Note: this is the sixth in a 10-part series on topics related to communication and successful school operating or bond referendum efforts that originally appeared on the Minnesota Association of School Administrators website. These posts are not meant to be an all-inclusive guide for school district leadership, but rather offer suggestions and guidance on school district referendum communication-related issues. All opinions expressed are my own.)
I find the tools and channels of PR2.0 exciting, extremely useful and full of potential. However, based on the feedback I get from most superintendents and many school communication professionals, I may be alone in those feelings!
I do understand why. The way we communicate with our stakeholders is changing, and change can be hard. Especially when the change removes a communication wall or buffer that has been in place for years. But before you write off using PR2.0 tools to support your referendum communications efforts, consider the following tips:
- If you do not already have a presence on Twitter, Facebook or You Tube/Vimeo, you may want to wait until after November 8 to launch one.
- If you do have a presence, consider setting up a separate account for your referendum-related communications. This is especially useful for Facebook accounts as it allows any heated commentary to be contained in one spot.
- Do not remove negative comments unless they violate your policies. Instead, use the social space to correct misinformation or to acknowledge differences in opinion. If comments are no longer productive, it is acceptable to inform readers and fans that you are closing comments on that subject. The same rule applies to comments on your district blogs.
- Set up a listening dashboard or Google alert so you are aware of online conversations regarding your referendum efforts. This can help you identify upcoming issues and determine which Frequently Asked Questions to include on your website or Facebook page.
- Don’t bother commenting or responding to comments found on other external blog posts. It’s kind of like picking a fight with a newspaper: you’ll never get the last word. Instead, monitor what is being said and address any meaningful issues (or correct misinformation) in your blog or on your Facebook page.
- Consider recording a weekly video log (Vlog) or recording a Podcast about the good things happening in your district. Speak naturally and without a formal script, but be sure that you get your point across. Also, include interviews with students, staff or community members with their comments about the effort. Remember however, that you are always informing and not advocating. Post videos to YouTube or Vimeo (disable comment feature). Post Podcasts to iTunes podcast library. Share video and podcast links on your Facebook referendum page and website. (Note: many laptops now include a built-in camera for easy recording. A Flip video camera is another inexpensive option.)
- Don’t just post a news release or article to your website AND Facebook AND Tweet a link to it. Think about how you might use the same information in three to four different ways. Can you revise or adjust the headline and tweak the text by adding some new information?
- Use SlideShare to share PowerPoint presentations, especially those that are too large to send via email (SlideShare accounts are free).
- Make it easy for community members to contact you with any questions they may have. Set up a email specifically for referendum questions, and respond within 24 hours. Be sure to respond to comments left on Facebook as soon as possible
- Be prepared for negativity and criticism but remember, every interaction is an opportunity to get your message out!
Next week: Three weeks to E-Day. How’s your plan doing?