No, GenX-ers, I’m not talking about the Tony Danza show. I am talking about always remembering who you answer to in your place of work: Your customer.
For public schools, your boss is ultimately your community and taxpayers.
At times, however, this is lost. Budget cuts, understaffing and especially the rapid fire changes like what we saw during covid are distracting and at times difficult to overcome so that school districts can thoughtfully plan communication efforts. If we are being honest, 2020 felt more like an exercise in how to keep one’s head above water.
If you remember who your boss is then you can begin with what we refer to as “Respect the Taxpayer.”
What does this mean? It means that you should treat them like important stakeholders. Public schools are accountable to their local communities. Their success (and failure) is directly tied to their level of support. Your stakeholders deserve news and information about your schools. Here’s where to start.
- Issue a Regular, Mailed Newsletter - Yes, these work and perhaps more than ever. You need to kick it “old school” and snail mail a newsletter to every household.
- Talk about Issues that Matter - Focus on the higher level work and planning of your schools. Typically that means finances, facilities and higher level curriculum.
- Know what Goes on Social Media Versus Other Mediums - Effective communications is about strategy. It should not be a one-size-fits-all approach. You have different mediums and different audiences. Know how to treat them differently. And know where your stakeholders “live.”
- Show Effective Planning and Thoughtful Approaches - We find that districts often do have effective planning but -- to use something we all heard in school at some point -- that you need to “show your work” demonstrating how you arrived at a solution or outcome. Write and speak to those as they occur. Keep in mind that if you go for a big “move that bus” style reveal and without effective prior communication leading up to it, then you leave your district vulnerable and the best of initiatives will be sunk.
Start with these initiatives and then you have the foundation for respecting the taxpayer.