Focused communication can help school districts enhance participation throughout the day, and it can bolster interest and awareness among students and parents. At General Mills Foodservice, we are encouraged to see schools creatively using communication to boost participation. Following are three best practices we have observed when it comes to clear and effective communication:
Create a communication plan. If you’ve never developed a communication plan, this might sound overwhelming, however, it can be as simple as a one-page document listing key audiences, goals and ideas for reaching them with various communication vehicles. This might include newsletters, marketing pieces, special events and, of course, social media (read on for more specific tips). Essentially, when you create a plan of action, with dates and accountabilities, it gives you a tool for measuring progress and the effectiveness of various outreach programs as well as something to build on for future marketing and communications platforms.
Supersize social strategies. 38% of School Nutrition Association (SNA) district director members report using social media to communicate with parents and students in the SNA 2014 Operations Report1. This is a 13% increase from two years ago. As this number grows, it makes it easier for schools to become strong voices for nutrition and participation. Likewise, kids, tweens and teens continue to flock to social media – Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, in particular – so using social media to reach this audience can help create a community of interested consumers. Social media outreach can also target parents and let them know of upcoming programs, nutrition options for students and events.
Social media strategy doesn’t have to be complicated or sophisticated. In less than 10 minutes a day, you can share accessible, fun and interesting content for students and parents. Train your staff to use smart phones to take photos for social media coverage and make sure your posts are short, sweet and engaging.
Open up your toolbox. Creativity and color can go a long with enticing students and sometimes images are more powerful than words. For example, General Mills Foodservice has beautiful smoothie images to help schools promote nutritious smoothies on menus and in other communications. Access images here, and find posters to promote “Breakfast for Lunch” here. Kids Eat Right, through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation, also offers toolkits with tips, recipes and more for schools.
Remember, what is communicated and how it is communicated are both important. Sit down with your team to determine how you can enhance both communications and participation at your school in the upcoming school year.
1School Nutrition Operations Report 2016; The State of School Nutrition, 2016
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