Here’s a great story for two reasons. A school district creates a customizable news service for community residents, and then does follow-up evaluation to gauge satisfaction and to continue fine-tuning it. The National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) reports that when community members in Naperville (Ill.) School District 203 identified “lack of communications” as a top concern, school district staff dived into fact-finding. They discovered that more than 90 percent of households had an internet connection, so the district set up a self-subscribing e-mail system to present “real news in real time” to any interested resident.
Subscribers build personal online profiles indicating the type of information they want, at at the elementary, junior high and high school levels. Links to the service appear on school and district web sites. The district publicized the new service via news releases, newspaper columns, personal contacts in the local business community, school newsletters, announcements at parent nights, and during school open house.
They didn’t stop there: They evaluated the program’s success. And two years down the road, evaluation revealed a 97 percent user satisfaction rating and a growth rate of 56 percent the third year.
Seventy percent of families have signed up for the service — 8,000 of 11,000 households. Subscribers frequently ask for more information, which communications office staff answer. The project also provides a way to gauge interest in issues of the moment.