Long-time Journalist Jerry Gallagher To Lead Donovan Group’s Iowa Office

Long-time Journalist Jerry Gallagher To Lead Donovan Group’s Iowa Office

Long-time Waterloo Journalist Jerry Gallagher Joins Educational Communications Firm Donovan Group: Gallagher’s addition will allow the firm to deliver its communications services to schools, districts and educational organizations throughout Iowa

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Jerry Gallagher, known to many Iowans as an investigative reporter and news anchor for KWWL in Waterloo, has officially joined Donovan Group LLC as an associate.

Donovan Group is a Wisconsin-based communications firm focused exclusively on education and educational policy. As an associate, Gallagher will help lead the firm’s work in serving the needs of public schools and districts throughout Iowa.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jerry Gallagher to our team,” said Joe Donovan, president of Donovan Group. “Jerry is a true professional who has a stellar reputation for his integrity and accurate reporting while serving as a trusted broadcast journalist in the state. He is also a great person and someone we believe will provide exceptional value to school leaders across Iowa. This is a big step forward for our firm.”

Gallagher, who most recently anchored “Today in Iowa” for NBC affiliate KWWL, spent 19 years as a journalist. He started his career in 1996 as an intern for KWWL, quickly moving on to serve as a reporter and anchor for KCAU in Sioux City. He later was an assistant news director and anchor at WQOW in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, before returning to Waterloo in 2014.

Throughout his career, Gallagher covered a range of major news stories, including a “Brothers in Arms” profile for which he earned a Midwest Regional Emmy in 2015. He also received accolades as an investigative journalist, including a special report on the state’s gas tax in April 2017.

Now, Gallagher will pivot his career to the world of education, an area for which he has long maintained a deep interest. His wife, Kelly, was a public school teacher for 15 years, and she now serves as a school improvement consultant.

“While I truly enjoyed my time as a broadcast journalist, I am incredibly excited to take this next step in my career and fully explore my passion for education,” Gallagher said. “Donovan Group is a widely known and respected name in Wisconsin education. My goal is to help the firm provide that same level of value and service to schools and districts here in Iowa.”

Founded in 2004, Donovan Group is a communications and community engagement firm that focuses exclusively on education. Over the years, its work has involved some of the most critical and urgent issues facing schools, districts and educational organizations. The firm’s clients range from large urban schools and districts to small, one-school rural districts.

Donovan Group’s Iowa location is in Cedar Falls. To learn more about the firm and its work, visit www.donovan-group.com.

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Please direct inquiries to:
Steve Bailey, 800-317-7147, steve.bailey@donovan-group.com

Get Out of the Bubble

Get Out of the Bubble

Educational leaders often communicate in bubbles. Based on our communications efforts, we receive feedback from the same group of people, often the most actively engaged parents. And, as a result, the way in which we communicate, including how we communicate and what we communicate, becomes more and more targeted at those who are already engaged.

It is important to break out of the communications bubble and to attempt to reach those with whom you do not currently have a strong connection.

If you are superintendent, this may include community members whose children have long since graduated. It can also include reaching out to business leaders or locally elected municipal leaders like the mayor. It can also mean connecting with the local police chief or sheriff.

Principals may seek to connect with parents of young children who are not currently old enough to attend school, community members whose property abuts the school or leaders of local groups that use the school for their meetings.

Seek always to expand your communications circle and not fall into the trap of communicating in a bubble.

School District Communication Tip of the Day: Crisis Communication—Lining Up Your Team

School District Communication Tip of the Day: Crisis Communication—Lining Up Your Team

In the last two posts, I outlined what I consider to be the first steps to take when communicating during a crisis situation. These steps are:

Step 1: Get as many facts as you can, as quickly as you can.

Get the who, what, where, when, and how. Be as specific as possible. Write down what you have learned, and keep a record of when you learned specific information.

Step 2: Determine your communications responsibilities.

This includes determining with whom you need to communicate, such as the police, parents, other community members, and the media. In this stage, you should also determine when you need to communicate, identifying who you need to communicate with immediately, who you need to communicate with in the next ten minutes, and the next half hour, etc.

You should also determine who else needs to be communicated with, but later. I call this second tier communication.

Now I would like to discuss the third step of crisis communication: lining up your team.

Step 3: Line up your team.

Every school and district leader should have at least one other trusted colleague who can assist them in a crisis situation. It is best to have a small group of people who can provide assistance.

These are individuals who can help with the second tier communications; for example, they might reach out to important stakeholders who need to receive communications, but on a less urgent basis.

It is important to have trusted colleagues who are ready to assist with communicating during a crisis situation for two reasons:

First, it is often the case that the tier one communications that you must perform as the school or district leader will end up taking more time than expected. This is often the situation when working with the police.

Second, school and district leaders often underestimate the mental and emotional energy that communicating during a crisis takes. Having someone else to help you with the heavy lifting is not a sign of weakness, but a smart communications practice.

Identify this person before a crisis, and stay in touch with them to do crisis communications planning, something we will discuss in greater detail in a future video.

Crisis Communication—Prioritizing Contacts

Crisis Communication—Prioritizing Contacts

In an earlier post, we outlined the first step of communicating after a crisis situation: getting all of the facts.

Today, I want to talk about determining with whom you should communicate and when you should communicate after a crisis.

Please note that I use the term crisis to discuss urgent issues, those that require our immediate attention, but not the kinds of tragic situations that we may see on the national news.

It is often very difficult for school and district leaders to determine with whom they should communicate immediately after a crisis situation. In fact, that task can seem, at the times, overwhelming.

Here is a tip. There are generally two tiers of communication that need to take place after a crisis situation. Tier One communications are those that need to take place immediately. Then there are tier two communications, important communications that can take place in the hours and days after the situation.

Consider, then, the following people and groups you may need to communicate with:

  • The local police
  • Involved parents
  • Involved staff
  • The school district’s attorney
  • School board members
  • Other parents in the school
  • Other staff in the school
  • Other district parents
  • Other district staff
  • Other community members
  • The state department of education or public instruction
  • The media
  • Your key communicators network, if you have one.

Then, consider the following questions to help you determine when you need to communicate with these people and groups…

  • Who do I need to contact this minute?
  • Who do I need to contact in the next ten minutes?
  • Who do I need to contact in the next half hour?
  • Who do I need to contact in the next hour?
  • Who do I need to contact in the morning or later in the day?
  • Who do I need to contact in the next two days?
  • Take a deep breath and double check your list. The person you need to contact this minute, in the next ten minutes and in the next half hour are contacted you will likely make by phone. Make them now and keep a record of the call.

Remember, Wisconsin AWSA and WASDA members can receive free crisis communications assistance from the Donovan Group. You can reach the Donovan Group at any time by calling 414-409-7225.

Advanced Media Interviewing Tips

Advanced Media Interviewing Tips

In previous posts, I provided basic information about media interviews. Here is an advanced set of tips.

Again, there are basically two ways in which you can speak with a reporter. You can speak “on the record,” which means that everything you say can be quoted verbatim, or “on background,” which means you are providing information that can be attributed to you, but you will not be quoted directly.

Keep in mind that nothing you say is off the record. If you can’t say something on background, don’t say it.

So, when returning a reporter’s call, start by answering the information questions that he or she asks. You could say the following, for example:

“I’m going to speak with you on background to answer your questions, and then we’ll go on the record so you can quote me, okay?”

“So, here is a little background…”

“Do you have any more questions about this? Okay, let’s switch gears. Now you need something on the record, right?”

Now, let the reporter ask you a question. Take a breath, and answer the question, but answer it using the talking point you have created.

How can you ensure that you stay on message, do not get sidetracked, and offer great quotes and sound bites?

Use flags and bridges.

Flags and Bridges

One of the most difficult aspects of speaking with the media is sticking with your message. How can you talk about what you want to talk about when you are asked questions that don’t allow you to hit your points?

To ensure that you stick with your message, use what is called a bridge. A bridge is used when you acknowledge the question but brings it back to something that you are able to comment on. The following are some examples:

“I don’t know about X, Y, Z, but what I can tell you about is 1, 2, 3.”

“I can’t provide much information on that; I simply don’t have any specifics to share. But what I can say is…”

The cousin to the bridge is the flag.

A flag is a keyword or phrase that tells the reporter that what you are going to say is important. The following are some examples:

“What I think is important is…”

“It is important to note that…”

“Again, I want to reiterate…”

“I want to be very clear when I say…”

Or my favorite: “[Reporter’s name], here is the bottom line…”

The idea here is to tee up your quote.

A useful tip is to always remember to slow down. Most people tend to speak more quickly when they become nervous.

If you get off track, bring yourself back with a bridge or a flag. It’s easy with a little practice.

As a school or district leader, our job is to tell the truth aggressively. Remember that with these tips, the focus is on ensuring that the truth is told.

Start With Staff

Start With Staff

Often, when we talk about good school district communication, we immediately think of external audiences, usually parents and other community members. However, we must remind ourselves that school and district staff members are our most important stakeholder group.

It is critical for staff members to understand your school or district’s vision, to not only understand the “what” and “how” of change, but also the “why” of the vision.

In addition to ensuring staff have the key information necessary for job performance, there is a more practical reason for ensuring staff members are engaged in the school or district’s vision.

By and large, staff, who are often also the neighbors and family members of other community members, are your largest and most credible group of spokespeople.

While there is a tendency to think of good communication as having an external focus, it is important to focus first on your internal audience, your staff, as doing so will benefit school district communication in the long run.