Development Section 1
Publicity and Public Relations
1. What person or organ of the school is responsible for publicity and public
2. Who serves as spokesperson for the school?
3. What sort of training is needed to serve as the spokesperson for a school?
4. How should a school react when a crisis occurs?
5. What are some examples of good public relations or publicity work?
6. What are the benefits of getting involved with the local Chamber of Commerce
or other civic organizations?
7. What are the key points in a school’s philosophy regarding publicity and public
DEV 1-1 What person or organ of the school is responsible for publicity
and public relations?
The responsibility for publicity and public relations is generally held in one of two
places in the school, either in the enrollment office or in the development office.
This is due to the dual nature of outreach and publicity functions in our schools,
serving to promote the school to potential students and their families and to build
general and event specific awareness in the community in support of fundraising
and friend-raising goals.
In a large school there is enough work in this area to warrant creating a half time
job dedicated to publicity and public relations. As there can be real peaks and
valleys in the quantity of this work it is frequently combined with other
responsibilities in the development area. This creates a full time job and allows
for reasonable fluctuations in the workload.
An example of this is found in a school that has created the position of
Development Associate – Marketing and Events. Her duties include all internal
and external advertising and promotion. She places ads for enrollment outreach
events and all other events at the school. Consolidating all advertising and
promotion in one office ensures that all collateral materials are consistent with
the image of the school. She is responsible for editing the weekly school bulletin,
and posting it to the web site. Half of the families in the school now receive the
weekly bulletin as an emailed PDF file. Design and upgrades to the school web
site are also her responsibility.
The school has a very successful fundraiser, a Waldorf watercolor calendar and
note card program. Responsibility for this program is part of the Development
Associate’s position. The Development Associate also is responsible for the
annual report and the design of all collateral materials for the annual giving
The Development Associate also coordinates speakers and conferences at the
school and does the necessary outreach for any speaker forums. She generates
press releases and works to get stories into the local media. This kind of work
requires a lot of relationship building and follow up to ensure that the press
release actually gets to the proper person at the newspaper or station, and she is
using volunteers to help with this follow up.
The Development Associate is also responsible for coordinating events including
Grandparents Day, Graduation, and two annual Welcome Evenings for New
Parents to the School.
DEV 1-2 Who serves as spokesperson for the school?
It is vital for schools to have a pre-identified person named to serve as the
primary contact with the press, whatever the school’s size or staffing
configuration. This helps schools ensure that all inquiries are handled promptly
and professionally, forwarded to the best spokesperson on a particular topic for
the school. Typically these inquiries are routed to either the Development
Director or the Development Associate responsible for public affairs. In some
cases the designated contact person is the faculty chair, but schools with this
arrangement note that this can only happen in cases where faculty chairs serve
in this office for many years. This long tenure allows the chair to build expertise
over time; schools that rotate their faculty chairs every few years are not best
served by this arrangement.
DEV 1-3 What sort of training is needed to serve as the spokesperson for a
One school that has named the Development Director serves as the primary
point person for all contacts with the press can serve as a good example of the
kind of training and background that is helpful in this area. In this school the
Development Director has a strong professional background in media relations,
having done this type of work for many years. She has attended numerous
workshops in the area of media and public relations. She coaches faculty and
the Admissions Director for speaking engagements on the radio on topics related
to education. She has much experience working with print and electronic media
personnel and in writing press releases. She has fourteen years of experience
being a spokesperson for a non-profit, both at the school and elsewhere. For
schools that do not have this level of experience available, it is essential that the
designated person find at least basic media spokesperson training, and that clear
guidelines are developed among the staff on how to deal with situations needing
public relations expertise. For example, the school should strongly consider
developing and maintaining a spokesperson manual that contains guidelines as
well as easily accessible ―talking points,‖ salient facts about the school and the
movement, and contact information for AWSNA, the Anthroposophical Society,
the Waldorf Online Library, etc. (Link: Media Resources) Developing capacities
to answer the questions posed on the internet by various critics can also be
extremely helpful as the media is likely to ask for response on these in almost
any situation. Spokesperson resources and capacities need to be available even
when there are personnel changes and periods of relative quiet in regard to
DEV 1-4 How should a school react when a crisis occurs?
In the school described above the Development Director has attended a number
of workshops in the area of public relations and crisis management. When a
serious issue confronts the school a special task group is formed. This task
group includes the Development Director, the Collegium Chair, the Administrative
Coordinator, a senior member of the faculty, and if needed, a volunteer attorney
(usually a parent, Board member or alumni parent). The task group will discuss
the situation, determine the School’s main talking points, and identify the
individual in the community best able to respond to inquiries from the press. This
individual may not be the Development Director, but perhaps is a member of the
faculty with a depth of experience and understanding of the particular issue
DEV 1-5 What are some examples of good public relations or publicity
One school reports that community service activities generate the most positive
press for the school. An example is the school’s participation in the United Way
Day of Caring. In this event various organizations give their employees the day
off so they can do work for one of the member agencies of the United Way. The
school receives good publicity at the event’s kickoff breakfast, and name
recognition on all printed material. There is great coverage for this event in the
press, and the school has enjoyed being featured in several photos and an
article. The United Way also provides coverage, as does the particular member
charity being served by the school’s volunteers.
It is easy for the press to make a presumption and perceive the school as a hoity-
toity private school. The ability to counteract this false impression is one reason
why service outreach is so important. Recently a second grade class received
good press for its efforts to write letters to senior citizens who are receiving
meals from Meals on Wheels. This project allowed the students to work on their
writing skills, providing a direct tie with the curriculum, and built good bridges with
Another school operates in a very challenging market. There are a particularly
large number of independent, private schools in the area, making it very difficult
to get coverage by the press. In addition, the city is a one-newspaper town,
further reducing the number of opportunities for publicity. There is tremendous
competition for space. A few years back the paper made a commitment to public
education, and the independent schools had to work hard to get the paper to
provide coverage. Despite these challenges, the school has gotten good
coverage by providing high quality press releases, ensuring consistent contact
with the press, and supporting a high professional level of media relations work.
Working pro-actively to develop ongoing personal contact with your local media
will be far more effective than calling only when you need something from them.
Another success has been in the area of radio talk shows. One Development
Director has arranged for Waldorf representative guest speakers several times
when issues related to education have been discussed. She has also helped the
speakers prepare for their roles by providing guidance on what to expect and
direction on avoiding common pitfalls in interviews.
This Development Director has also joined a PR Directors Roundtable made up
of the public relations directors from other independent schools. They meet for
lunch once a month, and invite a publisher or reporter to join them. The group
shows a non-competitive face to the media, and in turn the media is comfortable
in letting all the schools present have a turn with getting publicity. The press is
able to learn about schools they haven’t heard about before, and the
development directors and PR directors in attendance are able to build
productive personal relationships with their guests from the media.
It is important that the Development Director and her related committees all
understand the environment in which the school is trying to do development and
publicity work. This helps ensure that time and effort are not wasted, and that
the projects that are undertaken bear fruit. This strategy includes making a point
to support the highest quality of photography for activities at the school. The
school now has a large bank of photos available to it, all generated by a paid
professional photographer. There is also a commitment to professional graphic
design for all materials that go to the wider community. Those materials that go
out for the world to see are of high quality and enjoy a unique design. The
annual reports, in particular, are of high quality. The school’s annual report was
used recently in a design class at a nearby university as an example of quality
design work for this type of publication. This focus on quality in the written word,
graphic design and photography make the job of interacting with the press much
easier. The school is able to quickly and professionally meet the needs of the
press, helping to ensure a positive and mutually beneficial relationship. (See also
―Successful Community Outreach in a Waldorf School)
DEV 1-6 What are the benefits of getting involved with the local Chamber
of Commerce or other civic organizations?
One school shared an important lesson it learned about the value of working with
local officials. In their state boarding schools are subject to taxes, and one year
their local assessment went up from less than $10,000 to $75,000. After working
with the city the school learned that it could provide an important benefit to the
town by providing communications support for the area’s emergency system.
Once that agreement was made, the taxes were returned to their old level and
have remained there since.
Another example is the close association a school developed with the state and
local fire departments. This association allowed the school to work with officials
in a positive way to bring the school up to the level required by new codes. The
school has even hosted state officials at a luncheon, and took the opportunity to
show the improvements they have made to meet the new requirements. Working
as an active citizen has been very positive for the school. Chambers of
Commerce are also good places to meet the well-connected professionals such
as real estate agents and others whose good opinion can be beneficial for site
search, zoning questions and enrollment.
DEV 1-7 What are the key points in a school’s philosophy regarding
publicity and public relations?
Recognize that whoever walks in the door is a public relations
Everyone at the school is responsible for public relations. The way in
which each member of the faculty and staff conducts himself with
neighbors, parents and the public is crucial to the school’s positive profile.
All public relations work has a dual purpose. Raising the profile of the
school and making positive changes to the school’s image serve both the
fundraising and enrollment efforts.
The Development Office must work in collaboration with the Admissions
Office. The Development Director is the point person for all contacts with
the press, but the Admissions Director frequently sets the details of a visit
schedule and coordinates this with the teachers.
Develop a written public relations crisis policy and plan.
All printed materials must reflect the work we do in the classroom. The
whole image and tone of our advertising and promotion must be a
reflection of the school’s values. Don’t allow the richness of what’s
happening inside the classroom to get overlooked by using materials and
visuals of lesser quality.
Name recognition is vital. It takes constant work to ensure a high level of
awareness in the broader community.
Find the right language that communicates quickly and easily the vision,
mission and values of the school. That message must be well crafted and
consistent, and in language that everyone understands. These
statements help people know about the school and its purpose, and must
be clear to all, especially those unfamiliar with Waldorf education or
Be clear about the school’s target audience. This is vital if the school is to
be successful in getting the right message to the right people.
Electronic media is the way of the future. Consider adding a community
forum to your site, and perhaps an e-commerce section that allows
people to make on-line purchases from the school store.
Take advantage of public service announcements on local radio. They
are a great way to get the news of your event out to the community.
Relations with state and local government are very important. Encourage
everyone at the school to join local civic committees.
It’s all marketing! Keep your school clean, beautiful, and well lit. Provide
visitor friendly signage.
Good public relations and publicity work begins at home.
o Are ongoing communications with the immediate community and
parent body regular and clear?
o Is there full disclosure of the philosophical/spiritual background of
the school? (Link: Sample brochure statements)
o Are the school’s key messages reviewed periodically? Is the
school program steadfastly congruent with its mission and value
o Are difficult discipline and special needs cases fully documented
and communicated effectively? One person badmouthing the
school because ―I was never told …‖ can cause damage to a
school’s reputation that is far more difficult to repair than to
o Are all complaints and concerns dealt with promptly and
professionally? Is there an agreed upon standard of
professionalism among staff on this issue? (Hint: It is not about
being right or wrong, being anthroposophical or not. It is about the
person being professionally acknowledged as a human being and
yes, as a valued client of the organization. All other issues about
the merits of the complaint can be dealt with in due course—after
the person has heard clearly ―Thank you for taking the time to bring
this issue to my attention. It will be handled by [name of
person/committee] by [reasonable time].‖) A school that treats its
public with courtesy will generate good publicity and public trust
and can weather public relations challenges far more effectively.