Archive for the ‘Communication’ category

Delivering Beyond the Normal and Expected

08/02/2017

Pages from Draft-NSPRA 2017 San Antonio Monday General Session--0628017

In the year ahead, consider stretching your thinking about solving school community issues or expanding your district’s opportunities by using great, creative school PR.

I often say that because of NSPRA’s award programs, we have a cat-bird seat to see the very best tactics and strategies throughout the US and Canada.

As I reviewed this year’s winners, I was struck by the content choices of the programs that went beyond the normal-but-critical accomplishments that many of our professionals provide.

Let me share just a few stellar examples:

PSJA Votes Campaign

This Golden Achievement winner for the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD in Pharr, Texas, tackled a community issue of low voter registration with their school employees and greater community.33

Through great engagement and marketing of voter registration campaigns, employee voter registrations went from less than 25% to more than 72% in the 2016 presidential election.

From Here You Can Go Anywhere

People often ask us at NSPRA:

What can we do with nearly 80% of our residents who no longer have connections with our schools?

After two defeats in capital bond measures, the Traverse City Area Public Schools in Michigan knew it was clear that parents were in favor of the measure, but the total community — not so much.tcaps

So a Golden Achievement award-winning campaign was born to demonstrate the terrific results earned by Traverse City graduates. Entitled From Here, You Can Go Anywhere, billboards, kiosks, website banners, and other social media applications carried the message out to the community so people could see the real achievements of graduates.

Marketing in Our Increasing Era of Competition

We all know that we are in an era of increased competition — a major issue many of us are facing. Some see vouchers and other initiatives — Education Savings Accounts, Opportunity Scholarships, etc., that are really “vouchers in sheep’s clothing” — as solutions. Others see them as another way to bash education and steal and reduce funding for public education.1

As the choice movement continues, we see members turning up the flame on their marketing efforts. This year, the Garland Independent School District in Texas, one of our Gold Medallion winners, began marketing its new Montessori schools that the district offers.

The effort certainly opened the eyes of some people. They now realize that plenty of choices are within our public schools to meet the increasing needs of all our students.

Communication to Combat Health and Safety Issues

And finally, this space does not permit me to sufficiently discuss these three Gold Medallion winners except to praise them for their results and effort. Their communication focus dealt with testing water for lead, a “Be Well Campaign” supporting youth mental health issues, and opening communication about the severity of opioid and heroin crisis in local communities.3

You can learn about these Gold Medallion Winners and 8 others by going to Gold Medallion winners.

Stray from Your Lane

All of these examples prove that our school PR profession should stray at times from our normal lane of what is expected of us for our schools. Every once in a while, we need to jump from our normal lane, and go down another path to enlighten and help solve major community issues in your school community.

It takes courage to take these steps and you will undoubtedly receive push-back from colleagues and others — like “Why in the world is the school district’s communication director mucking around in this community problem?”

But you know better than most what a communication effort and campaign can do to bring focus and solutions to the key issues that your school community is facing.4

So muster up the courage to begin persuading your district’s leaders to look at school PR beyond the “good news” function we continue to provide. Use your talent and insight to help your students and staff succeed by going beyond the normal and the expected.

We encourage you to drive out of your lane — speed bumps and flashing yellow lights and all — to make a new difference in your school community.

 

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Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

 

Like it or not, political communication is now part of our jobs

06/09/2017

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There is no denying that our jobs have changed. The new wave of elected officials is empowered as a result of their recent political victories. Psychologically they seem to be on a roll and are trying to move their agenda items through as quickly as possible. So like it or not, we need to think like politicians—more than ever. It’s the world in which we now compete for better understanding of our school-related issues.

Writing for a New York University publication, Jay Rosen asked us to answer these questions if we are to think politically:

  • What do we stand for that others also believe in?
  • Who is aligned against us?
  • Where are we most vulnerable?
  • What are our opponents’ strengths?
  • How can we broaden our base?
  • Who are our natural allies?
  • What can we unite around, despite our internal differences?
  • What are the overlapping interests that might permit us to make common cause with people who are not (education leaders)?

The truth is losing

David Ignatius of The Washington Post, wrote a piece after the last November’s national election entitled, The Truth Is Losing. In an interview with the State Department’s Richard Stengel, Ignatius offered:

  • “We like to think that truth has to battle itself out in the marketplace of ideas. Well, it may be losing in that marketplace today. Simply having fact-based messaging is not sufficient to win the information war.”

The article points out that going “tit for tat” in arguing with extremists through social media was not that fruitful. Stengel noted that by empowering others to be the messenger, they could make the case more emphatically.

  • “The central insight was that we’re not the best messenger for our messages because in the post-truth world, the people we are trying to reach automatically question anything from the U.S. government.”

With today’s climate, this may ring true with some of your local community audiences as well.

Have others tell your story: Begin or revitalize a true Key Communicator Program

In my 40 years in this business, I’ve never seen this tactic fail if executed correctly — Never!

Over the years, it has been watered down by some, but used correctly, a Key Communicator Program can be valuable.

Some key points are:

  • This trust-building tactic is critical in today’s instant communication world. You truly need a Key Communicator Program to inspire confidence in what you say and do. It adds credibility.
  • Unfortunately over recent years, as I noted, we’ve seen an increase of Key Communicator Programs that have turned into little more than listservs in certain communities. If you’re tapping the old and new power structures in your community, regularly meeting with small segments of your key communicators, and communicating with them electronically, you’ll be on your way to building a base of well-respected spokespeople for your schools. As David Ogilvy reminded us, Don’t count the people that you reach, reach the people who count.”
  • Remember, many parents and others may prefer to hear their school messages from respected leaders and neighbors rather than from school officials. If run appropriately, this Key Communicator process can help you develop credibility in this era of anything-goes social media.
  • One last note on Key Communicators: People need to get to know you face to face. Only after that can you can begin using your earned credibility through videos, Twitter, email, Facebook, etc. But first, you need to start with in-person meetings — otherwise people may just see you as another empty pitchman or woman for your schools — sort of like the ones you see on late-night insurance commercials.

Most of us did not start our education careers thinking that we will be dealing in the political arena. Any excellent communication program normally excels at developing positive relationships with its key audiences. So in some respects, we’ve been practicing political communication for some time.

It’s time to place an even stronger focus on the political leaders and influentials who can make or break your next education initiative. Step up and prove what great communication and engagement can do for your school community.

If we don’t do it, who will?

 

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Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

Communication Is a Management Function

05/05/2017

 

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Quickly, this is the third edited excerpt from an acceptance speech I gave to superintendents when I received an Outstanding Friend of Public Education Award from the Horace Mann League. One topic I covered was the need to make communication a management function.

Here’s the edited excerpt:

By now, I hope you are beginning to see that communication should be a management function. You need to integrate communication into all that you do or you will risk losing the battle we now face. Having a strong communication function will help you advance your system during this climate of uncertainty that we are now facing.

As you can see by now when I talk about communication, I am not talking just about great publicity but about engagement, marketing, reputation management, ongoing internal engagement, and external communication programs.

You need to have someone who knows what they are doing to make your communication function be as effective as it can be.

Former vice President Joe Biden, (“Uncle Joe” to some of us), often says that he can tell an organization’s priorities very quickly by looking at their line-item budgets. Using Uncle Joe’s formula, I can tell you that communication is not a priority in most school districts right now. Our research shows that most NSPRA districts spend just one tenth of one percent of their entire school district budget on communication. One tenth of one percent — that’s .001% — really? Charter organizations are spending from 10 to 25% or more on their communication and marketing efforts according to our observations. Budget wise, this is not a fair fight!

Every year for our Annual Seminar, we receive proposals to run sessions entitled PR on Shoestring. During my tenure, we’ve never accepted any of them because that’s the wrong message to send if we want to make a management commitment to communication. And most of these shoestring programs normally trip over their own laces and die easily because the districts made no commitment to them. (Hint to NSPRA members: Change the “shoestring approach” to “low-cost and effective tactics to support your communication program.”)

Communication must be a management function.

Character Counts in Communication

And finally, in this fake-news, alternative-fact world, you need to bring integrity into this discussion. Character counts in our 2world of communication.

We see so much twisting of facts, just plain mistruths or half-truths sprinkled along with the fake news accounts. Your staff and community need to know that you stand for integrity.

Today, with a smart phone, anyone can publish any falsehood. But reasonable parents, staff, and others need to know what’s true, where you stand, and how you will lead your system. Don’t let silence create a vacuum — your critics will quickly fill it.

We have always said that the term “PR” really stands for 2 items:

  • Having a Public Responsibility to communicate
  • And developing Public Relationships.

That is where we build credibility and trust though authentic communication.

Please join me in making that happen. Because I ask: If we do not do it, who will?

We need to make that commitment at the local level now, more than ever.

 

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Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

Internal Communication Is Critical for Success

04/06/2017

tagline iconCreate a Culture of Communication in Your Districts

Recently, I spoke before a group of superintendents when I received an Outstanding Friend of Public Education Award from the Horace Mann League. I most appreciate that honor and I also used my acceptance to speech to share some messages with these leading superintendents who rally around public education.

One topic I covered was internal communication — one of the weaker components in schools that we often find when we conduct communication audits around the U.S. and Canada. What follows is an excerpt from that speech on internal communication:


As we complete communication audits for school districts across the country, we see that by far the weakest component is internal communication.

Ideally, we want all staff to become ambassadors for their schools, to vote in finance elections where it applies, and to become advocates for their schools, their children, and their communities.

Unfortunately, this rarely happens.

Lots of lip service is given to having internal communication, but it often breaks down quickly as pockets of staff have little knowledge or a feeling that they know what is really going on.

They report little authentic engagement — even when their input is sought on topics of mutual interest. Most school districts have a problem in closing the communication loop when it comes to internal communication.

Superintendents can make a big difference in setting the parameters for the importance of communication at every level. Our experience tells us that communication accountability is rarely measured and that may be the clue to solve this disparity.

We need to hold principals, central office administrators, service personnel supervisors, and others accountable with a communication component in their evaluations. (What gets measured gets done.)

Some do a great job communicating internally, while others ignore it. I can’t tell you how many times we have heard from a staff member, “Well, I find out what’s happening around here by calling my colleague in another building because their principal tells her staff what is going on and why decisions are made.”

In many cases, staff actually want to know what’s going on and can’t get an answer without fishing for it.

It does not have to be that way.

As superintendents, you can begin by modelling an approach to start the process to make internal communication a priority. You can begin by planting the seeds for a culture of communication in your district.

All staff are part of your communication effort and, by making a commitment to communication awareness and with a bit of training, you can make it happen.

To make my point about the power of internal communication, one staff member recently reported from an audit of a school district with 25,000 students:

“When the district’s tagline is not believed by the frontline, this district is headed for big trouble.”

Repeat: “When the district’s tagline is not believed by the frontline, this district is headed for big trouble.”


 

Let’s make internal communication a priority in our school districts.

 

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Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

A New Strategy for Marketing in this Era of Choice

03/13/2017

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Recently, I spoke before a group of superintendents when I received an Outstanding Friend of Public Education Award from the Horace Mann League. I most appreciate that honor and I also used my acceptance to speech to share some messages with these leading superintendents who rally around public education.

One topic I covered was marketing in this era of choice. What follows is an excerpt from that speech:

 

Focus on the LOCAL SCHOOL, Not the School District Per Se

Now may be the time to take a different strategy when it comes to competing in this era of choice.

We can continue to whiz on one another when it comes to achievement results, graduation rates, college acceptances, etc. We also can brag about the fact that we teach ALL students — not just those who could be considered— in youth sports vernacular— the traveling squad of an elite under-13 b-ball team.

But, guess what?

Much of what we say doesn’t matter.

As much as that hurts me to say it, much of what we say doesn’t matter. But we do need to continue to say it — except with new approaches and different audiences.

Only our advocates and perhaps a few reporters seem to listen to us. So to return to this era of political communication, you can see that OUR base listens to us, while THEIR base obviously doesn’t.

I am asking you to consider switching strategies.

Focus on your individual schools because on the local level, your Snyder Elementary School is being compared to the ABC Charter Academy down the street.

It is time to talk about individual schools and not just your school district.

For most parents and decisionmakers, it becomes a SCHOOL versus SCHOOL issue.

I urge you take fresh look at this approach and begin a process of defining an identity program that is built by parents and staff at each of your schools. Your staff and parents need to believe that their Snyder Elementary School offers a great opportunity for their children and that your staff goes the extra mile and cares about their children.

Late this summer, NSPRA will be offering a guidebook on Making and Marketing Your School as a School of Choice. The booklet explains a process of getting staff and parents together, collaborating to solve some image problems that their school may have, and then developing a marketing plan to maintain and boost enrollment in their school. It also urges readers to look at the messaging of the ABC Academy on the other side of the street, see what they tout that may be attacking one of your perceived weaknesses.

Taking this School versus School approach allows you to play your comprehensive district’s card as a value-added benefit. All the auxiliary services and benefits that you provide — from counseling, the spectrum of Special Ed programs, co-curricular opportunities, and enhanced technology programs — all add up to a major plus when people consider choosing a school.

If what you offer is unmatched, say so with a checklist approach similar to a report card that clearly communicates what your competing charter doesn’t have. We need to be proactive about our attributes in this era of competition.

A commitment to this school-by-school strategy can benefit you in various ways:

  • It can reduce your need to focus on perceived Big Public Education problems. You know that past national surveys like the Gallup/PDK say that schools across the country are not doing well. But then they , for the most part, give favorable rankings to their local schools. You will be dealing with what’s really important to your local community, their kids, and their schools.
  • Our research over the past 10 years continues to reveal that school-based communication is often the most read communication offering in school districts today. You have always had the attention of parents. But now in this era of over-communication, it is more important than ever.
  • Believe it or not, in a single second, 2.5 million emails are sent, and in that same second:
    • 193,000 text messages are posted
    • 219,000 posts are added to Facebook
    • 7,2590 tweets are sent

 

To break through this clutter, you need an interested audience.

And you have it, for the most part, with your PARENTS.

Most parents and families have a vested interest in their child’s school — much more than in your school district. Take advantage of it and build support at the school level.

It will spill over into their next school in your district and continue through their entire time with your schools. You can then convert these parents into supporters for your schools. They understand your schools and will not believe the public-education bashing because their experience trumps all the negative rhetoric they hear.

But this will not happen unless we continue to be proactive in developing school communication programs at each school.

Begin looking at your individual schools and assist them in getting better and building an identity. And then make sure parents know of all the good things happening in their local school along with the value-added support provided by your district’s array of additional services.

We urge you to consider this school versus school approach as that’s how most parents and families approach their “choice” decision.

 

 

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Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

 

 

 

Overcoming the “Viral Disruption of Pure Nonsense”

02/10/2017

news-2Don’t know about you, but I’m getting less tolerant of the growing discussion of facts, alternative facts, and the fake news label. I previously offered my “fake news” advice in the last submission of  Always Something.

Communication organizations are wearing their codes of ethics, beliefs and core values as badges of honor to remind folks what we all stand for. See NSPRA’s bedrock of statements at https://www.nspra.org/nspra-mission-goals-beliefs and NSPRA’s code of ethics at https://www.nspra.org/code-ethics. And by the way, through NSPRA President Julie Thannum’s leadership, we are now embarking on codifying a set of core values for NSPRA.

In one sense, it is a bit sad that we still have to remind everyone where we stand on ethics and our beliefs. I firmly believe that the way we practice our profession easily “trumps” (sorry about that; couldn’t resist) the need to brag about our guiding principles.

Can’t help to think about the old Dragnet TV series (now on cable channels) with Detective Joe Friday who would ask direct questions and guide respondents with his almost patented, “Just the facts, Ma’am’” response. He was a no-nonsense guy who relied on facts to solve the case. He didn’t ask for “alternative facts” or “fake news” because he knew they were distractions to getting to the truth.

In that light, now we are seeing more of a push-back from journalists who are standing their ground, and even increasing coverage of governmental operations and policymaking. Jeff Bezos, the fairly new owner of The Washington Post, has used his Amazon success story to increase staff to follow the actions on the Hill and the Oval Office.

Famed journalist Ted Koppel offered the following in a recent column in The Washington Post:

It sounds dangerously undemocratic to argue against broadening the scope of the White House Press Corp. But we are already knee-deep in an environment that permits, indeed encourages, the viral disruption of pure nonsense.

The only appropriate response is an even greater emphasis on professional standards: factual reporting, multiple sourcing, and careful editing…. Rarely in the nation’s history has there been a need for objective journalism that voters and legislators alike can use to form judgement and make decisions.

He quotes John Adams with, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

 

As all this swirls around in Washington and state houses, local leaders need to stay committed to the facts in their messages as they explain what’s needed to become even better for their communities and children. We also need to reach out to the seemingly newly empowered segments of our community to show them what’s needed for their children and their schools as well as what the impact would be of cuts for those same kids and communities.

Here’s a real example in practice: My late brother, Dr. Don Bagin, once went to a local taxpayer’s group meeting and sat in the first row taking notes and asking questions which surfaced answers or non-answers unhelpful to the taxpayer’s group. At that time, he was the communications director for the local schools, and his presence helped to professionally disarm the messaging from that group in a local upcoming board budget vote.

Heed the call: Continue to stand up for what’s right for the children in your community.

If we don’t do it, who will?

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Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

 

 

 

Fake News and What Superintendents Can Do About it in Our Schools and Communities

01/06/2017

news11“Fake news” used to be somewhat fun and usually harmless. It even gave me plenty teachable moments throughout my extensive communication career.

Here are two examples of what I mean:

  • Long before social media arrived, I tried to show how to shoot down the damaging effects of spreading school district rumors with various clerical support staff. In one workshop of 20 administrative assistants, I split the group into two sets of 10 and then read separately to the first staffer in each group a “juicy” rumor about the district or superintendent. Then confidentially, each person would whisper the rumor to the next person until the 10th recipient announced what she heard. Both groups finished with surprisingly different messages and more important, they both were so far from the “truth” of the original message. I would then read the original script, folks would laugh, and I would try to seize the moment to teach about veracity in rumors and what staff members should do when they heard rumors in their system. The exercise made a stinging point about how spreading fake news messages distorts the truth.
  • Another “Fake news” approach was to create fake headlines or postings to prevent leadership from making decisions that would not “play well” for staff relations or in the court of public opinion. I once counseled a superintendent to talk frankly and compassionately within legal bounds about an alleged rape at a high school. He refused to do so. I quickly mocked up a few fake headlines to drive home my point:

    Superintendent Smith Denies Alleged Rape at High School, But Police Confirm It

    High School Staff and Students Report Sexual Misconduct Incident; Superintendent Unaware

In this particular case, the fake news headlines did not work the way I planned. This superintendent ran away from transparency and didn’t take my advice — and then he was forced to run away from the district about 10 months after this incident.

So I used to use “Fake news” as a tool to “slap some practical reality and consequences” into the thinking of school leaders.

This Anecdotal Research and Insight May Help Superintendents

With the recent presidential campaign, I’ve learned from editorials, opinion pieces, and professional journalists’ analyses that dispense advice about the “war of information” and how to make sure people accept and understand your brand of truth.

Our quick research on the topic found an array of articles that were much too long for this piece. But seeing just a few excerpts from our findings may help us set the stage for lessons about what superintendents can do now:

“The press takes him (Trump) literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.”Salina Zito in The Atlantic

RB: So we cannot report or act on what he actually says — not sure this is a good lesson for local, highly accountable superintendents.

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RB: To get my point this next segment, substitute education leaders when the author mentions journalists:

Journalists (education leaders) need to think politically about journalism (education leadership) itself, which does not mean to politicize it. Like it or not, the press (public education) is a public actor, currently in the fight of its life against forces that want to bring it down. This is a political situation par excellence, but nothing in their training or temperament prepares journalists (education leaders) to fight the kind of battle they’re in. They think they would rather chase stories, publish what they find, and let the politics take care of itself. But that won’t cut it anymore.

What I mean by “think politically” involves basic questions:

What do we stand for that others also believe in? Who is aligned against us? Where are we most vulnerable? What are our opponents’ strengths? How can we broaden our base? Who are our natural allies? What can we unite around, despite our internal differences? What are the overlapping interests that might permit us to make common cause with people who are not journalists (education leaders )? — Jay Rosen, PRESSTHINK, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, New York University

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The distinction between “troubles” and “issues” was struck by sociologist C. Wright Mills in the 1950s. He said troubles were the problems that concern people in their immediate experience. “An issue is a public matter: some value cherished by publics is felt to be threatened.”

When the issues that get attention fail to connect to people’s troubles, or when common troubles don’t get surfaced and formulated as public issues… that is where journalism-as-listener can intervene, and earn back trust. Whenever troubles don’t match up with issues, there is trust to be won for journalists able to listen better than systems that are failing people. The author used the movie, Spotlight, as an example of turning individual troubles into public issues. — Jay Rosen, PRESSTHINK, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, New York University.

RB: We all have to do a better job of listening to all people, not just to our usual suspects. In helping us chart the path for better performance and support for public education, authentic engagement strategies must come into play.

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David Ignatius, of The Washington Post, wrote a piece after the election entitled, The Truth Is Losing. In an interview with the State Department’s Richard Stengel, Ignatius offered observations and comments. A few are:

  • Stengle noted: “We like to think that truth has to battle itself out in the market place of ideas. Well, it may be losing in that marketplace today. Simply having fact-based messaging is not sufficient to win the information war.”
  • The article points out that going “tit for tat” in arguing with extremists through social media was not that fruitful. Stengel noted that by empowering others to be the messenger — as they could make the case more emphatically. “The central insight was that we’re not the best messenger for our messages because in the post-truth world, the people we are trying to reach automatically question anything from the U.S. government.

RB: In some of our larger school communities, this may be tactic to consider as we move forward.

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Strategies and Tactics to Help Superintendents Deal with Fake News

I offer these ideas as trial balloons for you and your team to consider in the year ahead. From my standpoint, the more global advice may work best as you consider what may work well for your community.

One thing is certain: The playing field has changed, and we need to be prepared for all forms of pushback. Increasing numbers of our residents feel more empowered than ever to chime in with their messages about our public schools.

We need to listen more in multiple ways

No matter the size of your school community, you can bet that pockets of parents, staff, community leaders, residents, and students feel disenfranchised as a result of decisions that have affected them. The recent election demonstrated resoundingly, I think, that we do not regularly connect with these groups. We need to genuinely understand their “troubles” before those troubles become major issues. Or even as I mentioned above, although people’s troubles may not be strictly district issues, they need to know that we are concerned about helping to solve them. We must demonstrate through communication and action that we are responsive to their concerns.

You should consider using a full arsenal of engagement and listening strategies ¾ from very simple feedback devices to more elaborate communicate responses to very focused engagement and collaboration strategies. You must bring community members together to work on problems or issues to validate your authentic concern that all people will be heard. By working together, you’ll build a better understanding in the community and that will begin to chip away at the notion that “our schools don’t listen to me.” Closing the communication loop is key.

Begin or revitalize a true Key Communicator Program

This trust-building tactic is critical in today’s instant communication world. You truly need a Key Communicator Program to inspire confidence in what you say and do.

Unfortunately over recent years, we’ve seen an increase of watered-down Key Communicator Programs that have turned into little more than a list-serv in certain communities. If you’re tapping the old and new power structures in your community, regularly meeting with small segments of your key communicators, and communicating with them electronically, you’ll be on your way to building a base of well-respected spokespeople for your schools.

Remember, many parents and others may prefer to hear their school messages from respected leaders and neighbors rather than from a school official. If run appropriately, this Key Communicator process can help you develop credibility in this era of anything-goes social media. If your system is very large, you and your area superintendents should consider implementing multiple programs that cover all of the clusters in your system.

One last note on Key Communicators for now: People need to get to know you face to face. Only then can you can begin using your earned credibility through videos, Twitter, email, Facebook, etc. But first you need to start with in-person meetings — otherwise people may just see you as another empty pitchman or woman for your schools — sort of like the ones you see on late-night insurance commercials.

May the truth be known: Setting-the-record-straight feature on websites and social media

We’ve seen districts dedicate a section on their websites or Facebook accounts to set the record straight. Even though research may show that fake news may still overcome this attempt, it’s often refreshing for school employees to know that someone is defending “the truth” about their schools.

My favorite story involves a budget task force that offered its community a survey on making budget cuts. The survey had a number of the usual items but also asked open-ended questions about possible cuts. Previously, a rumor in the community had sparked a controversy about the superintendent’s so-called $900 car allowance. That car allowance was the Number One response for what people wanted to cut from the budget — for a whopping savings of $10,800 from the $85 million budget. Truth is, it turned out that the superintendent did not even have a car allowance in that system.

Fake news strikes again.

Be prepared. Set up a process for staff to report fake news items to you so that your leadership is aware of what’s out there. Once you know, you can decide what to do or not to do but, some staff member who has good judgment should be responsible to monitor the fake new front on a daily basis.

Teach, preach, and model analysis tactics about fake news

In our schools, we teach students how to become analytical readers because we know that’s a critical skill in becoming more successful in life. We need to remind our staff, parent groups, and others to practice those analytical skills as well.

We need to ask: What is the source of the information? Who funded the study or report? What other items have been produced by the author or publisher in the past? How wide or small was the research? What can be done to verify this information? Where else can we find similar information?

You know the drill; we just have to remind our colleagues to practice it — often and diligently.

Think politically to move your agenda forward

All those questions we noted in our research really do fit for education leaders — especially in the area of vulnerabilities. Our critics or the budget advocates for vouchers and other devices certainly attack public education on performance, but recent studies show that many public schools actually perform equal to or better than some private institutions.

It’s time to assess all those questions mentioned earlier so that in the coming days you do not feel blind-sided by attacks from voucher advocates and others.

And, remember, it’s all about the kids

Most of us remember the line about keeping focused that staff used during the Bill Clinton presidential campaign: “It’s the economy, Stupid!” Well, for us, it’s really all about the kids.

Distraction through social media is what drives a fake-news approach to campaigns. We urge you not to fall for those traps. Stay focused on why we all entered the education profession.

It’s all about the kids and what we can do for them within the financial means and talent we can offer.

Keep asking how any of the changes proposed will make a difference for the students in your schools. What can they do to make your children better? What can they do to make the vitality of your community stronger?

Stay focused on the kids and proceed accordingly.

 

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Rich Bagin, APR

Executive Director