This month I started a new job with a school district that has never had a public relations program before. Like many districts, they are so focused on education they have not tried using social media to communicate with parents.
Only three of us on the district leadership team are social media users, so I had my work cut out for me. Where to begin? Here are five strategies I used to persuade leadership that Facebook and Twitter are must-have communication tools:
1) Start with research: I began with a survey of district leaders to find out their communication needs. Communicating with younger parents and increasing two-way communications both emerged as priorities for the team. I used this information and statistics on social media users to make my case.
2) Find your tech allies: On our staff retreat, I soon discovered which members of the team are fellow techies, who see the value of using new communication strategies. Having people in multiple roles voice their support for social media demonstrated a variety of possible uses, from emergency announcements to testing reminders and volunteer recruitment.
3) Point out safeguards: Because I could speak from past experience, I was able to address the group’s fears and questions. I explained the options available to page managers, from controlling whether others can post photos on your site to deleting the rare offensive post to blocking repeat offenders. I also shared an example of site rules, and made a commitment to close monitoring.
4) Tell them a story: After sharing examples of the use of Twitter and Facebook in dealing with school district incidents and controversy (from the local mall shooting to budget cut rumors), they started to understand the advantages social media could bring to district communications.
5) Promise to share: Remind them that just because the district is on social media, they don’t have to be. By making a commitment to keep them informed of both controversies and compliments that bubble up on social media, the leadership team felt included in the benefits of social media without being pressured into becoming users of it.
Did it work? Here’s proof positive: www.facebook.com/GladstoneSchoolDistrict.