Public Relations in Schools

July 12, 2022
Public Relations in P.E

The NSPRA (National School Public Relations Association) professional definition is:

"Educational public relations is a planned and systematic management function to help improve the programs and services of an educational organization. It relies on a comprehensive two-way communications process involving both internal and external publics, with a goal of stimulating a better understanding of the role, objectives, accomplishments and needs of the organization. Educational public relations programs assist in interpreting public attitudes, identify and help shape policies and procedures in the public interest, and carry on involvement and information activities which earn public understanding and support."

Why School Public Relations?

If you ever need to explain to a school district why they need a school PR professional now more than ever, here's some information that may help:

  • This is the media age - school communication needs have increased dramatically and become more complex. A school district needs a professional PR person to develop and execute its communication plans through both print/electronic media and face-to-face communication, and to handle relations with the multitude of media that call school districts weekly.
  • Education is under attack - from taxpayers, business groups and others. A school district needs a professional school PR person to publicize the positive news about student/staff achievement and programs, and to develop a coordinated proactive, rather than reactive, approach that anticipates problems before they develop. If there is no positive communication from the school district, the critics' voices are the only ones that will be heard.
  • The scope of successful school public relations has expanded greatly - from what in the past was mostly written communication, to a greatly increased need for face-to-face communication with the many publics in your community. A school district needs a professional school PR person to schedule community relations programming, Realtor orientations, breakfasts with Chambers of Commerce or clergy, and American Education Week open houses, to build informed support and solid community relationships.

Key Points About the Value of School PR Programming from NSPRA Leaders

Now that we are in the 21st century and the Age of Information, a school district needs a communications professional to manage communication strategies that are proactive for a school district, instead of reactive. School districts must make a choice to be an active player in their community, not a passive one of the past.

Having someone whose responsibility it is to be constantly looking at the messages we send our internal and external publics is invaluable to a public institution which depends on its community's support. Communications is part of everyone's job in a school district; however, someone has to be charged with the responsibility to manage the district's communications.

- Marsha Chappelow, Ph.D.

The ebb and flow of public opinion is critical to school districts. Just as most districts have personnel to manage the teaching and learning, human resources and business functions, it only makes sense to have someone responsible for managing the public opinion function of the organization.

School PR professionals monitor how the district is perceived by stakeholders and then can help implement strategies to improve public opinion. Any district that chooses not to employ at least one school PR professional is clearly leaving the public opinion function to chance.

- Bob Noyed, APR

Getting a Public Relations Program Started

At NSPRA we are often asked what is the best way to start a public relations program for a school district or a school. And even more frequently we are asked, "How can you get us out of this horrible public relations situation we are in?"

Getting started is often difficult because critics say you shouldn't use tax dollars for "puffery, " "spin doctoring, " and techniques to make individuals like board members and superintendents look good. And in these cases, NSPRA agrees with these critics.

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