This blog is one in a series from K-12 public relations experts about how they are using crisis communications strategies to prepare and inform their local communities amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Lesley Bruinton, APR, is the Public Relations Coordinator at Tuscaloosa City Schools in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and NSPRA President-elect.
In light of the novel coronavirus transmission, school districts across the nation are grappling with how to communicate protocols for a response. It’s new territory for sure. If your district was not able to dust off the pandemic crisis communications response, here are a few steps you can take to quickly get back on track. First, breathe. Your colleagues are looking to you for guidance on how best to communicate–because, after all, you are the expert. Your demeanor and your communication efforts must communicate the calm to stakeholders. Secondly, determine a protocol for resource sharing. People of goodwill will share resources from their respective content areas, whether it is your school PR colleagues student health, social work, facilities, English as a Second Language or counseling. It’s all valuable information, but it’s all overwhelming. Work with your colleagues to find out which pieces of information should be shared and when. Recognize (for the time being), this will be an on-going communication issue and you don’t have to disseminate all the resources at once.
Consider the manner in which you communicate this information. The communication channel doesn’t matter so much as selecting methods that resonate with your stakeholders. The key here is to do it consistently. Finally, get ahead of the panic by being transparent and proactive in your efforts. By thinking strategically, you can communicate the calm.
P.S. One important thing to note is that this experience doesn’t have to be your experience next time a crisis of this nature occurs. Take the time to develop a process document yourself based on what you are learning in this experience. This document will give you a starting point for next time.
*For additional tips check out the #k12prchat and join the conversation about best practices for Coronavirus communication and more.