Effective communication is essential to driving PTA member engagement. Yet all too often, we see PTA leaders make several crucial mistakes. Here are 10 of the most common mistakes that you should avoid when communicating with your PTA.
#1: Communicating with your PTA only when you need money. Yes, school fundraising is important. But your PTA members want to know about other things as well: school events, PTA programs, volunteer opportunities. Sharing this information will give everyone a deeper connection to the school and to your PTA. And that deeper connection will allow you to raise more money when you organize your next fundraiser.
#2: Communicating too much. If you find yourself hitting the “Send” button several times a day, you’re communicating too much. Few parents enjoy receiving 5 emails per day from their PTA leader. Like the boy who cried wolf too many times, you’ll find yourself not being able to reach people when you really need them. They’ll start tuning out your messages. If you have a lot to say, try combining your requests or updates into a single email or newsletter. Parent portal platforms such as SimplyCircle allow you to consolidate all your communication into a single Daily Digest.
#3: Communicating at inconsistent frequency. One week you’re sending many emails per day. Then your members don’t hear from you for a month. Unless there’s a good reason for your silence (like a long school holiday), you should pick your communication frequency (daily, weekly or monthly), and stick with it. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is this: the larger the group, the less the ideal frequency of communication. Plus, knowing that your communications always come out on Mondays at 3 pm will “condition” your group members to open your emails. That translates into higher member engagement for you.
#4: Not being clear about what’s most important. When you put your most important request at the bottom of a 4-page long newsletter (and you should think twice about sending out a 4-page long newsletter in the first place), you’re “burying the lead”. Do you really expect your PTA members to read all 4 pages, and then respond to your call for volunteers or committee chair nominations? Instead, put your main request at the beginning. It should appear both in the subject line and at the top of your email or newsletter. Even if your PTA members are quickly scanning their emails, they don’t miss the main point – you need volunteers for the upcoming fundraiser.
#5: Making it difficult to take action. The whole point of communication is to drive member engagement, right? So make it as easy as possible for members to engage. If you’re asking them to volunteer, let them sign up with one click. Don’t send them to a paper signup at the school office, or to a spreadsheet that half of the school can’t open. Parent portal platforms such as SimplyCircle integrate signups, event RSVPs, and post commenting. When you make it dead-simple for people to volunteer and otherwise engage, many more of them will do it.
#6: Starting a reply-all email mess. This one is a personal pet peeve of mine. I hate getting emails that ask people to bring food to an upcoming school event where everyone is on the “to” line. Within minutes, my inbox is flooded with “reply all” responses: “I will bring watermelons”. “I won’t be attending”. “What kind of cheese do people like?” Instead, use a platform like SimplyCircle. It allows people to sign up without the blow-by-blow commentary of who is doing what. If people are commenting on your posts, all the comments are summarized in one convenient Daily Digest. If you must communicate by regular email, then put everyone’s email addresses on the bcc line. This way, when people reply, their reply goes to just the sender and not to everyone on the list.
#7: Not respecting people’s privacy. There’s another reason why you should put everyone on the bcc line. It signals that you respect their privacy. I remember freaking out when I got an email from a non-profit organization I just joined, and saw my email address displayed on the “to” line. Needless to say, I severed my ties with that non-profit in seconds. People are rightly paranoid about their privacy. So either move everyone to the “bcc” line, or use a service like SimplyCircle. It hides email addresses, while still allowing everyone to communicate.
#8: Not providing easy opt-out / unsubscribe options. In 2003, Congress passed a law called CAN-SPAM. The law requires senders of commercial messages to let recipients unsubscribe from unwanted emails. While PTAs are not commercial entities that are bound by CAN-SPAM law, it is still a good idea to let people opt out. Here’s why. If you irritate people with frequent communications, and don’t let them get off your mailing list, they will mark your email as “spam”. Too many spam complaints will ruin your email deliverability. That means that all your emails will start landing in people’s spam folders. Needless to say, not being able to reach your PTA members is bad for business. So let people unsubscribe if they want to.
#9: Making mistakes in your communication. Spelling or grammatical errors make communication look “unprofessional”. Fortunately, these errors are easy to avoid. Just run a spelling and grammar check before sending something out. Also be sure to check your email for accuracy and completeness. You don’t want to have to contact a thousand people with an “oops, I got the date wrong” email. Remember, once you hit that “send” button, there’s no way to unring that bell. The email is out.
#10: Leaving some people out. Make sure your communications include everyone. For example, you should not limit your updates to just paying PTA members. Everybody needs to be informed about school and PTA events. In fact, if you keep parents in the loop and make them feel like part of the community, they might decide to join your PTA. If you have a large Hispanic population at your school, you should write in both English and Spanish. Using a free program like Google Translate is better than nothing. But you should be able to get translation help from someone at your school who speaks both languages.
If you avoid these 10 common communication mistakes, you will get higher member engagement.
Learn more about how SimplyCircle can simplify PTA member communication and try it out for free today!