PRLog - Sep. 24, 2010 - THORNWOOD, N.Y. -- Westchester County is the nation’s highest taxed county, according to recent reports. With school taxes representing the largest portion of the overall property tax bill, communicating with residents in your district has taken on a new meaning. It means reaching out to a new public — one who is often distrusting, demands increased accountability and also scrutinizes each and every budget line. Therefore, embarking on a proactive School PR campaign should begin at the start of the new school year. It is never too early to begin building the community support that can be vital to passing your budget next spring.
School PR campaigns build community support
A successful School PR campaign is proactive, rather than reactive. It is important to know what's being said and who is saying it so that you can respond immediately. Building community support involves strategies and tactics that focus on "flooding" the media with positive information to drown out any false rumors or negative information that is being produced by your critics.
One example is the School PR program my firm, DDR Public Relations developed for the Katonah-Lewisboro School District, for which we won two awards. Following the defeat of their budget a few years back, the K-L District’s then Superintendent and Board President sought my counsel to help pass their budget, which was to be presented for a re-vote just three weeks later. Within this short lead time, I created a strategic PR plan for the district featuring an intensive media relations effort. We provided the media with a series of features about how a contingency budget would affect students, along with a series of articles about district initiatives, school accomplishments and staff achievements. As a result of these efforts, the budget then passed 2-1!
Following this vote, this district hired my firm for the next four years. We at once conducted a communications audit; focus groups were held with selected parents, teachers, members of the School Board and the Superintendent in order to identify key facts and issues. We learned that a deep lack of trust existed between different community groups and the district.
In addition, we conducted an in-depth analysis of existing media coverage, and held interviews with local reporters. We found that there had been very little media coverage to date of programs, events, talent, as well as new district initiatives, spending and other issues relating to the budget.
So, how do you overcome existing negative sentiment? How can you turn your district into one that communicates so effectively throughout the year, that at budget time there’s no scrambling and nail-biting as community members enter the voting booth?
Here are five essential tips:
Ø Continuously listen to the buzz around your community. Read the blogs, newspapers,
the posts on Facebook, etc. Start a “rumor” page on the district website. (I developed a
very successful “rumor-stomping”
that all rumors would be addressed and replaced by the facts). Today, we have even
more tools to help us communicate. School districts nationwide are embracing social
networking sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. They are effectively using these
and other social media tools to share success stories, get feedback and to promote
school and district events, programs and meetings.
Ø Always speak with the media when they call and make sure to keep them updated on
what’s going on in the district. There should be a special PR liaison that can always be
available and accessible to answer media questions and concerns. In addition, you
need to develop and distribute a continuous stream of press releases that details your
Ø Develop opportunities for face-to-face interaction within your community. We found that
regularly scheduled breakfast meetings with realtors, women’s clubs and other
community groups and clubs was an extremely effective tactic.
Ø No matter how minor you think an incident is – always report it to the media and your
community immediately. Have your facts perfectly organized, your spokesperson
prepared and information vetted -- and get that story out there! If you allow the media
and your community to tell their version of what happened, you may soon have a crisis
on your hands.
Today’s school districts face great challenges and some very complicated issues when communicating with internal and external publics. This has made it essential to reach out to a PR professional who has a particular expertise in School PR.
For more information, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (914) 747-2500.
Dawn Dankner-Rosen is president of DDR Public Relations, an award-winning public relations firm located in Westchester County, NY. For almost 20 years, DDR Public Relations specializes in strategic campaigns for non profits, school districts, and small and large businesses throughout the region, as well as global Fortune 500 companies.
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DDR Public Relations is an award-winning public relations firm located in Westchester County, NY. We specialize in campaigns for nonprofits, school districts, and small and large businesses throughout the region, as well as global Fortune 500 companies. For more than 20 years, we have created new images and repositioned established ones with public relations, cause marketing and community relations campaigns. We combine out-of-the-box thinking and creativity with years of experience and a talent for anticipating and even, setting new trends.