Back To School, Back to School

“It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.”- You’ve Got Mail

Kentucky public schools are busy preparing for students to arrive in the next few weeks. In most communities, school buildings are already filled with a flurry of activity by teachers and staff working toward the big day. What about the school public relations or communications office? How do you, the school communication professionals prepare for the first few days of school? After posting information, updating printed materials, planning for meetings and professional developments, below are a few more items to consider for the new year.

Update Contact Lists

The end of summer is a great time to re-check all contact lists in your phone and email accounts. You might also ask, “If at some point over the next 10-months, I find myself dealing with a school communication issue while on an island with nothing but my cell phone (with a fully charged battery free cellular & wifi, of course), can I still assist my school district?”

  • Do you have your superintendent’s and district administrator’s cell phone numbers? Can you get in touch with any and all schools and leaders at any time? Has anyone changed positions, new to the role that you have not added, yet? 
  • What about emergency and law enforcement PIO contacts? Can you call your local Public Information Officers during an emergency if you’re not at your desk? Do they know it’s you that is calling (do they have your number)? 
  • School-level communicators? Do you have an updated list of individuals in the schools who are answering the phones, sending messages to households or teachers? Who are the employees creating newsletters or making mass phone calls, etc.? 
  • Students & Parents? Do you have access to your district’s communication tools outside of your office? This could include a household notification system (One Call, SchoolMessenger, AlertNow, etc), district website, social media. Can you send a message from your district if you are not in your office? 
  • Local media? Do you know how to contact the media and your local reporters before they call you? 

School crises do not always happen when we are at our desks or with access to our laptops or computers. And let’s face it, we aren’t sitting around waiting for them to happen, either. But when (not if) issues occur, our schools and communities expect instant communication. So, save some panic and update those contact lists. (A new or extra phone charger might be a good back-to-school purchase, too.)

Prepare for Local Media Stories
You’ve already been working to share information about back-to-school events, open houses and opportunities for students and families to visit schools and meet new teachers. Although extremely important to share with parents, those events happen every year and are not likely to generate any type of news from your local media. So what is new in your school district for the upcoming school year? Are you opening a new school? Beginning the year with construction? Do you have new principals or leaders? Are you starting new programs? Have any rules or policies changed since last school year? Be proactive and make a list of new items for 2014-15 for local media, include facts about each item and contacts for more information. By making this list, you may also discover which school you need to visit on the first morning with students.

The beginning of the school year is also a good time to work with the local media on more general community-interest topics like school bus safety. Live morning TV and radio are great to help remind drivers the first few mornings of the school year. It has been a few months since commuters have shared the road and neighborhoods with these big yellow vehicles with flashing lights, and drivers without children may not be aware of school days and schedules. You may consider sending routine bus safety information to your local media and remind them that buses will soon be on the road. Let the media also know an approximate time buses begin their routes so they can remind the community that schools are working to transport children beginning very early in the morning.

The First Week of School
After two quiet months, school buildings will soon seem as they should: full of students. Students and teachers alike are excited to meet and get to know each other, teach and learn new lessons, spend time with friends and get back into routines. Do you know what is exciting for public relations?? New photos, videos and stories to tell! The first week of school is a great time to invest some time with a camera, visiting classrooms and schools. Not only does this give you an opportunity to meet new employees and re-lear school buildings and classrooms; teachers and students are all sporting their new back-to-school clothes and haircuts. They have new, clean school supplies, and your photo backdrops include bright, crisp bulletin boards and freshly-polished desks and floors. Go visit! You will use these student-learning / school-day photos throughout the entire year.

I hope everyone has a great start to the 2014-15! I look forward to sharing ideas and topics through this new blog from the Kentucky School Public Relations Association. If you have any questions, concerns, ideas or stories to share, please contact me at leslie.peek@bgreen.kyschools.us.

Leslie Peek
Public Relations Coordinator
Bowling Green Independent Schools
KYSPRA President, 2014-15

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