3 Ways to Improve Community Relations in Your District
In theory, their communities, as well as school districts, share the common goal of developing a secure, fit, and educational environment for kids so that they might become productive members of society as adults. In practice, however, the two things are often at odds.
The ensuing conflicts – both public and private – can end up damaging the educational procedure and hurting the very children whose best interests both groups claim to have in mind.
1) Appoint a Voice
Who speaks for the district? Are district-level communications usually reactive or proactive? Is communicating a full-time duty? All of these are important questions while reviewing your community relations strategy, to deal with. The overwhelming majority of community relations activities continue to be performed by superintendents, as evidenced by a current study of Wisconsin school districts, which found that only 13% of districts in the state were using a communications specialist, with half that number in a full-time function. This underwhelming percentage seems to be the norm rather than the exception, though we were not able to find similar studies from throughout the country.
The indirect costs that arise from not having one could very well outweigh the price of a different communications specialist.
In line with the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA), public relations in today’s school districts shouldn’t be about “puffery, spin doctoring, and techniques to make [district leaders] look great.” The NSPRA promotes a healthy, two-way approach to communications that could be used as a vehicle to build trust, support and confidence for doing the best for all kids in our schools.” These measures can be facilitated by community relations professionals by functioning as a liaison and participating in face to face conversations that might not fit the superintendent’s chaotic schedule. A separate communications staffer can also help in the middle of a disaster, when superintendents need to focus their efforts on fixing the problem, rather than being forced to be worried about keeping stakeholders informed.
2) Trumpet Positive Results
Public understanding is important. If all communications fail to address community concerns or from the district are defensive in tone, any trust that exists between district and community will begin to be eroded. Communities that just learn away from their districts will suppose that the system is broken, even if great things are happening each and every day.
The easiest method to prevent these kinds of false assumptions is through as many mediums as potential, and to spread the great news early, often. A powerful community relations program will benefit from internet platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn to reach as numerous members of the community as you possibly can in addition to making success stories a prominent and visible section of your district’s web page. You will end up able enough to stay in touch along with your community through the mediums they are already using to use up information, by developing an active social networking presence.
Particularly when they’re aligned with all the educational movements which can be under way on a bigger scale through the nation the local media outlets will frequently be thrilled to feature your successful district initiatives. It may be favorable to develop open, two-way relationships with local journalists. When bad things happen, it is their responsibility to report them, however, they can be a helpful resource for spreading the word about consequences that are positive at the same time. It really never hurts for the general public to find out about great results via an unbiased third party.
3) Make Conclusions Jointly
This measure is often the most difficult one for districts to adopt, on account of longstanding business practices and an understandable desire for professionals to command every aspect of the decision-making process. Nevertheless, we have seen remarkable leads to the field when their community is involved by districts in the early phases of any important change to school processes or technology. Parent surveys, newspaper advertisements, and open meetings will help district leaders maybe uncover the additional scope of work requirements that may not otherwise be considered and obtain valuable discovery comments from their stakeholders locally.
Later, the method of community involvement needs to be more than just “lip service” for it to hold any value; members of the community will likely be watching to make sure that their views are now valued and their concerns are addressed, and it’s also essential for districts to give you the public with a clear, rational explanation for just about any determination that is ultimately made.
When a change is communicated following the preparation process is complete, communities are more likely to push back and additional energy must be expended by district administrators simply to get yourself a manageable level of buy in. Failure to sufficiently communicate is a palpable risk for large-scale jobs, and also the extra effort associated with bringing more parties into the fold is minimal set alongside resources that might otherwise be asked to put out fires after the fact and the time.
In today’s world, a productive coexistence between community and school district is an essential component in the ongoing quest for student success. There are distressing news stories popping up every day about a growing split between district administrators, school boards, and communities. These negative PR occasions are often caused by too little transparency that results in serious misconceptions plus a lack of trust. For worse or better, the onus regularly falls to prove they have their students without any ulterior or political motivations driving the program, ’ best interests at heart.
The status quo can be reversed by a focused community relations program and make communities feel good about their district. Within an increasingly competitive education market, it is important for school districts to stand out for their invention and cooperation, not their failures.
If you might be looking at the advantages of a dedicated community relations program in your district or simply need extra information on what steps to take to get going, head over to the NSPRA website today and see how school districts through the nation are leveraging public relations to develop better partnerships using their communities.
A school district and its community are well-served when a two-way system of communication exists. Dr. Bill Doering analyzes Case Study #103 in Case of Studies for School Leaders and shares useful tips for a school district to consider as it builds its own public relations system.
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