do not listen to voicemail. Instead they may immediately return the call. Make sure someone is available to receive incoming calls and answer questions immediately after your message goes out. If no one is available, or if the call is sent after hours, make sure you have a recorded message on your answer line that explains what the call was about.
Do you have questions about the toolkit? Contact the Communications Department