“With ever-increasing public scrutiny, conducting effective school public relations campaigns is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessary!” (Newquist, 1997) In order to convince the public that their money is being spent effectively, schools must ensure they are viewed in a positive light whenever possible. In this day and age of tax increases and an uncertain economy, taxpayers want to know their tax dollars are not being wasted. Unlike other businesses that produce tangible products, the schools are often viewed as a money pit, because its investors, the taxpayers often do not see their dollars in action. However, schools do produce a product, and that is productive, knowledgeable members of society. The only way the taxpayers will be knowledgeable of this is if the school gets involved in public relations.
Unlike corporations, schools do not have unlimited revenue potential. Therefore what can the school do to promote itself, given its very limited and often non-existent monetary resources for public relations? The school can utilize its number one asset for public relations -- students. Students are often overlooked when it comes to public relations, however; they are a readily available public relations tool. Students’ knowledge and experiences are the products the schools produce. Hence, if their experiences are positive they will go into the community and share their experiences with other stakeholders, such as parents, community leaders, politicians, and other students.
Teachers are also vital in promoting a positive school image. The majority of students’ interactions will be with other students and teachers. Hence, teachers must make the students’ experiences at school both enlightening and positive. Teachers can ensure students have something positive to say when asked, “What did you do at school today?” At the end of each day or period the teacher can take a “few minutes to highlight the activities and accomplishments of the day” (Pawlas, 1999). Teachers must remember their actions are viewed as the actions of the school. Therefore, everything that is done must be done with the image of the school in mind.
Pawlas (1999) enumerates several other things teachers can do to develop a positive school image: do their best job of teaching, make the classroom inviting, dress up bulletin boards, make the first parent contact positive, give personal appearance a boost, attend community meetings, join professional organizations, get to know the newspaper’s education writer, and use classroom volunteers. Classroom volunteers from the community bring their knowledge to the classroom, at the same time they can see what is being is taught, how it is being taught, and the impact the teacher is having on the students. These volunteers will eventually take this positive information into the community.
Students, teachers and classroom volunteers are not the only people involved in promoting the school’s positive image. The administration must also take an active role in promoting the school’s image. It must share both the successes of the school, as well as the school’s failures, with the public. However, how information is disseminated is at the administration’s discretion. This is where planning comes in. Administrators want the school to be viewed in the best light possible. In essence, an assertive effort must be made to get positive information out about the school. This should be an ongoing process, “the more times positive mentions of your school or district appear in the media, the more the public will perceive your schools in a positive light” (Newquist, 1997). Therefore, administrators must have a plan to get information of successes to the media.
The school’s administrators should develop a relationship with the media. Why? Schools that contact the media often, get more attention! As a result, the administrators must develop a plan to bombard the media with the school’s successes. This can be done by inviting “reporters and editors to special functions to show them ‘good news’ in action” (Newquist, 1997). However this should not occur once, it should be ongoing. The administrators should develop a relationship with the school reporters for the newspaper and television news. Important information such as duties, telephone numbers, fax numbers, e-mail addresses and other pertinent information should be kept by the administrator. When successes and positive activities occur at the school these people should be invited and sent photographs and videotapes. In addition, administrators should encourage teachers to photograph, videotape and document classroom highlights that can be shared with the media.
Unfortunately, there will be times when failures or negative information, such as declining test scores, school violence, staff reduction, and other things must be released about the school. The administrators must “be prepared to tell the facts right away” (Newquist, 1999). First, the staff should be made aware of the situation and the facts, immediately. Secondly the parents should be notified. This can be done with a clear concise letter that states the facts and the school’s plan of action. People tend to accept change more readily when they are armed with information. (Hersey, Blanchard, & Johnson, 2001, p. 389). Thirdly, the administrators should delegate one individual who is thoroughly knowledgeable of the situation to speak with the media. A written statement should be prepared and used as a reference. The delegate should not say anything they are not now willing to have printed. They should speak slowly and clearly, and they should remember the goal is to disseminate the information while preserving the school’s good image.
In spite of what the Sprite commercials say, image is everything! Thus, in order to ensure the school is viewed in a positive light, everyone in the school must make an assertive effort to project a positive image for the school. This includes teachers who ensure students’ experiences are positive, and maintain positive communications with the parents and community. It also includes students and classroom volunteers who can tell their families and community about positive experiences at school. Lastly, the administrators must be straightforward and honest with parents, teachers and the media when disseminating information on the school’s successes, as well as its failures.
Hersey, P.; Blanchard, K.; & Johnson, D. (2001). Management of Organizational Behavior: Leading Human
Resources (8th edition).
Newquist, C. (1999). Public relations 101: How-to tips for school administrators. Obtained online at:
Newquist, C. (1997). Best face forward. Obtained online at:
Comments to: email@example.com
Pawlas, G. (1999, May). Working magic on the school image [Electronic version]. The Education Digest 64(9),
About the author:
Shanika Taylor has taught science at the middle school level, in Miami-Dade County Public Schools for five years. She has also taught Introduction to Education at Miami-Dade Community College. She is presently certified in Educational Leadership, Middle Grades Science, and Business Education. During the past five years, she has served as the science club chairperson, published the school newspaper, and mentored new teachers. She has earned a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Nova Southeastern University and a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Florida International University. Currently, she is working on a doctorate degree in Educational Leadership, with a concentration in Organizational Leadership, at Nova Southeastern University. In 1997, she was nominated for the Sallie Mae Beginning Teacher of the Year Award. Upon completing her doctoral degree, Shanika plans to teach at the university level, conduct research and consult.
*Image courtesy of David Castello Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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