Director-Public Information/Community InvolvementVision and Strategies
By John A. Williams
ACME Public Schoolsbelieves it is the District’s responsibility to actively pursue a transparentcommunications program that highlights the educational experiences in thecity's public schools and promotes effective school/home/communitypartnerships.
Public Information/Community Involvement Mission Statement
To create an atmosphere of public trust and understandingby leading, counseling and influencing attitudes and behaviors in support of(ACME) Public Schools.
Why School Public Relations Is Important
This is the media age - school communication needs have increased dramatically andbecome more complex. Due to the demands, a professional Director of PublicInformation/Community Involvement is crucial to developing and executing itscommunication plans through both print/electronic media, social media andface-to-face communication, and to coordinate relations with the multitude ofmedia that report on the school district.
Public schools are under scrutiny - A school district utilizes a professional school Director-PublicInformation/Community Involvement person to publicize the positive news aboutstudent/staff achievement and programs, and to develop a coordinated proactive,rather than reactive, approach that anticipates problems before they develop.If there is no positive communication from the school district, the critics'voices are the only ones that will be heard.
The scope of successful school public relations hasexpanded greatly - from writtencommunication, to a greatly increased need for face-to-face communication withthe many publics in your community. A school district needs a professionalschool Director of Public Information/Community Involvement to schedule andoversee community relations programming, Realtor orientations, meetings withChambers of Commerce and civic clubs, and open houses, to build informedsupport and solid community relationships.
What Can a School Public Relations Professional Do For aDistrict?
· Maintainan effective transparent communication system between the District and itsvarious publics which ensures eliminating rumors and misinformation
· Disseminationof accurate, timely information about school policies, programs, procedures,achievements, decisions, critical issues
· Providespublic relations counsel, taking a proactive stance. Anticipates problems andprovides solutions
· Conductformal and informal research to determine public opinion and attitude as abasis for planning and action
· Providespublic relations training to staff and PTA's in areas such as taking qualityphotos, maintaining a web school’s web site, shooting video and editing, andhow to promote school events in the media
· Serveas the district's liaison with community groups such as civic associations andservice clubs; helps plan/publicize district's parent, partner and communityservice programs. Develops ways to bring the community into the schools and totake the schools into the community
Crisis Communication Plan: Primary Goals
School districts across America deal with crises on adaily basis. There is any number of events that might qualify as a crisis,ranging from a small crisis, such as a power outage, to a life-threateningcrisis, such as a natural disaster or the invasion by an intruder.
Staff, students, parents, and the community look toschool leaders to be well equipped to respond and to restore order in thetime of crisis. How school leaders respond in the first 24 hours will often setthe pace for the duration of the incident.
A Crisis Communication plan shows that the school islistening to—and interacting with—the communities that they serve.
Sample Crisis Communications Plan
A Crisis Communications Plan shows schools how toestablish proactive, positive media relations to minimize negative presscoverage of sensitive issues and build community support for school policiesand initiatives.
Theprimary goals of communication during a crisis are:
· Tomaintain privacy of students, staff, and families
· Tokeep the public informed
· Mitigatecritical analysis from the media and public
Fostering Community Support
A well devised plan of creating ways to keep parents andthe community informed about the District and its schools fosters a betterunderstanding of the school system, strengthens and improves school programsand curricula, and creates a sense of personal involvement and interactionbetween organizations, the community and schools.
Benefits of a Strategic Community Outreach Plan
· Fostersa better understanding of the school system among its employees, teachers andboard
· Buildspublic confidence in the District officials and schools
· Preventsand corrects misunderstandings and rumors
· Humanizes,puts a face on, the school district
· Createsa sense of personal involvement and ownership between the community and schools
Educational Access Channel
Section 611 of the Federal Communications Act requireslocal cable operators to set aside channels for public, educational, orgovernmental, or PEG, use.
Educational access channels are designated for educationalprogramming by educational institutions. In (ACME) channel XX on ACME Cablecarries announcements of events at (ACME) Public Schools.
Benefits of an Educational Access Channel includes:
· Engagescommunity and business leaders in the schools
· Buildspublic understanding and support for strategic plans and program initiatives
· Improvescommunity awareness and support during discussions of schools
· PublicEducational Access Channels inform the public about events in the schooldistrict
· Thechannels serve as an information outlet in case of emergencies or school closings
· PublicEducational Access Channels build the District’s reputation and promote itspositive programs and messages
· Enhancesthe District’s commitment to transparency towards the community
Vision for Future Programming
· Produceprogramming in partnership with the City of (ACME) and other organizations topromote the District’s issues of importance to the community
· Produceprogramming in partnership with educational institutions to promote localeducational goals
· Pursuenew opportunities for programming partnerships with educational programproviders
· Offerthe opportunity for community members as well as students from (ACME) PublicSchools, the University of Central Oklahoma and Oklahoma Christian Universityto produce video programming for use on the PEG channel
(ACME) Public Schools Website
According to the Pew Research Center’s 2010 Internet &American Life Project, 74 percent of people aged 12- 65 use the Internet. Thenumber of users ages 12-17 is higher, 93 percent while the number of users aged30- 49 is 84 percent.
Because of its availability 24 hours a day,(ACME)schools.net is often the initial line of communication to the communityand an incredible brand-building tool for the District. By taking the time toensure that the District’s website conforms to best practices,(ACME)schools.net can provide the community with insight and information intothe District.
To stay attractive and to become an interactive tool toparents and the community, best practices of modern websites:
· Deliveryof high-impact messages through video