Can you hear me now?

By Dr. Nancy Rajanen, Waconia Schools Supt.

About 10 years ago, a national cell phone company developed an ad campaign that featured a young man in a variety of locations, holding a cell phone up to his ear. In each spot, he simply asked, “Can you hear me now?” The intent of the ad was to establish that the cellular company had the widest network available, and you could, in fact, hear him everywhere he went.
As the world of communications changes at warp speed, we constantly need to ask, “Can you hear us now?” As public officials, we are aware that the vast majority of our families have communications needs that are changing dramatically.
For example, the vast majority of our parents have cell phones, and prefer that method of communication to calling their home land line. Many of us — me included — have eliminated land lines from our homes. Some of our parents prefer to receive news or messages via text messages, some prefer e-mails, and some want a hard copy.
Think about school closings. On snowy days, many of us grew up listening to the alphabetical order of school districts on the radio, as that was the only method of notifying families of a snow day.
By contrast, our parents receive a Messenger email, informing them of emergency weather closings. A simultaneous announcement is made on the district website, local media websites, district Facebook page, Twitter, Weather line (telephone message), and on voice message at the District Office.
For those that prefer hard copy, we continue to provide the CommuniCAT, a quarterly print publication that is sent to all homes in the district and we provide guest columns, and news stories, for the Waconia Patriot.
In recent months, the School Board and I have wondered whether or not we are reaching our target audiences. In order to answer that question, we are conducting a series of activities that we call our communications audit. A communications audit provides an important foundation for developing a comprehensive communication plan. The audit’s goal is to provide information about attitudes, perceptions, and the effectiveness of current communication efforts among different stakeholder groups, and offer recommendations to expand or enhance the communications program. The audit also provides a benchmark for measuring progress in the future. The development of any effective communication strategy begins with opinion research.
The audit is reviewing the various communications strategies we currently employ, holding a series of focus group meetings, and seeking input through an online survey of staff and parents. Interested community members can also provide input through the online survey that can be found at http://bit.ly/Waconia.
We welcome your thoughts and opinions as we strive to communicate with our public in the most effective manner. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas with us!

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