Texas PTA publishes The Voice, which contains stories and pictures of successful PTA programs, teacher appreciation events, student enrichment activities, and so on.
You can also subscribe to National PTA's e-newsletters for content ideas by clicking here.
For most PTAs, newsletters are the most comprehensive communication vehicle that the group shares with its many audiences. A newsletter, whether print or electronic, contains several short articles and graphics that bulletin important information for a specific group of recipients. While most PTA units produce a newsletter publication, PTAs that cannot or do not wish to produce their own may be able to contribute to their school’s newsletter.
Because a newsletter is the main means of communication for many PTAs, it is a good idea to define your audience as broadly as is practical. Generally speaking, you will want to include the following groups: PTA members, school teachers and staff, all parents and caregivers (including nonmembers), school superintendent and school board members.
Print Newsletters vs. Electronic Newsletters
In an increasingly digital world, you may find that many of your members are accustomed to online communication, while other members may prefer a physical print newsletter. Surveying your members to get a sense of your unit’s preference will help ensure that your members actually read your publication.
Regardless of the format (or combination of formats) you choose to produce, here are a few things to think about:
- Cost: When publishing a print newsletter, there will be additional costs to produce and distribute the publication. Paper, printing and postage costs may also increase depending on the size of each newsletter and the size of the audience who will receive it. When selecting to produce an e-newsletter, printing and mailing costs do not apply (though many e-newsletter companies charge by the email address). However, there are many e-newsletter companies who do not charge for their services and others who charge a nominal amount (e.g. Benchmark emailing service). You can always design a print newsletter, take a picture and then email it to your recipients.
- Time and Skill Levels: Print newsletters can be easily designed in word processing programs that are user-friendly and already used by many members in their day-to-day lives. While most free e-newsletter publication sites are intended for tech-novices, the editor should consider technical skill limitations that may compromise the quality of the publication or consume an excessive amount of time.
- Tracking: Once you send the print newsletter, you have no information on who has received it, who opened it or how long the person read it. E-newsletter services have tools in place to see this information, including the open rate (how many people open the email), click rate (how many people click links in the email) and bounce rate (how many emails did not reach the intended inbox).
Once you have determined the format of your newsletter, a good next step is to develop a general outline for the school year. After you have established an outline, you can pencil in people to write articles. It is normally a good idea to have a person write the article who is directly involved with or interested in a particular topic or event. When assigning articles, you should ensure that the person has the time and is willing to do it, and you should provide them with:
- the length of the article needed, usually given in number of words
- the deadline for submitting the final article
- the general focus the article should take
You should follow up with the author before the deadline to ensure the article is on track for completion. If the right person does not have the time or writing skills to do the article, try to set up an interview to get the important details to write the article.
Selecting an Editor and Establishing an Editorial Calendar
If your PTA has a newsletter, your committee will need to appoint an editor who will be responsible for deciding on and acquiring the content for each issue. Ideally, the editor will have some experience producing publications, a flair for language and an understanding of the needs of the audience. The editor should be responsible for keeping up-to-date on education and school-specific issues and finding out from readers what interests them.
Although the content of a newsletter varies with the interests and purposes of individual PTAs, there are some core principles to keep in mind when planning what to include. The main interests of the audience are: the school the PTA represents, the children who attend the school, issues that may affect the school community, and the PTA’s activities and accomplishments. You can also subscribe to National PTA's e-newsletters for content ideas by clicking here.
One aid in creating a newsletter is establishing an editorial calendar. This calendar provides a general outline of the topics each newsletter will contain, as well as regular features that will appear in every newsletter. Editorial calendars take into account seasonal events, for example, an annual book sale, conference or PTA program (e.g., Take Your Family to School Week always occurs in February).
A partial editorial calendar might look something like this:
In every issue:
- PTA president’s message
- School calendar
- PTA calendar
- School contact information
- PTA contact information
- PTA membership form
September issue – Back to School:
- Requirements for entry to school
- PTA volunteer sign-up opportunities and mail-in form
- Back-to-school PTA and school events
October issue – Fall Fun:
- Pictures from the first week of school
- Halloween pageant
- Annual PTA family nature walk
November issue – Holiday Happenings:
- Pictures from family nature walk and/or Halloween pageant
- Thanksgiving food drive information
- School holiday pageant auditions announcement
In addition to establishing an editorial calendar, it is important to create a schedule for your newsletter and stick to it. When deciding when and how often to produce a newsletter, it helps to ask your audience for their preferences - monthly, bimonthly, quarterly, etc. You will also need to consider the amount of time available to create and post your newsletter when deciding its frequency.
every child. one voice.