A small school communications office can’t be everywhere, telling every story. That’s why I believe the future of our roles will involve a lot more training, coaching and empowering others in our districts to tell their own stories.
That’s exactly what the communications team at Arlington Public Schools (APS) in Arlington, Virginia has done with their school PR liaisons program.
The program was originally started in 2004 with volunteers from each school. After 10 years, there was only a meager average of one story per school being submitted to the communications office by the volunteer liaisons every other month. The program, as it stood, was not growing.
For the 2014-2015 school year, the superintendent supported a new effort to pay a small stipend to each of the liaisons, at a total cost to the district of $51,000, less than the cost of adding a full-time employee. School PR liaisons now have to fill out an application and be chosen by their school’s principal. Further, they sign a contract that outlines the performance objectives they have to meet.
The APS communications team supports the liaisons with a kickoff training, iPad minis, quarterly meetings and weekly emails to suggest hashtags to use and campaigns to promote.
The results from implementing this structured program are astounding. The number of APS Twitter accounts — representing schools, departments and staff — went from just a few dozen to more than 500 in less than a year. Twitter reach district-wide went from 100,000 to 1 million viewers per week. Readership of district publications skyrocketed.
So that others may replicate their success, the Arlington Public Schools communications team has generously provided the entire overview and documentation of this program, for which they won an NSPRA Golden Achievement Award.
Download the APS School PR Liaisons Program Overview and Documentation. This document includes:
- School PR liaison job application
- Quarterly goal/task evaluation form
- Content tracking form
- A link to the PR Liaison Training Manual
- Sample weekly emails to PR liaisons
- Agendas for kickoff training and quarterly meetings
- A sample editorial calendar
If you are looking to amplify the reach of your district’s communications, especially on social media, it will be easier if you don’t have to do it alone.