Joe DiBenedetto, Senior Director
Joe DiBenedetto, Senior Director

The success of a community is often tied to the success of its school system.  As a result, it’s crucial to have an engaged audience – from administrators and teachers to students and parents.  Keeping your audience engaged requires transparency and effective communications, which is why some schools employ communications professionals or hire public relations firms to keep their constituents informed.

Frequent communication with your audience is vital to building and maintaining goodwill. Furthermore, proactively sharing news about the activities within your schools – whether positive or negative – strengthens confidence and trust. Both are invaluable when a crisis occurs as parents, community residents and key influencers are more likely to give the school some leeway if equity has been built up.

Schools that have failed to build equity more easily suffer the consequences, which may include decreased academic performance. If that sounds like a stretch, consider a school that has lost the support of its parents because of distrust. Such distrust may cause parents to pull back from their participation in school activities and this perceived lack of interest may rub off on their children, who upon seeing their parents’ indifference with school decide not to try as hard as they were previously. Research shows that students with parents who are involved in their school tend to have fewer behavioral problems and better academic performance.

I’ve been providing communications support to schools for the better part of two decades. Over that time, I’ve seen first-hand the impact that public relations activities can have on schools and their community. Thanks to technological advancements, one of the positive changes over the past two decades is the immediacy in which schools can communicate with its constituents. No longer must a school wait to share positive news through a printed district newsletter sent home once every three months. Today, schools can share news instantaneously via a variety of social media properties – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – or by text, email, etc.

Another benefit of these advancements and the shift to social media is that engagement is now a two-way street, with parents and community members able to participate directly in a dialogue with the schools – to share their thoughts and experiences as part of a community forum. While two-way engagement can present challenges and is further proof of why schools should look at communications as a full time commitment, it’s at the core of solidifying the relationship between the school and its target audience. Unfortunately, too many schools don’t pay enough attention to their communications tactics and channels.

So it’s incumbent on schools today to take advantage of the many communications tools available to them. Doing so will go a long way toward developing a community committed to supporting the academic, social and personal well-being of its children.

Joe DiBenedetto is a senior director specializing in education public relations at Lambert