Using the ‘Rule of 3’ to Create Strong Messages for Your District

When you are a foundation, school, or district leader, there seems to be a limitless number of issues you must manage on a daily basis. This can make it difficult to focus on communication and developing the right narrative and messages to tell your organization's story. At the same time, you must find the right tools and tactics to grab the attention of your audience.

The good news is that you can master the art of school communication by understanding some basic messaging principles—including the "Rule of 3."

Basics of the 'Rule of 3'

The Rule of 3 is a well-known principle of communications telling us that people most easily grasp and process content and ideas when they come in threes. As an example, let's consider a presentation that most of us have received at one point or another—fire safety training.

When students are taught about fire safety, they are not given a long, bulleted list of various safety protocol to follow. Instead, they are taught that, in the event their clothes catch fire, they should "stop, drop and roll." These three simple words comprise a powerful message that most children remember for the rest of their lives.

You can apply the effectiveness of this basic principle to your school or district's messaging efforts.

Practical applications for school districts

Let’s take the fire safety example from above and break it down into basic parts. To start, you have the key message: how to respond to an emergency. Next, you have the three primary messages: stop, drop and roll. Finally, you have supporting evidence to reinforce the core ideas. In other words, if you take these three steps, you will put out the fire and (hopefully) avoid serious injury.

Imagine you want to raise awareness for a school fundraising campaign. Your key message is that your district is raising money. Your three core messages could be the main reasons why the district is raising the funds, the ways that people can contribute and/or what the funds will be used for.

For example, you might say that the fundraising will help renovate the school library, purchase textbooks or pay for new uniforms for the hockey team As your supporting evidence or proof, you can use either an emotional argument or a rational one. Perhaps you will include a breakdown of your fundraising goals and the projected allocation of funds. Or, you may appeal to emotion by including testimonials from students who would benefit from a successful fundraising effort.

You might feel like you have a lot more to say than can be included in three simple concepts, but a long-winded message is difficult absorb and likely will not garner the sort of attention and engagement you're seeking.

When it comes to communication, simplicity is key. Consider the power of the Rule of 3—and use it to your advantage to achieve your foundation, school, or district's communication and community engagement goals.