Social media platforms are not only a great tool in the classroom, but also a great way to get teachers and staff involved in your district's communications plan.
Although public relations for a school is quite different from public relations for a large company, there is one similarity: it is common for senior leadership to feel hesitant about using social media. The fast-paced environment of social media requires honesty, transparency and sometimes quick thinking. Social media is supplanting traditional media, such as newspapers and radio, as a go-to source for news and information about all topics, including education and school news.
Communicate with parents. A school administrator can make a Twitter feed either for herself or for the school. Parents and community members can follow it for updates about school and community events, fundraisers, early closings and scheduling. Social networks like Twitter are a great way to mass communicate in the event of a fire, security threat or other crisis that may alarm parents. School administrators can also use applications like Yammer, which is a microblogging site (similar to Twitter) on which only approved users can join a conversation. Principals or guidance couselors can also write password-protected blogs for a school's Web site so that parents are privy to updates but still retain their privacy.
Communicate with each other. One tool that many teachers probably already use is an online course management system called Blackboard. It has many purposes, including interactivity with students and parents in a controlled setting. This platform is also a favorite of non-profit organizations and corporations that want to improve their internal communications. Remember--it's important to have strong internal communications among teachers and administrators as well as strong external communications with the greater community.
Develop and adhere to a social media policy. In this age of technology, both students and school staff may be using Facebook. Friending or following each other on personal social networks might seem like a good way to communicate, but it also makes your personal photos and information accessible. In fact, to avoid potentially compromising situations, many school systems develop policies that prevent educators from interacting with students on social media.
A social media expert, freelance writer and public relations professional for many high-profile companies, Maris Callahan is the author and publisher of the food blog In Good Taste and the new Chicago online lifestyle magazine My Daily Find Chicago.
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