Accessibility is a crucial part of your school communications strategy.

The core principle of accessible communications is ensuring that your content can be read and easily understood by your audience, no matter their background or personal circumstances.

Arguably, this is even more important for schools, where the success of your communications can mean the difference between establishing an engaged and collaborative community, and creating an uphill battle for your school.

But it can be tricky to get it right in every scenario. Not only do you have to consider things like letters or emails to parents and information for students, you also need to think about how you approach your local community, the press, and social media.

The good news is that overcoming this challenge doesn’t need to be a momentous task. The key to consistently strike the right note is having a successful and effective strategy in place that can provide guidance on the key considerations to take into account, and how to navigate content creation.

So, where do you start? In this blog, we take a look at how your school can create an accessible comms strategy, from making sure you’ve got the right tone of voice, to how to structure your writing.

Selecting the right tone of voice

The first step to creating any successful communication is choosing the right tone of voice.

There are multiple factors that can influence your content’s tone of voice, from your final audience, through to the platform or channel that is used to publish it.

For instance, any content posted to Twitter is likely to be much less formal than a letter written directly to parents. It may use emojis and exclamation marks to make it more engaging and attractive to a wider audience, some of whom may not have a prior relationship with your school.

In contrast, the letter will likely be more formal and informative, as well as more personal – you’re writing to someone who already has an established relationship with your school, after all.

Think carefully about how you want your school to be seen by different audiences, the reasons you need to communicate with them, and how they would prefer to engage with you.

Using straight-forward language

With any communication, the overall goal is to convey a message (whatever that may be) and have it understood clearly by your audience. However, if you’re relying on complex language to put that message across, you’re significantly harming your chances of being successful.

First and foremost, you need to consider the language proficiency of your audience. It may be that your audience includes those whose first language isn’t English, or who have personal circumstances that make it harder for them to understand more complex use of language.

Secondly, education can be a very jargon-heavy field. While you may be comfortable using it, the chances are your audience is not as up-to-date with the latest terminology in your field and may not understand what it is you’re trying to convey. Moreover, using this kind of language can actually alienate your audience rather than encourage them to engage, making it hard to collaborate when you need to.

It’s therefore best practice to use simple, straight-forward language and avoid the use of jargon wherever possible, particularly when you are communicating with people outside the education profession. If it isn’t possible to avoid using specific terms entirely, make sure you offer an explanation so that your audience can still easily follow along.

Structure your writing appropriately

The structure of your writing can be as important to your communication as the tone of voice or the language used.

Left unformatted, it is easy for your writing to merge into one long paragraph that makes it hard to distinguish sentences. Not only does it mean your audience is much more likely to give up reading, it also means that important information will probably get lost in the mix.

It’s therefore crucial to keep in mind how best to layout your content. This will often be decided by the platform on which it is published (you are, for instance, somewhat limited by what you can do with a Twitter post), but where possible, you should consider the following:

  • Use of headings and subheadings: by separating out different segments of your content into sections with an appropriate heading, your audience will be clear about the contents of your communications and how important ideas link together (see this blog as an example!)
  • Avoid long, complex sentences: the use of long sentence structures can often be a sign you’re trying too hard to convey complicated ideas – try breaking this up into smaller sentences to make it easier to follow and comprehend.
  • Use appropriate imagery and videos: images and videos can be a great way to break up text and offer another way of expressing ideas. Don’t forget to include alternative text, scripts and descriptions to make them accessible.

Avoid using sensitive or offensive language

It may seem obvious, but be careful not to use any sensitive or offensive language.

Your audience will be made up of people from all walks of life, with different personal circumstances and backgrounds. Remember to be considerate and approachable in your communications, and try to avoid sensitive language.

And, if ever you’re concerned, do your research before you put pen to paper. Being thoughtful and aware of your audience will make your communications strategy much more successful, and you’ll likely build a more co-operative and kind community.

Taking the next step

There’s a lot of things to take into account when it comes to making your communications accessible and inclusive. However, getting it right not only helps your school convey important messages, it also builds a positive relationship with your audiences – whether that be your staff, students or parent community.

If you’re struggling to know how to put together your accessibility strategy, we’re on hand to help. Our education communication experts have a wealth of experience in moulding content for multiple audiences and purposes, and can help you piece together the perfect strategy for your school.

Get in touch today to discuss how we can support you in taking the next steps.