If, in the public schools as elsewhere, public relations becomes viewed as hiring someone to answer the phone on an “as needed” basis, that’s a setback for the solid relational grounding that any communication-conscious organization needs. Good PR requires planning and engagement as ongoing functions.
These thoughts arise in happening upon a story from the Coatesville School District in Pennsylvania, which apparently is under some grand jury heat over allegations of misusing taxpayer funds. So it’s hired a PR consultant on an hourly basis. That’s a panicky approach to communication, not a prudent one.
Leadership, of course, should include avoiding questionable policies that might draw a grand jury’s attention. But taking a “hired gun” approach to PR, should a crisis arise, actually reveals a disparaging notion of the importance of up-front communication in running a school district.
Three other of Coatesville’s neighboring school districts with salaried public relations officers apparently understand that. Is PR an expense? Yes. But properly understood and used, it’s an advisable, enlightened expense.
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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