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Why School Districts Need Public Relations

Stephen Nichols' and Mychal Frost's NSPRA Presentation

Steven Colson

on 6 August 2013

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Transcript of Why School Districts Need Public Relations

Why School Districts
Public Relations

Stephen Nichols, MBA
Public Relations Officer for FCUSD in California
President-Elect, CalSPRA
Mychal Frost
Public Information Officer for CSD in South Carolina
Treasurer, SCNSPRA
Numerous examples and first-hand experiences on
why PR is essential for school districts
Making the Case
for PR
Developing and Implementing a PR Strategy:
10 Steps to Success

Using Technology
Withstanding PR Storms
PR for school districts is more important than ever because of
Increased desires for
from charter schools
diverse and unrestricted channels of communication
than typical public forums

Know Where You Are & Where You Want to Go
Primary purpose:
Connect to the district and community to support a powerful vision for student growth and education
Consider feedback from stakeholder groups
Identify specific goals for achieving desired action from these groups
Make your plan
Take the Wheel and Keep the Course
(Success Rests on Your Shoulders)
Good communication does not just happen
It is
Having a plan lets you focus on the most effective and impactful strategies
Recognize Who's Really in Charge
It is
that determine the fate of schools
75% of households have no school-age children
But they are still important!
Figuring all this out is a difficult, multi-person task
Never Forget Who Pays the Bills
within community groups
Give them the
they need to support your goals
Start Small and Build on Your Success
, but
Reaching absolutely everyone is not required
As few as 75 community members can greatly influence your district
Less can be more
Don't Waste Time on the Wrong People
You will have enough time if you use it wisely
Your goal should be to
give every stakeholder a voice
rather than to give every one your ear
Act Before You See Smoke
Effective strategy involves:
Seeing the bigger picture
Anticipating issues
Connecting the dots
Preventing problems
Being prepared
Questions Checklist:
Can you post information online within minutes?
Can you quickly develop talking points for district leadership, principals, and board members?
Do you have crisis messages and letters for schools?
Can stakeholders subscribe online to receive news releases, emergency notifications, and breaking news alerts?
Learn to Speak Again
Speak and write in
everyday language
A 2008 NSPRA study shows parents top desire is for schools to communicate with them in simple, understandable terms
Taxpayer Support
Schools are funded by revenue from taxpayers
PR is
to build and
maintain public support
for education
public (taxpayer) confidence
Promotion of district programs
Demonstrate Economic Impact
Education budgets will remain a challenge for the foreseeable future
To combat this:
Public relations pushes awareness of the
positive economic impact
public schools have on communities
Ensure Public Engagement
Public relations promotes the
active engagement
of the public through:
on education
Looking for
on decisions impacting students
Getting parents and the community involved increases support
Mastering New Technologies
Compete for
stakeholder attention
News releases and school newsletters no longer enough
Endeavor to Influence your district's coverage
Positive news stories sell your district.
Newspapers are in a business to sell newspapers.
Good Public Relations increases positive coverage partially by
being its own newsroom
Commit to Make it Happen
Implement your strategies!
Continue to Sharpen the Ax
Citizen Journalism
Social media allows almost
to greatly sway public opinion
Mastering new technologies enables us to
know what people are saying
online and how to
Real World Example
Mobile Technology
New technology allows us to
be prepared
Ensures the community gets
information in a crisis
Crisis Management
Communicating effectively when a crisis strikes is essential
most visible
most difficult
PR function
Crises threaten community trust in the district
Be prepared
Have a program in place
a crisis occurs
Be honest
Dispel rumors by openly explaining the
of the situation as
as possible
Real World Examples
Clover High's football program accused of hazing
Happened at the same time as the Penn State/Jerry Sandusky scandal
Folsom Cordova scrutinized for an article that reported a district capital appreciation bond of $514,000 that will cost taxpayers $9,100,000 to repay
Article's angle tied it to a far larger, but similar CAB that cost 1 billion dollars for 105 million of bond monies.
Article's timing threatened unrelated school facilities bond
Both crises averted by
to concerns,
providing facts
of the situation,
communicating through all channels
, and clearly
explaining any future actions
that will be taken.
Make Sure the Road is Paved with the Right Stuff
Unplanned communication can be more destructive than no communication
Every community is different
Circumstances determine strategy
Researching stakeholders requires
strong communication

and research skills
Thank You
Mychal Frost
Stephen Nichols
Public Information Officer
Clover School District
Public Information & Community Relations Officer
Folsom Cordova Unified School District
Full transcript