5 Ways to Improve your Community Relations
When turmoil hits a school district, as in a few noteworthy cases of late, it's critical to already have community support solidly in place. The National School Public Relations Association (www.nspra.org) offers administrators these tips on maximizing community-relations initiatives:
Ask parents to serve on hiring committees. Invite them to help pre-screen applications and to serve on employee-interview teams. Their perspective is important-and they'll learn about the hiring process.
Use automated e-mail notification systems. Include a space on your web site where parents can keep in the loop by adding their e-mail address to the district distribution list. Use these lists to generate quick messages for emergency weather closings and other events.
Create a separate PR office e-mail address to organize information and enhance the district's professional stature.
Hold a customer-service training workshop for your staff. Often, administrative assistants and other staff are a parent's first and only exposure to school or district administration. Review the principles of good customer service with these employees to improve communication.
Market your schools among Realtors. Hold a seminar for brokers and agents at one of your schools, during which the superintendent talks to Realtors about their importance to the district and shows them what they're selling to potential residents. Send magnets to real estate offices listing your PR staff's phone number as the "District Realty Hot Line."
Kris Houser is assistant director of school/community relations for [Illinois] School District U-46, and a past president of the National School Public Relations Association's Illinois chapter.