What is the purpose of this Communications Guide?
The Guide helps equip all staff to effectively engage in the mission, vision, and work of Kent ISD and to ensure clear and consistent communication throughout the organization and with all our stakeholders. It was prepared by for our Continuous Improvement initiative by the team working on communications.
Overview - Shared Communication Responsibility
A great deal of information both comes to, and is produced by, Kent ISD staff. Official information is found in many forms, including the email system, websites, social media, surveys, shared document systems, alert messaging systems (like School Messenger, Let’s Talk or Crisis Go), and a variety of electronic and print publications. A rich source of information about our local schools and education issues can be found in Kent ISD’s School News Network, and occasionally in local media.
Kent ISD staff are educators, regardless of our titles, and need to be informed about education and the work of our ISD in order to be effective. All of us are expected to:
- Read occasional articles that apply to our districts, education in general and to keep current with our own particular field
- Utilize and monitor e-mail accounts at least once each business day
- Look over content on the front of the ISD website and/or school website at least once a month
- Use official, Board-approved names for our organization and programs. For example, our correct name is Kent ISD in all references. In addition, we need to use correct program names as well, such as Kent Career Tech Center and MySchool@Kent. (see next section)
- Utilize district letterhead and always use the logo standards as identified in the Kent ISD Style Guide (see addendum) for written correspondence and materials sent externally
- Monitor messaging systems as notifications are sent
Follow this Guide when sending and replying to email messages, calendar and meeting requests
Names and Image Matter
Referencing our organization and programs
It is important to refer to our organization, schools and programs using Board-approved language. This includes, but is not limited to references in conversation, on websites, in email, social media, local media, electronic and print publications and names of files shared with customers.
Kent ISD is our official name and our organization should be referred to ONLY as Kent ISD. In a document about us, and when it won’t be confusing to the reader, using “the ISD” after a few references is also acceptable.
Please note: we no longer use the outdated forms of “Kent Intermediate School District,” “the Intermediate” or “KISD” so no four-word names and no abbreviations please - anywhere. When referring to our organization, no “the” is needed before our name, any more than it would be needed for The Steelcase or The Priority Health.
- Kent Career Tech Center should be referred to as Kent Career Tech Center or the Tech Center. Use of “KCTC” is appropriate only internally and with current or former students, parents and active partners. The abbreviation is not used with external audiences. Please make sure the Tech Center is never called (or appears as) “Kent Career/Technical Center,” “Kent Skills,” or “the Skill Center.” Not only are these outdated references incorrect, they also harm the image of the school.
- Kent Transition Center is the name of this program, with Transition Center in second reference. Again, use of “KTC” should be restricted to internal audiences who know the program.
- Kent Innovation High School is the official name of this program. Innovation High is the name on second reference. Please use “KIH” only with internal audiences.
- MySchool@Kent is the name of this program (yes, with the @ symbol), with MySchool on second reference. Again the use of “MSAK” or “MS@K” is for internal audiences.
Using these names correctly helps us maintain a strong and consistent brand identity with our customers and across our community.
Maintaining Our Highest and Best Image
To be entrusted by the community with the responsibilities, budgets and outcomes that belong to Kent ISD is an honor and true civic duty. Kent ISD has a stellar reputation for innovation, expertise, results and honest operations – which has been built by the work of our colleagues over the years, and now maintained by us.
Our image and brand is only as good and professional as we are. The Communications Department exists to help all of us enhance our image, from strategic marketing, media/advertising and publications to professional photography, signage, websites and large scale events. That is why large scale marketing events, media, and promotions require approval of a director/supervisor and coordination/planning with Communications.
Email protocol and tips
The following pages introduce good practice for writing and sending emails, how to mail groups large and small, and outlines Kent ISD’s protocol for email signatures. This guidance is to help make your email communications professional, effective and easy to understand.
What Are You Talking About? – Using Clear Subject Lines
Always put a clear subject line or topic in the subject field. Make sure it is meaningful and sets the scene for the content to help both you and the recipient quickly understand or file the email appropriately. This is a key way to communicate effectively in email.
If an email conversation develops into a discussion about something other than the original topic, consider changing the subject heading. This makes it easier to recognize the purpose of the email later, without having to open it, and keeps the subject relevant.
Writing Style – Plain English, Not Old English
Use plain English and conversational language. Emails shouldn’t read like a formal report – unless they are one – as email is generally considered less formal than other means of communication. Use salutations and sign-offs at your preference keeping in mind that politeness and professionalism are always important.
Emails should be relatively short. They are often skimmed since readers have a lot of mail competing for attention. Make sure you get your point across quickly by keeping your email concise and easy to read. Here are a few tips:
- State your call to action early and clearly – if and what action is needed, by whom and set deadlines. It can be helpful to set the actions out as separate items with a named person next to each.
- Provide context. If you are contacting someone for the first time, or they have no background with the topic, include a brief introductory sentence. In a reminder email, refer back to previous correspondence and include dates.
- Break up text by using short paragraphs, headings and bulleted or numbered lists (note: these lists may change format when read in other mail systems)
- In a long email exchange, it can be helpful to delete all but the most recent message when you reply, provided the context is not needed. The same is true when responding to a specific point in an email. You may want to delete everything except the relevant part of the original message to make it clear what you are responding to.
- In general, avoid emoticons or ‘smileys’ in professional communication
- Avoid using all capital letters – it’s considered SHOUTING
And remember, email may not be your best option if you have lengthy or detailed information to get across. Think about other communications methods, or consider your attachment options (see Attachment Do’s and Don’ts).
Show Yourself! – Share Your Contact Info with a Signature
Always make it clear who an email is coming from and include a signature with contact details so that people can reach you easily. This applies when you are sending an email from your personal account or from a Kent ISD account.
Important details to provide in your signature include your first and last name, job title and phone number. You may also want to include your department name, the Kent ISD logo (with a link to your webpage embedded) or School News Network logo, a fax or cell phone number or other important info. If you use an office or department specific email account not tied to a specific person (for example, CareerReadiness@kentisd.org), be sure to add general office contact details to the signature.
As more and more people use their mobile device to access and respond to email, it’s also good practice to add your phone number in a way that people can simply touch to dial your number.
This is an example of a best practice email signature:
Education Technology Consultant
Copying emails to a group
Taking time to use ‘copy’ or “CC” correctly when emailing groups can help the effectiveness of your communications. Ensure the mail you send is relevant to your readers. Copying others into replies unnecessarily can cause confusion.
When to use Carbon Copy or “CC”
When people need to know who the other recipients are, use the CC ‘carbon copy’ field, which is visible to everyone. In some case, it is important that recipients can understand why they're receiving the mail and seeing the recipient list can help. This is generally good for when you are copying in a small number of people who are relevant to the email exchange.
Use Blind Copy or “BCC” when emailing a large group
When sending an email to a large group, using the CC field will create a long list and cause confusion to the recipient who may not understand why the email has come to them. This is where the BCC field works better.
In the header of an email, BCC means ‘blind carbon copy’. Recipients cannot see who else received the message. This is effectively used when mail is sent to a large group of people who don't necessarily know each other and don't need to know who else is receiving the mail, but would find it helpful to understand the ‘capacity’ in which they are being contacted. For example, Department Leads, Administrators, or Administrative Assistants.
When using BCC, it is helpful in the main body of your email to state clearly who the recipients of the email are, the subject or topic, a clear call to action and any deadline you have set. Further recommendations can be found in the ‘effective emails’ section.
Information sent to all staff using the e-mail system should be treated as FYI only. Please don’t hit “Reply” and respond to these messages as this also goes to every staff member. If you are going to volunteer, place an order or have a question, send it only to the person providing the original email.
Attachment Do’s & Don’ts
Often you may need to refer to, or circulate, documents that are relevant to your email. Attachments are a useful way of sending small documents to small groups. Be aware of the size of any document or file you are attaching. Some email systems will only accept up to 20Mb in size. Keep in mind that many people may be accessing the document on a mobile device with limited storage or data access.
If you need to send large documents, or if your mail group is large, try to avoid attaching the document itself. Instead:
- Put it in your OneDrive or Google Drive and link to it
- Store the document on a shared drive (if all your recipients have access) and circulate the location
When sending attachments, keep in mind:
- Your recipient’s inbox or mail account may not have much space
- Some mail programs don’t allow users to remove the attachment from the mail and save it – they may only have the choice to delete it all or keep it all
- Some organizations’ mail servers reject very large attachments without notifying the mail recipient
- They increase the size of your sent box
Out of Office
An auto reply indicating your status and return date should be set up when you will be out of your office for two or more business days and not checking email. Remember to turn the auto reply off when you return. (The same is true for voice mail.)
Email and accessibility
Even when you know your intended recipients, you may be unaware of their accessibility needs. The recipient should have total control over how they read the message and be able to apply character size, font or color settings of their own to make the message more readable for them. Any documents that are attached (or linked to in HTML mail) need to be fully accessible (including to auto text readers), through the use of appropriate headings and styles in both Word and PDF.
Most mail programs allow you to choose between Plain Text or HTML format messages. But what’s the difference and which should you choose?
“Plain Text” = Plain & Simple
Plain Text format is just that – plain text with no frills. There is no choice in font, font style (bold, underline, italics) or color, and you cannot include images in the body or text as hyperlinks (you must show the actual web address). All email programs can read Plain Text which makes it a safe option to be sure recipients receive your messages. Plain text emails are also small and take up very little space in mail folders.
“Rich Text” = What Now?
When changing the settings of your email you may see the option of Rich Text. This is a Microsoft format set up for space saving inside organizations. This setting allows formatting and font options and photos and hyperlinks in the body. When sent outside our organization, these emails are automatically converted to HTML (see below).
“HTML” = Eye Catching
HTML format gives you many choices over the look and feel of your email including font, images, links and even backgrounds. An email that is graphically designed, like an e-postcard or e-newsletter, is also in HTML format. This can be very helpful in communicating your message, both in general and when promoting something, as they’re eye-catching.
Be aware that adding colors or distracting backgrounds that are hard to read can actually get in the way of your message. In addition, these emails need to be set up correctly to avoid causing problems for recipients.
Creating good, accessible HTML emails which work with a range of mail readers takes some time. If you need to use HTML email, either for marketing purposes or for structured formatting like an e-newsletter, try a service like MailChimp or other system which prevents stripping out text and images, or contact the Communications Department for help.
Follow-up loop for requests
All staff are responsible for the information they create and send through any of the Kent ISD systems, as well as requests for information from others. Please respond to people in a timely way – 2 business days is suggested. When possible, use the same communication channel the requestor used, unless they ask to receive information in a different way.
Periodically, messages are communicated that request certain individuals or teams to complete a certain task, sometimes by a certain date. Be sure to follow up appropriately and in a timely manner.
The Let’s Talk tool has a follow up loop embedded and can be an effective way to track requests, progress and completion, team involvement and follow-up satisfaction. Some departments use and prefer Let’s Talk for communication and project tracking while others do not. When working between departments, be sure this is an agreed-upon tool before initiating a project.
Kent ISD uses online calendars for effective communication of dates and events. While individual staff members have their own private calendars, each public-facing service area and student instructional program (PD Hub, Early Childhood, KCTC, KTC, KIH, and MySchool@Kent) will maintain an up to date calendar, accessible on their front webpage.
All staff must maintain an electronic calendar that interfaces with Outlook and is capable of sending and receiving appointments through the e-mail system.
A communications best practice is to make use of the Scheduling Assistant for meeting requests. It is a powerful tool, but like many other tools, the value is determined by how people use it.
Using Scheduling Assistant in Outlook or other office productivity software prevents back and forth emails that never seem to end (You propose three different times on three different dates, and—what do you know—your contacts can’t make it to any of the suggested times. You start the whole process again, exchange a couple dozen emails, and somehow still have no date.)
Many of us are responsible for sending out a series of dates of regular meetings. A best practice for sending out a lengthy list of dates are to create Appointments in a calendar and emailing your potential attendees. If this automation tool is used, the sender will be able to see who had responded and plan accordingly. In addition, if the time, date or location changes, the initiator can make one change, and all participants will be notified - all automatically.
If you don’t use the Appointment feature, still make it easy on your recipients by placing the dates, times and location prominently and in plain text in your email. Many people can simply click the text to add those dates to their calendars. Sending those dates as a PDF or Word document causes the recipient to open and transcribe those dates. Make the technology do the work for you and them.
Our Brand + Identity
Our logo is our most valuable asset in visual communications.
The consistent application of a cohesive logo identity is crucial to supporting the message we carry. Our logo is a tool and, when used correctly and consistently, it insures that every touch point reinforces the Kent ISD brand. This guide contains guidelines, examples and key rules for maintaining a cohesive identity in all aspects of Kent ISD’s visual communications. Every staff member plays a part in ensuring that documents and visuals produced in-house, or by an outside vendor, maintain these standards.
The Communications Team will provide help on any logo applications outside of the typical situations addressed in this guide. We’re here to help, and we are passionate about our organization’s image. Just call us! x2399 or x2227
Image: As we continue to grow it’s important to establish a consistent look and feel across all types of communication.
Credibility: Kent ISD should be recognizable, speaking to the community with a single voice, regardless of which program, building or staff person the communication comes from.
Consistency: Part of building credibility, is with consistent and proper use of our logo in print, broadcast and web media.
Proper Name: Kent ISD is our official name and our organization should be referred to ONLY as Kent ISD. For our program’s proper names refer to the Communications Guide.
Using our logo properly and consistently
The three rings of our logo represent the cooperative relationship between local school districts and the state. The symbol represents unity within Kent ISD and the region it serves, which is why consistent use of our logo is important.
- Staff members may use our logo on any internal and external documents and materials. Find approved logos and letterhead templates on the U drive: U:>logos&letterhead.
- If a third party requests our logo, please forward their request to the Communications department.
- The logo may not be altered/transformed/stretched. Nothing should be placed inside the rings.
When to Use: Letterhead, envelopes, brochures, booklets, newsletters, and any other document that has covers, media publications, web pages, PowerPoint presentations and video representing all departments, buildings, and teams under the Kent ISD umbrella. It is important to use our logo in all external communications.
Placement: Maintain a generous “safe” area between the logo and nearby elements. Placement should typically be at the bottom of a page as an “anchor.”
Sending Art: Digital files with an .eps extension should be used for professionally printed materials. Digital files with a .jpg (for most applications) .png or gif (for transparency) should be used with office software (Word, Excel) for electronic viewing.
Color: The district logo may ONLY appear in BLACK AND WHITE.
We Lead Learning
Congratulations to all Kent ISD on the recommendation from the AdvancED external review team that Kent ISD be fully accredited for the next five years. The team confirmed what we already knew, that Kent ISD is the first choice for schools and districts throughout Kent County.
Please read and reflect upon the priorities of our board of education, employees, local districts and members of our community contained in Kent ISD Goals on Target. It provides a clear, measurable and accountable blueprint for Kent ISD so that we will be the first choice for educational services, helping every student in Kent County classrooms achieve every day.