The following is a sampling of the questions and answers from this month's installment. Questions are edited for brevity. Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org with a question or comment, and don't forget to check back regularly at www.SchoolSafetySeries.com for this and other great resources.
If we should engage stakeholders in same manner as pre-crisis and that has been our district Facebook page, how should we best communicate during a crisis?
Our social media is primarily used to showcase the positive aspects of our district. There is apprehension about using it during crisis situations. Is social media a channel that most schools use for communicating during crisis?
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy largely because the type of crisis or incident will dictate whether or not to communicate, and to which stakeholder group.
In a crisis, targeted communication to stakeholder groups - especially staff and parents - is far more effective. A targeted approach utilizing your mass notification system - voice, email and text (SMS) - reaches impacted stakeholders directly, and will be seen as more personal. Consider an internal communications mobile app to get efficient communication to your staff.
Not every stakeholder group will want to receive critical communications in the same way, and they certainly don’t all use the same social media platforms for the same purposes. It’s important to identify your key stakeholder groups’ most preferred and useful means of communication. Include this information in your Crisis Communications Plan.
Social media platforms get information out to a broader audience, some who may not be among your stakeholders or impacted by the incident. Use of social media invites others to weigh in and comment on your information, which is ripe for negative and damaging commentary.
Yes, he mentioned that our social media platforms are traditionally for "good news" & maybe don't use in a crisis, but if that is what our parents are used to, what to use?
Absent a more effective communication tool, social media may be your preferred medium of choice. This question assumes that ALL your parents are online at the same time when a crisis occurs, and that simply isn’t the case.
Social media may not fulfill a stakeholder group’s need for meaningful engagement and dialogue. The traditional “spray and pray” techniques of sending information to a wide net of stakeholders is not only ineffective, but potentially dangerous to your organization’s integrity and credibility.
Our community has a social media site (not run by the district) where many tend to discuss issues related to the district. We have chosen not to jump into this.
Good decision. It may be useful to consider circles of influence among your stakeholder groups. Target information to these influencers with factual information that may be used to provide a counter opinion to a school-related issue on a community social media site.
Can you give an example of how to involve stakeholders in decision-making? What might that look like?
Use of parent or other stakeholder advisory groups in decision-making, or at least the process leading to a recommendation or decision is engagement, which our stakeholders crave. The most recent examples are engaging parents in the process of determining late-start or early release as a response to severe weather days. By empowering parents in this decision-making process, you build valuable social capital.
Rick J. Kaufman, APR is the executive director of community relations and emergency management for Bloomington (MN) Public Schools. He is a nationally respected consultant, trainer and author on crisis management and communication. He served as the Crisis Response Team lead for the Columbine High School tragedy in 1999, and continues to work with school districts across the country to manage and recover from school violence incidents, including Broward County Public Schools and San Bernardino City Unified Public Schools. Mr. Kaufman is the author of the Complete Crisis Communication Management Manual for Schools (2016, NSPRA).