Education is under attack, from taxpayers, special interest groups, and others.
This is the media age — Communication needs have increased and become more complex. Schools need public relations professionals to help navigate today’s chaotic, multi-channel communication landscape, strengthening their relationships, reputations, and brands by integrating messaging across the paid/earned/shared/owned media spectrum (PESO).
The outrage industry, those perpetually angry voices in the marketplace of ideas, have a larger, more powerful voice thanks to blogs, forums and anonymous posts on news Web sites. Unfortunately, schools often fall into the trap of caving in to the outrage industry … even though it represents a marginal position, and only serves to undermine the academic environment.
Communication impacts education — The research is clear that communication plays an important role in the type and quality of parent/community involvement. There’s a positive, convincing relationship between family and community involvement and improved student academic achievement. This includes higher grade point averages and scores on standardized tests, more classes passed, higher enrollment in more challenging academic classes, better attendance, and improved behavior at home and at school. And this holds true in families of all economic, racial/ethnic, and educational backgrounds, as well as for students at all ages.
School Districts Have a Duty to Communicate
Schools have a duty to educate and inform residents, which, in turn, fosters public awareness, understanding, and support for the administration and its strategic initiatives — as well as for its students and employees. Informing residents and important publics also improves and safeguards the school’s reputation as being worthy of public investment, builds internal morale, and creates an atmosphere conducive to education and enlightenment.
Communication and transparency – the bedrock of public relations — are integral to a school’s fiduciary responsibility and its obligation to be a steward of valuable resources. In fact, boards are oftentimes criticized not for taking or failing to take an action, but for failure to communicate with the public. Schools that invest in public relations are essentially devoting resources towards the public good.
Public relations helps schools – and other organizations — and those it serves, reach decisions and function more effectively by contributing to mutual understanding among groups and institutions. It serves to bring private and public policies into harmony. Public relations firms aid districts in terms of anticipating, analyzing and interpreting public opinion, attitudes and issues. They provide counsel to administrators and boards of education with regard to policy decisions; and they develop and implement communication programs — including Web-based and social media – that help educate, inform, and build a bridge connecting the district with those it serves. Skilled public relations professionals who adhere to the PRSA Code of Ethics are committed to protecting and advancing the free flow of accurate, truthful information, and fostering informed decision making through open communication.
Here are some studies that can help administrators and boards of education:
School Public Relations: The Essential Ingredient to Student and School Success
How Strong Communication Contributes to Student and School Success: Parent and Family Involvement
Supporting Students, Supporting Communication: Helping Others See the Communication-Achievement Links
The Battle for Democracy The Evidence is Clear: It pays for public schools to spend more on communications
Direct E-Communication Is Clear Choice of Parents in NSPRA Member Districts
The Missing Piece Of The Proficiency Puzzle – Recommendations for Involving Families and Community in Improving Student Achievement
Parental Effort, School Resources, and Student Achievement
Also published on Medium.