School PR Techniques that Work


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"People Relationships: School PR Techniques That Work" presented at the Texas Association of School Boards 2011 Summer Leadership Institute.

Special thanks to Brad Domitrovich ( for the opportunity to fill-in as a presenter in his absence.

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School PR Techniques that Work

  1. 1. People Relationships:School PR Techniques That Work Texas Association of School Boards 2011 Summer Leadership Institute
  2. 2. The Challenge● School districts face many challenges● The job of an effective school board is even more difficult when faced with issues that divide your community● Bonds, attendance zones, accountability ratings, school closings, standardized dress codes, curriculum, school finance, football, cheerleaders, etc.
  3. 3. Importance of Communications● Gets your message out to parents, community, and staff● Allows you to clarify your goals and objectives● Provides a vehicle to dispel rumors● Crucial component for school district perceptions● Near the top of most surveys as a problem area
  4. 4.
  5. 5. Districts are brands andcommunities are buyers
  6. 6. What do school districts sell?
  7. 7. School districts sell trustEffective relationship with the community, stakeholders must trust: ● Provide safe learning environments; ● Instructional standards and expectations for teachers; ● All students given every opportunity to succeed and achieve; ● Parents are wanted and integral; ● Technology and instruction will not be mutually exclusive; ● When things go wrong, the district will be open and honest when communicating and work to mitigate future issues; ● Tax dollars will be used with sound fiscal judgment; ● Facilities will be constructed and maintained; and ● The best interest of students education will be the guide.
  8. 8. Public Relations"Public Relations helps an organization andits publics adapt mutually to each other."- Public Relations Society of America
  9. 9. Public RelationsWho are your school district publics or stakeholders?• Students• Parents• Taxpayers/Patrons• Employees
  10. 10. Communication Goals and ObjectivesThe overall goal of a school district communicationprogram is to engage all stakeholders in open, honest,two-way communication that educates, informs, and buildssupport for your organization.Example of Anytown ISD Goals: 1. Increase awareness about the overall positive impact of Anytown ISD education. 2. Improve public perception of schools and the district. 3. Generate engagement and support for the education of AISD children.
  11. 11. What makes the news?● Something controversial● Something that is timely● Something that involves a lot of people● Something thats important for the public to know● Something that is a first
  12. 12. it or not, members of the media: ● Are very competitive ● Are not always out to get you ● Can get the truth from somebody else ● Are human beings
  13. 13. What does the media do?● Influences concern about key issues● Increases public awareness● Increases public knowledge● Helps the community form an opinion● Holds school districts and leadership accountable for actions and decisions
  14. 14. What do schools districts want? ● Keep community confidence level high ● Avoid negative publicity ● Deliver a positive message ● Balanced reporting during challenging times ● Make their district stand out from the rest
  15. 15. What does the media want?● An exclusive story● An interview with key individuals● Timely access to information for stories● Something controversial because it sells● To be helpful● To shed light on an issue
  16. 16. Todays news media:● Expect more contact with junior-level journalists● Expect more errors or inconsistencies● Requires more hand-holding and close listening (Example: During phone interviews, listen to how the reporter sums up your quotes and especially if theres anything that seems to still be confusing at the end.)● Newsrooms may be shrinking, but news landscape still expanding with greater levels of expectations for journalists in reporting and content production● Expect less coverage (unless things go wrong)
  17. 17. Creating Allies ● Build media relationships when there are no major stories brewing ● Don’t pick a fight with the media ● Be cooperative ● Respond in a timely manner (business etiquette) ● Become a trusted resource ● It’s OK to tell them if they misquoted you in the past or misrepresented you ● Gain greater confidence (and competence) with media training ● Sometimes its ok to decline an interview request
  18. 18. Interviewing Tips● If you are not the district spokesperson, politely tell the reporter you will have someone promptly return their call.● In most cases, the board president typically speaks on behalf of the board for decisions.
  19. 19. Interviewing Tips● Sometimes you cant get all of the facts before a story breaks.● Communicate first with your heart. Your first words create an image.● During interviews, pauses are the toughest, but best tip.● Keep your message simple.
  20. 20. “All the media training in the worldwon’t help if you leave commonsense behind while beinginterviewed.” - Ari B. Adler
  21. 21. Interviewing TipsPreparation is key: ● Know the facts. ● Anticipate questions. ● Set the ground rules. ● Rehearse your message. ● Avoid personal opinions.
  22. 22. Interviewing TipsGuidelines to remember: ● Take/keep control. ● Dont speculate. ● Dont repeat the negative. ● Speak slowly and clearly. ● Keep your composure. ● Stay on topic. ● Restate your message. ● Avoid saying "No comment."
  23. 23. Public Relations > Media Relations
  24. 24. As news is posted faster, the official version of events from your organization is vital.
  25. 25. News Releases● Simple, factual, and story-driven.● Timeliness and connection to major issues or controversies.● Get your side out quickly.● Use photos and video to help tell your story.● Factual, simple when it comes to Board meeting recaps.● Think like a publisher.● Media-Shmedia: Be Your Own Newsroom
  26. 26. "Companies that understand they have to be the media instead of waiting for the media to come to them will be the winners moving forward."
  27. 27. channel-surfing
  28. 28. District Website● Should be your primary marketing and outreach tool● Must be dynamic - avoid a static site● Promote your site and train your audience to visit
  29. 29. Electronic Communications● Fast, timely, cost effective● Build your database through parent sign-ups, on-line forms, etc.● Some examples: E- E-newsletters have been Newsletters, Updates, around for years, what may Board Briefings, be new to school districts is Emergency News, etc. concept of measuring their effectiveness with open- rates and click-thru statistics when available.
  30. 30. If Social Media is simply people having online conversations...
  31. 31. ...then public school districtsshould be conversing viaSocial Media.
  32. 32. Why?
  33. 33. Consider this... ● Social media accounts for ~ 25% of all time spent online over 35 minutes per hour – Nielsen ● In the US, there are 149M active Facebook users, 70% log in once a day – Ogilvy & BuddyMedia ● Social Networking accounts for 1 of every 6 minutes spent online – comScore ● 17% of US online consumers have created a Twitter account – ExactTarget ● 78.6% of consumers have joined a company’s community to get more information on the company – Universal McCann
  34. 34. So what does that have to dowith school PR techniques?
  35. 35. Social Media integration is no longer optionalfor school districts and PR pros ● Opportunity for positive community relations outweighs risks of unknown fears ● It takes some professional courage to get it right ● See what others are doing and follow good examplesTwo possible realities:1. Your district started using social media, but youre not quite sure if youre doing it right2. Something is still keeping you from using social media tools in your school district communications
  36. 36.
  37. 37. Who do you want to reach? AudienceWhat do you want to accomplish? ObjectivesWhere can social media improve or supplementour programs, services, communications? Whatdistrict policies need to be in place? StrategiesWhat’s our available budget/time? BarriersWhat opportunities to pilot? Tactics
  38. 38. Parents and Social MediaYour parents are using social media to: ● See what other parents are saying about their school and its staff ● Get support and insight into educational and parenting issues ● Build awareness about an issue or a cause important to them
  39. 39. Lets look at some social mediaintegration options and examplesfor school districts: ● Blogging ● Facebook ● Twitter ● Video ● Photo Galleries
  40. 40.
  41. 41. School District Blogging● Tell your good stories● Introduce ideas and plans● Invite writers from other areas● Feature writing● Official statements● Rumor control● Feedback through comments● Moderate comments● Be interesting● Use text, photos, and video
  42. 42. School District Blogging● Blog as newsfeed● Press release posts● Reverse-chronological order● Built-in archive● RSS enabled● Sample Blogger -->
  43. 43. School DistrictBlogging:Rumor Control
  44. 44. Tips for school districts on Facebook ● Make sure Facebook link is easy to find on website ● Post links plus photos/videos ● Have rules for moderation ● "Tag" Campuses and other Pages (including media) ● Use Facebook events; free and easy to encourage community to "Share" ● Ask/answer questions ● Reply to feedback as appropriate ● You dont have to respond to everything
  45. 45. Polices & GuidelinesSet the rules of engagement...Remove posts that: ● Break the law or encourage others to do so ● Contain abusive or inappropriate language or statements ● Easily identify students and/or staff in defamatory, abusive, or generally negative terms ● Do not show proper consideration for others’ privacy or are considered likely to offend or provoke others ● Are spam ● Full Sample:
  46. 46. Tips for school districts on Facebook ● Teach your Fans to tag your districts Page ● Using the “tag” (the @ symbol), they can tag the district’s Facebook Page in their own status that goes out to their friends ● Shows active community on the districts Page Wall (Only useful if youve opened up your Page Wall for community comments)
  47. 47. Tips for school districts on FacebookGet into the Facebook feed: Getting people to "like" orcomment on your Facebook content improves the chancesthat more people will see it in their feed, an algorithm referredto as “EdgeRank.”Those who use social media to only push out their schooldistricts messages miss the opportunity to have an engagingconversation with their online community.
  48. 48. Facebook Impressions and Feedback● Impressions: How many times a specific post was displayed within news feeds.● Feedback: The percent of fans “like” or comment on a specific post. If you want to know how good your stuff is, then focus on “Feedback.”
  49. 49. ● Install Facebook "Like" box on your website or blog● Get a unique or vanity Facebook URL address● Add URL to print collateral● Add URL to e-mail signatures
  50. 50. What happens when things go south for yourschool districts Facebook Page?Be prepared for some unintended consequences of having aschool district Facebook:"The open nature of the Facebook commenting feature continues tocause regular disruption and place the district as a liable participant inissues related to sharing of private student information, defamation ofemployees and other abusive online behavior. In addition, MISD is notable to commit the administrative or campus staff time necessary toadequately moderate user content posted to these pages."Short-version: The liabilities were outweighing the benefits.
  51. 51. For school districts, Twitter can be... ● a cost-effective (free) option to accentuate existing messages; ● a broadcasting tool to announce relevant information to specific audiences; and ● a (brief) conversational tool to appropriately respond to relevant inquiries and follow-up questions or comments.
  52. 52. Putting Twitter to work ● Broadcast vs. conversationalist ● Twitter as pages ● Twitter as media pitches ● Tweets for on-the-go posting ● Engaging the media School districts tweeting once per week or less do not provide enough value in the medium and quickly become obsolete.
  53. 53. Twitter as webpages
  54. 54. Twitter as pitches
  55. 55. Twitter on-the-go: ● Embeddable ● Event Pics
  56. 56.
  57. 57. Use video to tell your story ● Video content could be a key component of your communication strategy ● Some find communicating through video easier than feature/article writing or long blog posts ● Most would rather watch a video than read ● Many options, but stick with YouTube or Vimeo ● Both free with easily embeddable videos for blogs/websites and can be shared on Facebook ● If possible, try to keep videos short (3-5 minutes) ● Remember to repurpose, share across multiple channels
  58. 58. Photo Galleries● Campus news/events pics● SmugMug, Flickr, Facebook, etc.● Community/parent submitted pics● Embeddable slideshows● Easily shared/linked● Useful when theres no time to fully cover an event with article● Parents enjoy seeing their kids
  59. 59. Monitoring That’s just a wall, Gary.
  60. 60. Monitoring Tools ● Google Reader ● Google Alerts/News/Blog Search/Analyitcs ● Facebook Search ● ● Tweetdeck ● (shorteners & stats) ● IceRocket real-time search
  61. 61. Once you start using social media ● Follow through and use the tools ● You don’t have to use every tool ● Avoid the shiny-object syndrome ● Tailor your social strategy to fit your objectives ● You need to have a thick skin ● Not always going to be nice and friendly ● Anticipate challenges ● Have a plan in place to deal with detractors ● Above all, foster a positive community experience
  62. 62. You are not going to be able to please everyone, but everyone should see that you aim to please.
  63. 63. From the crowd... ● "Connect to community in way others cant do. Professional advice and counsel. Provide screen for media to allow prep. Long list." ● "I just cant imagine not having that link...protects & helps everyone. Keeps consistent voice & brand too." ● "They need to get with the times and start using email more effectively. Start using the mediums the people they answer to use. i.e. Twitter, Facebook, podcasts etc." ● "Face-to-face communication is the most effective way to engage employees in mission/goals ... and by extension, to engage the community." ● "We just cant crank out newsletters and say thats enough anymore. Social media, blogs, podcasts, webcasting, e-newsletters and many more have changed the game."
  64. 64. Sources & Additional Resources Dont worry if you missed anything. This presentation can be found on slideshare:
  65. 65. ContactRichie EscovedoE-mail: richie.escovedo@gmail.comTwitter: @vedoBlog: