Sooner or later every school PR professional faces a crisis that has the potential to damage or derail a school’s or district’s reputation, says Naomi Hunter, APR, director of communications for the Redwood City (Calif.) School District.
“Bad things happen in every school — but you can maintain and build trust when your school’s reputation is at stake” is the title of her article in the December 2015 edition of Principal Communicator, a monthly newsletter from the National School Public Relations Association.
You can read the article online here.
One of our KYSPRA members asked:
What’s your take on covering events where groups from the community come to your schools to give gifts to students in need and they (both the school and groups) want you to publicize it?”
This a great — and timely — question. Many districts and schools have holiday programs, coat drives and other events to make sure all our students have a wonderful holiday.
But there’s no good press that makes up for embarrassing a kid and their family.
All of us appreciate the generosity and good intentions of businesses and groups that want to help our students, and the gifts are needed by many of our students who live in poverty.
But, our first priority is always our students, not our own PR goals or the PR goals of the businesses and schools. Coverage of an event like this can hurt in two ways:
- Identifies specific students as being “poor,” which violates regulations if if’s tied to free/reduced anyway. Not to mention it is just flat-out demeaning.
- Gives the image of certain schools/districts as being “where the poor kids go,” reducing the school down to just a label.
Well, we asked and KYSPRA answered. A compilation of responses yielded two main points:
- Limit photography to the adults/volunteers who are bringing the gifts or doing something with them (sorting/unloading, etc.), or your school staff interacting/receiving the donations. KYSPRA members consistently said they avoid having the students that are receiving gifts in photos/videos — and if they did, they were shot in such a way that they could not be identified (backs of heads, hands, feet).
- Be proactive in finding other stories that share the story that you want to tell about these schools. Are these students/schools giving back to the community themselves in some way? Are they exceeding expectations in any areas? Are there individual stories of teachers/students/ classes that break the mold of the stereotype? Talk about those.