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Look to the future: Planning for key trends

As you deal with the day-to-day responsibilities of your communications office, do you also block out time — say, monthly — to plan, or even think about, next year?

I can hear you now: What?! Who could possibly have time for that when my day is consumed with doing?

Yup, I get that. Juggling the urgent and the important is no easy task.

Or this: Sorry, but my crystal ball is in the shop. I’ll get around to forecasting the future later.

Predicting what is just around the corner is not that hard, however. Many of the trends that need our attention already stare us in the face.

For starters, consider the changing habits of Americans in media consumption. Readership is down, and so is reader patience. (Reviewing time-on-page analytics is a sobering exercise.) Yet people consume more content than ever, thanks to video, podcasts, photo slideshows, and the like.

How is your office responding to this trend? Have you started producing multimedia content alongside newsletters and the school magazine? Your audience is waiting.

To get you thinking about anticipating the future for our schools, here are a few more of what Donald Rumsfeld immortally called “the known knowns.”

The 2020-2021 NAIS Trendbook noted that “head of school tenure continues to get shorter (from an average of 9 years in 2011 to an average of 7 years today).” If your head’s tenure is approaching seven years — or if it’s longer than that — it would be timely to plan who you’d communicate that transition. Do you have the materials you’ll need?
America’s demographics have changed significantly in the past five years, both in terms of income and race. Does your marketing and social media fit this new reality, or do your visuals represent the past?
Parents are expressing more interest in STEM programming and opportunities at schools. Are you sufficiently promoting what your school provides to students?
There is also new attention toward “soft skills” — the nonacademic attributes that students will need as adults. How does this fit with your school’s marketing about academic accomplishment (such as college placement)?
At many schools, websites are typically designed on and for desktop browsers. Yet mobile browser usage is running neck-and-neck with desktop usage.

Once you’ve considered these and other trends, what comes next? Start analyzing the next steps for your office, and then take action.

But first things first: My advice is, yes, block out some time in your calendar each month — even just 15 minutes — to think about communications trends and how your school can best meet them.

A reminder: A consultation with Fine Point Communications can spotlight trends you haven’t considered and propose solutions for addressing them. Plus, our first meeting is free! To schedule a conversation, reach out.

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