As the current crisis surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop, the circumstances facing schools are changing day by day, with many being forced to close, cancel classes, or move courses online.
With so much uncertainty for both current and incoming students, not to mention your own staff, keeping them informed is essential at this difficult time.
Unfortunately, communication is never easy, and becomes even more complicated during a crisis. With that in mind, we wanted to offer some guidance for connecting with your school’s online community throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.
Overcommunicate With Your Online Community
During a crisis, there is no such thing as too much communication. People are anxious, and there is a lot of uncertainty around how this will affect them, their jobs, and their studies.
Example: Georgetown University is one of many schools around the world that has moved quickly to create a dedicated section of its website for coronavirus information, featuring regular updates, resources, and guidance.
Students, parents, staff, and other members of your school community need reassurance now more than ever. Even if you’re still putting together a strategy, let your audience know that a plan is in the works. This will help to create trust. Email marketing, blogs, and SMS and instant messaging are all channels you should be making use of to get your message across.
Keep Students, Prospects, and Parents Up to Date on Social Media
Relating to the above point, your social media use is crucial right now. As people are isolated and working from home, social media has become a tool to unite individuals, and we’ve seen a huge jump in social media usage around the world.
Your audience will be turning to social media to ask questions, so make sure that you are carefully monitoring social media and responding to all inquiries. Responding quickly and informatively will help to improve your brand image in the long-term.
Example: Rotterdam Business School has been encouraging Facebook users to contact the school with their questions.
However, it doesn’t all need to be doom and gloom. While this is a serious time, well-timed, relevant, and appropriate humour could engage audiences and create a feeling of solidarity for those working and studying at home.
Listen and Adapt to Your Audience’s Needs
You should always be listening to your audience and adapting your message accordingly. This becomes essential in a crisis. Consider what your prospective and current students’ main concerns are right now, and try to address these in all communications.
Example: The University of Michigan created a list of common FAQs for its coronavirus microsite.
You should also be sure to try and adapt any web content and information that is no longer appropriate across your digital channels sooner rather than later.
Offer Useful Communications
Lastly, try to say something useful in all posts and statements. You can do this by offering reassurance, answering questions, and sharing useful information. There is a lot of contradictory, panic-driven information out there right now. Sharing links to correct and easy-to-understand information will put you in good stead and show that you care and want to help.
By staying on top of your communication during this crisis, your school can be a source of strength and support for its community, offering those who make your institution what it is valuable reassurance at this difficult time.