How Charter Schools can Build Positive Reputations Through Public Relations Campaigns
At its core, public relations is a proactive branding and communication program to manage public perception and control an organization’s narrative.
Because charter schools are public schools, they are required to be transparent. Because charter schools are subject to multiple layers of accountability, transparency through public relations is an asset. Done right, transparency through PR will make a charter school CEO’s life a lot easier, and will pay huge dividends at renewal time, or if it becomes necessary, at the state charter appeal board. Administrators should adopt a strong PR program to demonstrate the school’s accountability, show its authorizer or school district that it is living up to the terms of its charter and that it has been a good steward of tax dollars.
A robust and consistent school PR program will add substantial strength to the school’s charter renewal application. For charter schools that have hostile school district authorizers, a robust PR program will help administrators control the school’s narrative, shape public opinion, and build a case for charter renewal.
A good PR program will also help in terms of staff and student recruitment. Because storytelling is at the heart of public relations, charter schools can attract the right kinds of students and staff as applicants will gain a better understanding of the organization. Getting the right applicants in the door will save tens of thousands of dollars in advertising costs, recruitment agency fees, and turnover losses.
School PR shouldn’t require a huge budget or manpower, and it can pay for itself in terms of reduced advertising costs, increased student enrollments, and a healthy waitlist that bankers and donors like to see. In this blog post, we’ll talk about some of the best public relations activities and practices that charter school leaders can use to build a positive brand. We’ll also give practical advice and tips on how schools can communicate with key stakeholders. Before we uncover useful communication tactics and media relations matters, let’s take a close look at PR itself.
What is School PR and what does it do?
School public relations is the practice of developing, maintaining, and communicating a positive image for your school. It involves strategic planning with key school personnel, outlines stakeholder engagement, establishes communications expectations, and details deliberate actions to reinforce an overall good reputation.
Having a good charter school public relations system can help attract the right staff and students, build relationships with stakeholders, increase fundraising donations, and position the charter for a smoother renewal. Deliberately designed PR campaigns can contribute to improved staff morale, which can then lead to higher levels of performance, productivity, and parental satisfaction. And, a robust PR program can render ineffective a hostile authorizer or school district’s attempt to gain public support as it seeks to non-renew a good charter school in order to remove competition.
PR helps charter schools create and maintain positive perceptions among the public and media, as well as build community support. A solid strategic communication plan will help improve relations and set the tone for networking with stakeholders, such as parents, board members, community leaders, authorizers, and the public. In this context, PR has three objectives: building awareness, influencing perception and building trust. And each of those components is at the heart of branding.
Effective PR tactics that can be practiced on a daily basis come from carefully crafted communication plans that address short, intermediate and long-range planning. Strategies include making media content that is specific to the school, hosting events, running effective social media campaigns, keeping up blogs and newsletters with lots of content, and forming meaningful partnerships with other groups and community leaders. The charter school’s strategic communications plan will help establish an overall “culture of communication” and lay out the PR responsibilities of all school employees who will be involved in the process.
What are the best practices for highlighting a school’s good reputation?
To highlight your charter school’s reputation, it’s important to create a positive online presence. This can include posting positive messages about classroom activities or field trips on Instagram, sharing newsworthy stories on the CEO’s blog, and creating engaging newsletter content that speaks to the audience’s interests.
Drafting regular but meaningful press releases can help build a positive school reputation and reinforce its message through the news media, which is a must in shaping public opinion.
How to assess and improve your school’s reputation
An effective and profitable PR campaign is based on important factors that include the charter school’s mission, its corporate culture, and other things that make it unique. Many “how-to” PR books, blogs, and online courses are filled with nonsense ideas regarding PR campaigns that cannot possibly work for all organizations because PR solutions are not “one-size-fits-all.” PR campaigns must begin from within to inform and direct external matters such as a school’s reputation.
To that end, a good public relations plan begins within. To assess and improve your educational institution’s reputation, you must know your stakeholders and their expectations. These include teachers, students, parents age-appropriate alumni, community leaders, etc. Solicit and integrate stakeholder input and responses into your school’s reputation. For example, you can ask stakeholders about their perceptions of the school’s overall quality as an overarching question, and from there, develop subsequent questions about other important areas. Additionally, you can use online channels or apps like Survey Monkey to solicit input about your school.
By carefully monitoring and analyzing your school’s public relations efforts, you can determine if your school has a positive reputation in the community. If your school’s reputation is less than positive, you will at least gain a sense of where you need to begin your work.
Strategies for building positive community relations in schools
A school’s community relations program is a vital component in building a positive reputation. Establishing relationships with local businesses, community leaders, and the media is an important part of this process. Relationships can be reinforced through an online presence and press coverage, which can increase interest in your school and, in the long run, lead to more students and more donations from community philanthropists.
Charter schools can participate in community-based social media platforms such as local Facebook groups to share positive messages about their school. Creating an online school presence can also help create a positive school image.
Participating in or hosting local public events is a great way for educational leaders to demonstrate their commitment to the community. This will help foster trust and goodwill, making it easier for people to support the school’s mission and goals.
This could include going online to share updates and stories about school-wide initiatives or creating a PDF document for your website that outlines the school’s positive initiatives. Important factors for effective communication include timing, content, and tone. Also vital is making sure that your school website is up to date with all relevant information.
The role of social media in building a positive school brand
The role of social media in building a positive school brand is vital. School communicators must also determine what people are saying about the charter school online, engage with followers, and monitor user behavior. Through careful planning and execution, schools can build their reputation as aspirational and authoritative institutions by creating engaging content that promotes the school’s mission and values, targeting specific audiences with relevant messages while sharing the school’s good news.
What are the best methods for public relations in schools?
The term “public relations,” is about a relationship with the public. And like with any other relationship, PR must involve interaction and engagement. While this may seem obvious, you might be surprised at how many schools talk at their stakeholders, including parents, but they do not seek interaction or engagement with them beyond back-to-school nights.
While online school communication makes engagement easier, two-way interaction remains an important part of PR. Thanks to Zoom and other venues, interaction with stakeholders is much more convenient, and administrators need to take advantage of the app to increase touch points with parents.
To build relationships with media outlets, it helps to send out press releases or have a consistent presence in news outlets. This can help you achieve greater visibility and exposure. Additionally, charter schools can use online platforms to communicate with the media, and school leaders should add local education reporters to their newsletters and other publicly distributed written materials.
How do you get started with a school public relations campaign?
Charter school public relations campaign begins with developing a written strategic communication plan. That plan will include goals and objectives, identifying target publics, key messages, and potential partners or stakeholders who can help meet your goals among other important components. The overall plan will include an Action Plan that details how goals will be met, and how messages will be communicated, along with a timeline that puts it all together.
To create your plan and its content strategy, its essential to bring together the right people who can provide the background, information, and resources to make it happen. You will also need to include those who will be involved in its execution such as point persons who will work with the charter school’s PR agency to provide information about school events and good news that can be shared with the press and the public.
Should I hire an outside PR firm or do it internally?
Today’s tough new communication demands can be overwhelming. Whether you should hire an outside PR firm or do your own PR largely depends on the resources available to you, as well as knowing if you need someone to manage a few day-to-day basics or the entire PR program.
If your charter school has the budget, hiring a PR agency or PR consultant is usually the best choice because they can help create an effective PR plan and build your public presence. Effective PR pros will have a network of media contacts who can spread your message faster.
Time is also an important consideration. It takes a lot of time to develop, execute, monitor, and maintain PR campaigns. Count the cost. Educational leaders have little time to spare.
Bringing a PR specialist on staff to fulfill this increasingly vital role is not usually practical for a charter school. When a school creates a PR position, administrators often try to lump other responsibilities into the job such as fundraising, recruitment, and enrollment marketing. That is not feasible and will result in a revolving door of PR specialists.
Another consideration is the cost of hiring someone to manage PR. To save money, some schools try to get away with hiring entry-level or moderately experienced PR specialists. But this does not work as a school’s PR needs are at an executive level function. A moderately experienced PR specialist still needs years of mentoring, training, and management. But, hiring a proven, successful PR executive will require a large budgetary commitment.
To relieve charter schools of that catch-22 scenario, Sylvia Marketing & Public Relations provides charter schools with the outcomes of a full-time director of communication for far less than an entry-level specialist’s salary would require.
School PR can help build a positive school reputation. Public relations for a charter school include sharing good news and information about the school’s success with the media (media relations) and sharing information directly with stakeholders. These activities help shape public views of schools and can help schools stand out from other schools in the area. This can lead to greater success in fundraising and attracting top talent. To harness your school’s competitive advantages and create a positive school reputation, you’ll need to be strategic about your communication efforts. By effectively communicating your school’s mission, values, and successes through educational content and various digital channels, you can foster awareness of your school’s accomplishments and positively impact perceptions of the school among the public.
A good public relations program is a powerful tool to build a positive school reputation and create an organization-wide culture that supports student success. It helps schools communicate their mission, vision, and values, as well as the good work they are doing in the community.
It’s important for schools to leverage media outlets to spread positive stories about the school and get involved in community activities to build relationships and trust. This is important as the public, for the most part, sees the local media as a trustworthy source of information. As charter schools continue to generate positive news coverage, administrators will see increased enrollments and attract more experienced instructors. Over time, positive media coverage will generate more positive media inquiries, which can keep down the costs of PR.
Finally, establishing a crisis communication plan is also important so that any potential issues are addressed quickly. This can help protect the school’s reputation and ensure that any negative publicity is managed swiftly and efficiently.