“If you ever wonder why some schools have a great ‘buzz’ about them, but your school does not—even though it performs just as well—the reason, more often than not, is that the schools with great reputations have made a commitment to communication,” Bagin, executive director of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA), told Education World.
Education World has recently run two articles focused on helping schools improve their communication to parents and the outside world. SchoolAdvisor has taken out the key points that we believe are relevant for Southern African schools. Run through them, see how your school is doing and see if it is time to re-look at your PR strategy.
Return Those Calls
The biggest public relations budget in the world won’t matter if your school projects a poor image in its most basic communications. How are people treated when they call the school? Is the person answering the phone courteous, friendly, and helpful?
How well does your voicemail system work? Do callers get led through a frustrating phone maze? Most important of all, if a caller leaves a message, does the call get returned? Promptly?
Fostering Media Relations
Why does one school get more media coverage than another? The answer may be as simple as their administrators pick up the phone more often. If you want media coverage, know thy media. Read all the newspapers that cover your area, listen to local radio stations (or tap into a parent who does) and keep current on your local cable channel.
Consider videotaping your school board meetings for local access cable television. Get to know people in the media—stop in and say hi. Take an editor to lunch. Learn what makes interesting photos and news stories.
The National Association of Secondary School Principals offers these great tips:
- Create a list of the names and numbers of key media contacts in your community. Get to know the people on this list and become familiar with their specific duties and what information would be useful to them. Keep their phone numbers, fax numbers, mail and e-mail addresses. Also, get your name and information in their address books.
- When you hear a national news story, contact the people on your press list and let them know how it is affecting your school. Reporters are always looking for ways to put a local twist on a national story.
- News people love numbers. Keep statistics handy. Use them to illustrate your point. When you learn of surveys concerning areas relevant to your school, forward them (including who conducted the survey) to reporters on your press list and include a quote or two on how these compare to life in your school.
Put good news up in lights
The marquee (school outside notice board) that stands in front of many schools is another great spot for getting out the word about special events and recognitions. “We utilize our marquee and the marquees of our business partners throughout the community,” said Jean Williams. If you don’t think businesses in your community would be willing to post special congratulations on their marquees, then maybe you just haven’t asked. ”
And the best PR
Newsletters, media coverage, and Web sites are just some of the vehicles for getting out the good news about your school, but principal Les Potter believes that the best public relations come from a much more direct source. “The best public relations comes from students and staff,” Potter, principal at Silver Sand Middle School in Port Orange, Florida, told Education World.
“If they are happy, they tell others. What better positive comments could anybody hear than those from employees and kids?” “Parents and community members don’t always care about test scores as much as they want to feel good about their schools,” added Potter. “Principals need to work on their school’s culture and climate, and on their own visibility.”
Reference: above points taken from Education World