In the past, our district’s cultural mindset was that we, the Office of Communications, would take care of communications. Either we would go out and cover a story and take photos, or staff would send us information or pictures. We would then distribute the story or information districtwide via Twitter, Facebook or the district email newsletter.
However, even with only 16 schools, getting to each and every event can prove a problem with a small communications team. In the age of social media and web tools, we can’t and shouldn’t be the only funnel from which information gets out to our community. That kind of process is not only inefficient and untimely but it makes communication the responsibility of someone else other than the school.
This school year, we started giving our staff a dose of tough love. When someone sends us a photo to tweet out, a small event to cover or information to distribute, our team has gently refused and instead offered staff the opportunity to learn how to do it themselves.
This sounds harsh; however, our team provides staff with support and structure through our new mantra, “empower, train and coach.”
Empower: Giving district staff the permission and access to communicate directly to their audiences
Train: Providing staff with training on communications tools, an overview of district policies to follow, and guidelines and standards for communicating effectively and consistently
Coach: Offering continuing support for improving communications, including technical tips and content ideas
This framework applies not only to social media, but a wide variety of communications tools, including email newsletters, new school websites and blogs.
The change in mindset hasn’t been easy or perfect, and some school staff aren’t yet on board. However, some who were originally reluctant are now some of the most avid and creative in their communications, especially on Twitter.
This principal was very reluctant to join Twitter for many reasons. But after months of tough love from us, he was ready to be empowered. Now he is one of the most awesome and natural tweeters we have ever seen.
The result of our tough love has been viral. More and more staff are seeing the value of communicating on their own and are ready for training. The demand has been so high that we are expanding beyond one-on-one training and our Social Media Tips articles and are planning to develop recorded training videos and regularly scheduled group trainings.
We anticipate many bumps in the road ahead. But ultimately, more voices sharing the great stories in our schools will be more powerful than just a few.