Welcome back to Term 2 and we hope you enjoyed a restorative break. We have something different for you this week that we know you will find useful. School Stream has partnered with PR and communication specialists Profile Media, who are sharing their insights and best practice strategies for schools who encounter complex situations in very public contexts as a result of COVID-19. Read on for their advice on how to develop an effective communication strategy, and for exclusive FREE access to their recently published white paper.
We know you’re busier than ever. Read on for Profile Media’s guide to developing a communication plan for your school, or click through for free access to their comprehensive white paper.
Communicate early, communicate often
We all know the benefits of maintaining regular, consistent communication with the families/caregivers and the broader community, pandemic, or no pandemic. It doesn’t hurt to be prepared and have a plan of action ready if your school needs to manage a crisis situation. As they say, planning now with a clear head means a better outcome when the heat is on. After moving the entire curriculum online in the second part of Term 1, planning for a COVID-19 related crisis is probably the last thing you feel like doing, but as Sue Papadoulis of Profile Media advises, it’s worth spending time now to identify potential worst-case scenarios, determine your response, and know-how you will communicate it.
Over to Profile Media
We’re handing over to Profile Media now for a brief overview of things to consider when preparing a communication plan to manage crisis situations to your advantage. While some of the information she shares is particularly relevant to private and independent schools, all schools can be empowered by putting a comprehensive communications plan in place.
Communication and Planning is Key (Profile Media)
Whatever situation your school finds itself in during the COVID-19 crisis, the three biggest determining factors in your success during this time are:
1. How you respond and continue to respond with each passing day, week and month.
2. Is your response appropriate and does it show leadership?
3. How do you communicate your response and continue to adapt your communication with every new development.
Proactively protect your brand
In addition to planning for any events and issues that may arise and cause a school and its reputation damage, schools can get on the front foot and start protecting their brand now by communicating regularly.
1. Create a COVID-19 Communication Plan
- Choose one method of communication and commit to it. Many schools use many different communication methods leading to confusion for parents/caregivers.
- Communicate with your families and potential families on a regular basis. This could include communications to specific classrooms, year levels/stages, subject areas, or the whole school.
- Determine the frequency of updates, who will send them and the method you will use to send them.
2. Demonstrate Leadership
- This is an opportunity to show real leadership. Provide reassurance and show the school community that you have plans in place to serve and guide them. Tell them your plans regularly.
- Be known as the person who led through positivity, hope and good news by thinking strategically about the messages you convey at every level.
3. Stem the decline in student numbers
Can your school create new offerings that meet new markets and audiences?
- Things to consider are parent loyalty programs, partnerships with other education providers, incentives to keep existing families, reaching out to past families who have left the school, or new benefactor and sponsorship programs to maintain income.
4. Generate positive media publicity
It has never been more important to demonstrate credibility to your school community and prospective students. Consider a positive media reach-out program to ensure you protect your school’s brand. Potential stories include:
- The home-schooling revolution – If your school has handled the crisis well, there will be good news stories to share. The media will likely be looking for both good news stories and opportunities to demonstrate how school-life has changed.
- Leadership in a crisis – Share stories with the media to showcase your understanding of issues and how they will impact on education, family life and more.
- Demonstrate expertise in education – If you have a new program that is getting results, share them alongside the bigger picture, with the media.
- Show the community your school culture – This is a great chance to remind the community what you do and how you do it. Schools are content-rich environments and you won’t have to look far to find success stories and opportunities to showcase what your school values look like in practice.
About the Author
Sue Papadoulis is a former journalist who runs national public relations agency Profile Media which specialises in crisis and issues management, creation of communications strategies and positive media reach-out. Profile Media recently handled media and communications for St Andrew’s Grammar, the first school in WA to close as a result of a parent testing positive for COVID-19. The strategies Profile Media put in place led to the school’s enjoying an enhanced reputation via $180,000 in free publicity around the issue.
Need more help?
Sue has authored the white paper, “COVID-19 Crisis Response Action Plan for Schools” which is a step-by-step guide to help any school deal with the kind of issues arising now.
For a limited time, Sue has given School Stream members FREE access to this comprehensive white paper.
Visit https://www.profilemedia.com.au/schoolstream/ to download the white paper now.