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Knowing Your Audience(s)

Stacy Bogard

By Stacy Bogard, CAE, MASB Assistant Director of Communications, PR & Marketing

DashBoard, Sept. 27, 2017

Do you have a good handle on the demographics of your district, i.e., who makes up your community? Knowing your audiences is key to effective communication and should be a topic discussed at the board table when determining how to share or collect information.

There are the obvious groups of students, parents, teachers, administrators, other district staff and local businesses, but what about, for example, grandparents and other relatives of your students? According to the 2010 U.S. Census, more than 70,000 Michigan grandparents are responsible for their grandchildren.

And what about taking that audience “breakdown” a step further and looking more deeply at the individuals who make up each of these groups. We currently have six living generations who all have different viewpoints, values and influencers that impact their decisions including when it comes to schools and education: GI (1901-1926); Traditionalists/Silents (1927-1945); Baby Boomers (1946-1964); Gen X (1965-1980); Millennials (1981-2000); and Gen Z (2001-?).

Your audiences’ decisions are also influenced by their ethnicity, culture, education level, marital status, occupation, religion, family size, income, location and more. So taking all of those factors into consideration, how does a board most effectively communicate and show support for its district?

First, after you’ve had an opportunity to review all of your community demographic data, establish high-priority, target audiences and create communication goals for a dedicated time period.

Once your goals are established, one approach for effective communication is to ensure that you have ambassadors who are proud of your district and more than willing to share why that is with everyone they encounter. Some of the most well-known school employees are the school secretary, custodians, bus drivers, teachers and principals. Make sure you are keeping them up-to-date on what is happening in the district so they have current information to share.

Another is to make a practice of regularly reaching out to some of your external audiences, such as elected/appointed officials, leaders of senior citizen groups, business/industry executives, civic/community organization leaders, religious leaders and booster/parent group leaders. Touch base with them via email, letters or face-to-face meetings making them aware of the latest district information. Positive word of mouth from key communicators outside of the district can be very powerful.

If you’re looking for resources for determining your demographics, check out the Statewide Education Dashboard (www.mischooldata.org), U.S. Census (www.census.gov), National Center for Educational Statistics (www.nces.ed.gov), as well as your local chambers of commerce, election data and hospitals.

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