Engage, Inform, COMMUNICATE, Transform!
Communicating in the public arena is more scrutinized today than ever before. When information is more available, abundant and instant - and people still complain about communications - how do you respond?
Torrance Unified School District (TUSD), a motivated 30-school district led by an inspired, bold and determined school board, heard the call from their community and reached out to CliffordMoss for help.
Over the next many months we joined forces with TUSD to create and implement a blueprint for improvement in the communications space. TUSD's Strategic Communications Initiative set in motion an ambitious agenda: engage, inform, communicate and transform the TUSD organization into a "culture of communicators." No one could have predicted the spectacular journey that followed by creating a simple but powerful focused strategy, practicing “people support what they help create,” earning public trust one day at a time, and keeping the community engaged and supportive – even during a pandemic!
Creating a culture of communicators isn’t easy, but it CAN transform an organization. It takes leadership, vision... and at least one more secret key ingredient to ensure success.
The secret is this: Start, continue, and never stop LISTENING.
Building a culture of communications excellence REQUIRES quality listening. It’s a simple yet amazing tool. In fact, so simple that people often overlook and forget to do it! Listening fosters a two-way exchange. Listening helps “reset” the dynamic and turn a corner, especially in times of turbulence. Most important, “structured listening” can be a powerful tool to learn.
We launched our Torrance communications initiative with a robust community listening effort, touching over a thousand school and community stakeholders. What resulted was an abundance of riches that informed the strategy to transform TUSD and build a true culture of communicators.
What did we learn from listening? Here are a few examples:
- TUSD received high marks on providing high-quality education.
- Stakeholders gave positive feedback on overall communications.
- Many in the TUSD community expressed a desire for more information.
- Community members want information from a mix of sources (with direct mail and e-news receiving the highest ratings) not just one singular source.
- The community wanted to see a better process when tough decisions had to be made.
Armed with high quality listening (and revealing feedback), the TUSD Strategic Communications Plan unanimously received by the School Board was directly informed by what we heard.
Then COVID hit, forcing dramatic and immediate change for everyone. This unforeseen and scary moment in time could have triggered the end of what started as simply a good idea. But TUSD leaders and CliffordMoss powered through, transforming crisis into opportunity. We leaned into the listening even more, expanding into a TEAM EFFORT to foster a “culture of communicators." Doubling down on listening during the pandemic accelerated new breakthroughs in listening as TUSD moved into communications capacity building and training with principals and others.
Ultimately, what did listening really accomplish? It became the fuel that generated a new era of communications excellence. TUSD’s commitment to better listening helped improve parent communications, expanded use of media (especially video and social media), inspired a new, vibrant annual report mailed to every house in the community, and much more. Simply put, listening was the match that lit the fire of positive change.
Today TUSD is a different organization, one that is actively owning and investing in its growing culture of communicators. Ongoing listening systems remain central to the District’s communications journey enhanced by expanded training, feedback loops and a bold school board vision for the vital role of communications excellence in its learning organization. What started with LISTENING has grown into something so much bigger, more vibrant and alive.
If you think your school district is ready for a journey to greatness in the communications space, start with the most powerful tool of all – LISTENING. You have little to lose, much to gain and there’s a 100% chance you’ll gain insight that can help you take your organization to a whole new level.
BONNIE MOSS (510) 757-9023 [email protected]
TOM CLIFFORD (510) 847-7155 [email protected]
AMANDA CLIFFORD (415) 244-5990 [email protected]
LAURA CROTTY (408) 839-5556 [email protected]