As a superintendent, you may feel that it’s your responsibility to be the source of all information and guidance to the parents and stakeholders of your school district. Your standing in the educational community is significant, so you should be the primary point of contact for information regarding your schools — right?
Not necessarily. The problem is that, while you are deeply involved in your district’s affairs, there are staff members working actively in the schools who are more easily accessible, especially to parents. No matter how publicly you make yourself available, parents and many community members will pay more attention to the input they get from your schools’ teachers and other staff.
The front lines
What makes these people such a great resource? For one, they are interacting with students each and every day. They talk to them and observe them in the school environment, but they are also acutely aware of the inner workings of the schools. They talk to other faculty members and have an inside look at the system, so they know everything that happens behind the scenes.
Doesn’t this just make these staff members a bunch of “gossipers?” Not at all. In fact, their interactions with people outside of your schools are critical to telling your district’s story. To that end, you need to be sure that your communications as superintendent are not solely focused on external stakeholders like parents and the general public — you need to engage people internally, as well.
In other words, your staff is your district’s “brand subscribers.” In business marketing, brand subscribers are those individuals who are loyal to the brand and consistently turn to it for updates. Get brand subscribers on board and they become evangelists — people who will recommend the brand without any incentives because the brand has provided them with value.
Have you heard Apple fans talk about the brand and its products? This might be the best example of brand evangelism. These customers aren’t getting paid for what they talk about, and Apple’s success can arguably be attributed to its passionate brand subscribers.
Your district’s staff members, whether they are teachers, custodians or crossing guards, are probably not going to be touting the glory of your district to anyone who will listen, but they may be the most important subscribers you have. If they don’t understand your organization’s goals and strategies, they won’t communicate them to others.
So, when setting and pursuing your district’s goals, make sure you try to engage every person on your team. Keep in mind that the most credible people associated with your district and schools might not be district-level administrators or principals. The people who truly tell your story are the ones in the trenches — so make sure they’re involved with your district’s communications efforts.