Dr. Don Bagin, my late brother and a pioneer in our communication field, used to tell an old joke that went something like this:
Return with me to the days of Moses leading the Israelites fleeing from the Pharaoh’s army that was gaining ground on them. The Israelites were leaving their homes with their families and their possessions.
When Moses approached the Red Sea, he realized that he and his people were in immediate trouble unless something dramatic happened.
While pondering his next step, Aaron, Moses’ confidant and PR person, suggested that Moses stand on the large rock on the bank of the Red Sea, spread his arms while holding his staff (for a better dramatic visual, I assume), and seek God’s assistance to part the waters of the sea.
After the Israelites had crossed safely, Aaron again counseled Moses to wait for the Pharaoh’s army to enter the dry path created and then close his arms again with the staff (again, for a better visual) and the sea wall will close and cut off the army’s access to Moses and his beloved followers.
Moses seemed a bit skeptical of Aaron’s advice and asked, “Will this really work?”
Aaron responded, “I’m not sure, but if it does, I can guarantee you two pages in the Bible.”
Rim shot, please! Blame my brother.
The Silly Joke Has Teaching Value for Our Profession
Guaranteeing that you’ll get any media coverage for a story has never been possible unless you are totally in charge of the outlet. That’s why we often smirk a bit when we hear statements from superintendents and board members who proudly hail their accomplishment of hiring a former reporter from a menacing paper or TV news station because it will guarantee that they’ll get great coverage of their schools.
The truth is that while these reporters do know the inner workings of their outlets, they also know that posting continuous good news stories will not fly by their previous bosses, editors, and assignment gatekeepers. Former reporters can bring a positive edge for this one function of a PR professional, but they, too, cannot guarantee anything. And their previous bosses may not be so happy about their leaving, and consequently may not be eager doing them any favors.
Today’s Technology Disrupts Sure-Thing Placements
If social media and today’s technology were alive back in the Moses era, other scenarios would have played out like:
- Just about any Israelite with a smart phone could guarantee coverage of their own story by posting it through social media tools like Facebook and Twitter. Only thing, it is not the type of story you would like to see.
- Using today’s tech tools in Moses’ time could have led to one of the Israelites texting his brother-in-law back in the Pharaoh’s army and spilling the beans about Moses’ plan. Had that happened, the results would have been very different. They could have used Instagram, Twitter, email, and periscope and even drones — all leading to a very different outcome.
Today’s PR Professionals Need a Diversified Portfolio of Tools and the Skills to Go with Them
The point is that top PR pros realize the importance of having good professional relationships with the media and they know how to effectively work with the media to get desired results. They also know that having healthy media relations is just one tactic needed to be to produce positive results for their schools.
Top pros understand the critical importance of having a strategy linked to district goals and using numerous tech tools, engagement programs, internal communication efforts, and marketing approaches to build an effective program.
Believing that media relations alone will carry your communication effort is a mistake.
And, yes, I guarantee it!
Rich Bagin, APR
NSPRA has a practical free tool that provides insight on what is needed to start a professional communication program for your school district. It even offers advice on hiring the right person.
You can get your own free copy by going to http://www.nspra.org/communication-e-kit-superintendents.