Using the New SMS Features

PLEASE NOTE: SMS must be enabled on your Safe Newsletters account.  Enabling SMS is optional.  Please notify us if you need SMS enabled.  Charges apply per SMS.

In this article:

  1. Notify all parents by SMS that your newsletter has been published and distributed by email
  2. Send a custom SMS message to all parents
  3. Send a custom SMS to a small group of parents

Notify all parents via SMS of your Newsletter publication

Once SMS is enabled on your account, parents also have the option to receive an SMS from the school.  Parents can add their mobile phone number and then select the SMS option.

Newsletters are sent in the usual way, except this time the parent will also receive a SMS notification as well.  This is all silently processed and sent in the background and there are no further steps required when uploading and sending your school newsletter.

SMS Broadcast to ALL Parents

SMS provides an extra layer of convenience, connectedness and provides parents with multiple modes of communication.

The new SMS broadcast feature will send and SMS to ALL parents, students and teachers who have subscribed to your newsletter.

Send SMS

Remember

A standard SMS is 160 characters which is billed at the cost of one SMS.  More than 160 characters means that the message will be billed as two messages.

SMS to small Groups of Parents

This is the real power of the Safe Newsletters SMS system… the ability to send SMS to small groups of parents.

Send SMS2

This method overcomes 2 problems.

  1. Data duplicity
  2. Workload and errors

In explaining this, I’m often asked questions like:

1. Can I add all students and phone numbers to the Safe Newsletters system to make it easier?

My answer?  You DO NOT want to do that because then 2 systems will need maintenance.  Your school system and then hypothetically the Safe Newsletters system.  (We could easily install a facility like this… but we deliberately avoided this)  In the end it won’t be easier… because 2 systems will be more work.  Data duplicity will be created and you will have data overload.  Avoid this at all costs.  Its always best to have one source of truth ie your school management system.

2. How do I bulk add phone numbers?

My answer?  For sending to small groups of parents, use your school system and export parent mobile phone numbers.  I call this disposable data or single use data.  Simply copy and paste them into the box for mobile phone numbers (see image above).  This will reduce workload and reduce the risk of data errors in duplicate data sets.

How to export phone numbers from your School Management System

EVERY school management system has export functions.  This is where data is exported into a spreadsheet for you to use.  You may not have done this before and it may seem complex but its not.  It doesn’t take long to learn how to do it… and when you have done it once… its actually very easy.  You will then wonder why you hadn’t learnt this sooner because there are many instances in a school where disposable data is very very handy.

Summary

  1. Ask to have SMS enabled.  Schools pay per each SMS sent.
  2. Ask parents to add their mobile phone number to Safe Newsletters
  3. SMS auto sent when newsletters are uploaded and sent.
  4. Target smaller groups of parents by using disposable data.

Ask your questions in the comment box below.

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Data Overload!

Schools are great at duplicating data when it’s not necessary.  Schools don’t do this for fun, its most often because they don’t fully understand what they have.

Here is what I mean.

I’m often asked to add new features to Safe Newsletters.  I find this exciting because its takes the existing platform and makes it better.

Sometimes I’m asked to add features that are crazy complicated.  These just take a little more time.

Then I’m asked to add features that schools already have.  I call this data duplicity or data overload or data for the sake of creating data.

Here’s some good examples just in the last few weeks.

School A

A principal emailed me the other day and loved the Safe Newsletters system.  He wanted me to add a feature where student names could be added alongside the parent name, email address and mobile phone number.  He went on to say that it would be convenient if he could email parents but identify them by the child.  Some parents have different surnames etc…  What he didn’t realize is that the short-term convenience would be a long-term black hole.

The school already had a student management system where parent and student data was stored.  The system would search students and show parent names as well.  It also showed the parent contact details as well as their email address.  Duplicating the data would mean that 2 systems would need to be updated and maintained.  Students would come and go.  Email addresses would change.  All changes and updates would need to be done twice.  The school management system can do the job with out the need for a second system.

Where data is concerned, always try to use a single data set.  It avoids errors and saves time.  Make sure you always back up you data too!

School B

A school wanted to streamline their cash flow.  They felt that emailing parents requesting payments for things like school excursions and the like would decrease the number of overdue payments.  They wanted all students loaded into Safe Newsletters along with their parent names and email addresses.  The school wanted to sort students into groups and then email their parents requesting a payment for an excursion.

Again … its data duplicity.  The school already had this information in their school computer system.  All that was needed was a way to export the data so that its useful.

This is the key part.  Extracting data so that it can be used in other applications where that data is working for you…. not the data working you.

In the end the school saved themselves a lot of time and effort.  They were able to extract the data they needed which then became a very simple copy and paste into Safe Newsletters to send the excursion information to parents.    There were no long-term maintenance issues, parents paid on time and they saved themselves a lot of work.

What have we learnt?

Each state government has a school management system installed in all their schools.  Non-government schools use systems purchased from vendors specializing in school management.  ALL systems both government and non-government, have ways to export data sets with only the data you need from the school management system.

If you don’t know how to do this, just call the support phone number for your school management system and ask.  You may find that there is a button somewhere that will make an export super easy.  When you know how to do this, your data becomes infinitely more useful.

Most systems will export the data into a spreadsheet where you can then delete the data you don’t need.  Save the data to a place where you can find it.

Top 10 Tips

  1. Where possible, always work from one set of data.  Data is scary dangerous if you have too much.
  2. ALWAYS back up your data
  3. Avoid duplicity.
  4. Use disposable data.  This is where a data export is used once to do a job.  Often the data goes out of date (eg students move schools and their parent email addresses is no longer needed).  The data is used and then deleted.  The data is exported again when the time comes to run the job again.
  5. Think about how your existing data can be used WITH applications rather than duplicating data FOR an application.
  6. Before you commit to buying data tools… be sure they are compatible with your existing data.
  7. ALWAYS be security conscious.  Data can be scary dangerous in the wrong hands.
  8. Be maintenance conscious.  Who will maintain your data sets?
  9. Save time.  Ask yourself if what you are doing will make more work in the future.
  10. Save money.  Ask yourself if what you are doing will cost you more money in the long run.

About the Author:

Damon Taylor is director of Safe Newsletters and has been working with school data for many years to make it more useful, more reliable and more secure.

Keeping Your Systems in SYNC

I little while ago I was asked by a school if Safe Newsletters could notify them each time a parent unsubscribed from your newsletter.  The school wanted this so that they could synchronize their school systems.

We have now added this feature.

To activate it, login to Safe Newsletters and hover over the Accounts Menu and select settings.  Check the box “Notify by email each time a parent unsubscribes”.

You will then be sent a short email telling you the name and email address of the parent that has unsubscribed.

Please let me know if you would like further handy features installed.

Regards

Damon