ILLINOIS SCHOOL BOARD JOURNAL
Practical PR: Communication networks offer benefits for districts
by Carla Erdey
Carla Erdey is director of communications for Consolidated High School District 230 in Orland Park, Illinois, and president of the Illinois Chapter of the National School Public Relations Association.
With demands of increased accountability and transparency from school districts, it is imperative that school board members understand the importance of strategic communication.
A planned and systematic communication program helps improve the programs and services of a school district. And, that adds up to understanding of the role and needs of the school district, better understanding of public attitudes, shaping of policies in the public interest, and implementing involvement and information activities that earn public support.
Local community members need to understand the school district’s successes and challenges and how they can support the education of every student.
The National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) and its Illinois chapter, INSPRA, are designed to help school board members, administrators and school communication professionals strategically problem-solve to gain community understanding and support, and ultimately student success.
School board members should rely on a trained professional to manage communication strategies that are proactive and that allow the board and district to be active players in the community.
A great way to learn about strategic communication is to attend the National School Public Relations Association Conference that will be held July 8-11, 2012, in Chicago. At this 59th annual seminar, school board members, superintendents, principals and school communication professionals from throughout the United States will gather to share the best, latest and most effective practices in school communication. And this conference will be cost-effective since it’s being held in Illinois!
At the seminar, participants will come face-to-face with outstanding experts and practitioners in school communication and leadership. They will share their best new ideas, provide seasoned insights and offer the tools needed to help schools. More than 70 sessions will be focused on developing effective, budget-savvy and targeted communication programs, including social media strategies, crisis communication, communicating budget/finance issues, building trust and support, community engagement and improving media relations. Tracks are even designed specifically for superintendents and principals. Complete details can be found at www.nspra.org.
The learning possibilities are infinite when school board members join or encourage personnel in charge of school communication to join the Illinois Chapter of NSPRA.
Membership benefits for an organization that connects communication professionals across the state are:
• Participation in an award-winning professional organization that provides public relations training, counseling, information and inspiration;
• A “Member Needs Help” program, which allows any INSPRA member to seek advice and examples from members across the state, and ensures that all members can benefit from the answers through an online forum;
• Access to the INSPRA document library, featuring examples and templates of forms, brochures and other resources frequently used by school PR professionals;
• The opportunity to register for Friday morning seminars (six per year) featuring experts with practical strategies for media relations, social media, community outreach, crisis communications, publication design, strategic planning, staff and labor issues, referenda, business partnerships and other “hot topics”;
• Networking with top school PR professionals, including the opportunity for professionals relatively new to school PR to be mentored by a more veteran professional;
• Proactive insight into emerging education issues and trends;
• Expert feedback and special recognition for education publications and programs through the annual Communications Contest and Golden Achievement Awards;
• Opportunities to provide state-level special recognition of staff, board and community members who go the extra mile for your district, through the annual Distinguished Service Awards;
• Linkage with NSPRA and insight into national trends and issues.
School board members can also follow INSPRA on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to learn about trends in school communication and gather the latest INSPRA news. Get connected at www.inspra.org.
Both NSPRA and INSPRA can help a school board member understand the important role of communication and then support the personnel charged with this management function. Most districts have trained personnel to manage the teaching and learning, human resources and business functions. It only makes sense to have someone specialized in managing the strategic communication function of the organization.
It could be said that the ultimate equation for a school district is:
Teaching + Learning + Highly Qualified Personnel + Financial Resources = Student Success with a common denominator of an informed and supportive community through strategic communication.
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