Sharing positive stories about your students, teachers, and programs is one of the best ways to develop connections with parents and school communities, and also build support for public education.

School communicators are often faced with pessimistic news and find themselves reacting to unfavorable stories and negative press. All too often the news of the day is focused on teacher misbehavior, student misconduct, union conflicts, budget cuts, bullying incidents, personnel conflicts, or a frustrated stakeholder who voices their concerns to the media. These negative stories can stay in a local news cycle for several days or longer, and stretch the communications resources of every school district, large and small.

To counteract negative news events, school communicators need to strategically focus on a positive storytelling program. Here are four steps that are essential for a successful K-12 storytelling program.

1. Have a mission driving your strategy

A strategy cannot just be bolted on to what you are already doing. You need to make sure your strategy and your content are aligned to your district’s goals and objectives. Here are some questions to think through when drafting your stories:

  • Who are you trying to reach with your content?
  • What value are you going to give them?
  • Why is this important to them?
  • What do you want them to do next?

2. Build a positive story pipeline

At the start of every school year, let your principals, department heads, and staff leaders know they can support your schools by sharing positive stories about student success and achievement. You should consider extending this invitation to outside stakeholders like parents and community members. After all, who better to write a convincing story about why to attend your district than a parent or student already enrolled?

Once you get the word out, make it easy for stakeholders to share their stories with you via email, your website, or social media. To ensure contribution, make a commitment to them that if they share stories, those stories will get circulated in a variety of ways. Let them know how important storytelling is to the shared effort to build support for your district and schools.

3. Picture it – short and colorful

Short stories will keep people interested and adding colorful pictures will help them have a greater impact. Nothing helps to connect a story with the reader better than a photo of smiling children or happy students who are engaged in their education. So, when you share your stories make sure to:

  • Keep them short (one or two paragraphs)
  • Connect the story to a photo or video
  • Keep them relevant by tapping into topics your audience cares about
  • Engage readers by writing as if you were talking to them directly. Use words like you, your, we, and us

4. Maximize use of digital storytelling tools

Websites, mobile apps, social media, and other communication technologies are digital storytelling tools that connect schools with parents and the community. Stretch yourself to think of new ways to use these tools to deliver your positive stories on more than one medium.

For example, share a new blog your Superintendent wrote on social media, include it in your newsletter, and make it front and center on your home page. Here are a few other ideas to help get you started with stretching your use of digital tools:

  • Evaluate your website to see if it allows for social sharing and commenting to engage your audiences. Two-way communication opens dialogues that can result in more positive stories.
  • Discover ways to deliver your stories fast and on the go by posting them to your website and social media from your mobile device.
  • Consider using Facebook ads to boost your posts about positive stories to expand your exposure.

Even a one-person communications department at a small district can build a positive storytelling program by focusing on these four elements. Get started today to overcome the day-to-day pressures and overshadow any negative stories about your schools. By designing a strategy that aligns with your goals, building a pipeline of stories with your network of storytellers, and by using the best digital storytelling tools available, your positive stories can counter-balance any negative news and continue to build engagement within your community.

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