When I began my first job at a public relations firm, the first piece of constructive criticism that one of my bosses shared with me was that, ironically enough, I wasn't communicating properly.
She said that I was doing great work, but that in order for my colleagues to appreciate that work, I needed to do a better job of keeping them apprised of what I did on a daily basis.
Public perception often dictates that public relations is something an organization should turn to in a crisis, but in truth, PR is just as important when there is good news to share. Despite popular belief, PR professionals are not responsible for sweeping messes under the rug, but for communicating an organization's positive news to the greater community. Public relations is a process of connecting journalists with the experts they need to report news and trends, and PR involves leveraging press conferences, media events, internal communications processes, public affairs and even community relations. Just as I learned to communicate my work to my coworkers when I was doing a good job, organizations need to tell the public when they are achieving success.
For both public and private schools, PR is a strategic way in which schools can connect with their communities, typically using the media to deliver messages. Some experts believe that if a school is "doing it right," they shouldn't need public relations. There are, however, a number of reasons a school should consider developing a public relations strategy.
Anticipate crises and solutions. No matter how proficient a school's teachers and adminstrators may be, occasional problems and challenges are inevitable. Accidents, injuries and natural disasters are an unfortunate reality that may affect our districts. A public relations professional can help develop a crisis communication plan so that a school or district is prepared to react to any circumstance. A crisis plan can also strengthen the credibility and reputation of a school, as parents and community members will feel confident that you are prepared for anything that happens.
Media relations. The media is a powerful force that can help any organization spread news, information and trends to the public. In some cases, the information may be high-level, like announcing adminstrative changes or national test score results. In other cases, a school might want to announce events, fundraisers or award recognition.
Connect with the community. It is undeniably important for adminstrators and teachers to focus on the enrichment and development of their students. Communications professionals can focus on the enrichment and development of the school as a whole. They can also help raise awareness throughout the community. By writing and distributing external communications such as e-newsletters, brochures, Web sites and newspapers, PR professionals can streamline information and present it to the community clearly and in language the general public will understand.
Build budgets. As the economy continues to struggle, schools across the country are losing funding for arts, physical education and extracurricular activities that are essential for student development. By helping communicate a school or district's fiscal needs to its taxpayers, PR can help improve the educational experience for students over the long term.
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.
Copyright © 2012 Education World