Instant Help When You Need It

Instant Help When You Need It

I’ve been a dues-paying member of NSPRA for more than 30 years. I joined way back then because respected leaders in the field in my home state of Pennsylvania advised me that if I were serious about a career in school communication, there was no better place to quickly learn and grow than the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) and its state chapter PenSPRA.

Initially, I had to personally pay for my membership.

Not much has changed in those 30+ years as I still pay today because it helps me assess if I am getting my money’s worth from my personal membership investment. I firmly believe that all it takes is one major crisis to prove the enhanced value of a membership through instant help from colleagues near and far.

Let me explain:

On the day of the shootings at ChardonHigh School in Ohio, I received email correspondence from NSPRA and Ohio Chapter members offering help and insight to our member in Ohio. This was even before I even heard the initial accounts of the shootings on the news.

That type of offer of instant help by experienced and caring people is a hallmark of NSPRA members everywhere. Unlike others who may be selling their services, NSPRA and the Ohio School Public Relations Association (OHSPRA) members were ready to help in any fashion they could to assist local officials as they had to move through this horrendous episode in their community. OHSPRA also offered assistance through its Facebook postings.

So what’s the point of all this, you ask?

Well, if you are ever unfortunate enough to have a “it-can’t-happen-here” major crisis hit your school community, some steps to take and considerations to think about are:

Call or email NSPRA and your chapter as soon as you can. It is extremely difficult for us to reach you when you are in the middle of an emerging crisis. We need ways to contact you to offer help. If we can’t get through, we can’t help.

 Realize that no one communication office can handle the onslaught of media requests, staff and parent communication messages, strategies for dealing with the aftermath, and more. You need experienced help and NSPRA and chapter members can provide it. You will quickly receive ideas for immediate execution and the names of experienced contacts who can help. It is a sign of strength to ask for and deploy their resources. Your bosses will marvel at the experienced help you receive.

Our experience also shows that sometimes you can give the best advice in the world, and other decisionmakers like local attorneys still do not listen. In those cases, we have even been plugged into cabinet or crisis team meetings through conference calls to help explain the rationale about why early and fast communication is so critical in a crisis. We have also reminded officials that the way that they handle a crisis may even be more harmful to the reputation of their schools than the crisis itself. People understand that tragedies do happen, but they do not understand mishandling the aftermath of a crisis.

As an NSPRA or state chapter member, tuck these thoughts in your crisis folder or attach them to your crisis e-file. Remember, as an NSPRA member, you always have multiple resources on call to help you through a major crisis.

Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

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