Guest post by Mary Tighe
Every community has various audiences with diverse perspective. Involved parents with kids in the school district. Business owners looking for skilled employees. Elected officials hoping to strengthen the local economy. Elderly neighbors whose kids graduated from the local high school years ago.
It can be challenging to communicate effectively with each of those community members. That’s where storytelling can play a role. Stories can speak across audiences, from the parent to the elected official to neighbor. Stories have power.
With interesting students, inspiring teachers and exciting events, school districts have never-ending stories to share with the community. But in today’s media age, local reporters are often spread thin and may not have time to dig for compelling stories while also covering contested school board meetings and elections. That doesn’t mean they don’t care about the positive stories. It means school district communication staff may need to share the story directly with the local media.
I recently had the opportunity to talk with Charles Sosnik from edCircuit about the power of storytelling. With almost 30 years in the media world, Charles serves as editor in chief for MindRocket Media Group, helping to connect the stories and voices in education that are changing the world.
“School districts often have a great story to tell and no clue how to get their message out,” he said. “The local media, for the most part, doesn’t cover the wonderful success stories from within a district. For that reason, stakeholders often seem removed from the inner workings and rarely hear the positive side of education. We only hear the politics of it, and that story is rarely pretty.”
Learn three tips for developing an effective school district communication strategy from Charles Sosnik:
- Create budget for communication. Districts should budget for media relations and publicity at the same rate that businesses do. While we don’t always view it as such, education is a business and can follow some well-defined rules that have successfully worked for businesses for many years. Like a business, districts manage budgets. A large district like Miami Dade or Wake County or L.A. Unified is a billion-dollar enterprise, and its success depends on the ability to be funded by its local and state governments, and by voters who approve or deny bond referendums. Even a mid-sized district operates on a $100 million plus budget.
- Hire a communication professional. Districts should establish a budget and hire media professionals who have the chops to successfully extend a message. Media is a very skilled profession; a superintendent or principal could no more run a public relations campaign than a media professional could run a district or school. They are very different skill sets, and it is short-sighted for a district not to take advantage of the professional help that is available.
- Be intentional and strategic about communication. Districts should take the time to decide on messaging. The only thing more expensive than crafting and executing a media plan is to not craft and execute a media plan.