Filling the Communication Vacuum
Stakeholders want to stay in-the-know about recent events. They’ll find information one way or another, regardless of whether it comes from a trustworthy source. When stakeholders don’t hear from your district, a communication vacuum opens up. Anyone is free to fill the vacuum, and the longer you stay silent, the more others will write the district’s story for you.
What’s a communication vacuum?
A communication vacuum occurs when your district doesn’t communicate enough with its stakeholders. District leaders might be saying too little, or they might be saying nothing at all. In either case, stakeholders aren’t receiving the information they need about events happening in your district.
The consequences of a communication vacuum
Communication vacuums don’t stay empty for very long. When your district stays silent, other sources will start to fill the void. Stakeholders want information, and they’ll find a way to obtain it. Stakeholders learn to trust and listen to whoever is filling the vacuum. If it’s not you, then it’s someone else.
Not communicating with stakeholders can do more harm than good. District leaders often avoid addressing sensitive topics because they’re afraid of attracting negative press coverage. If you don’t speak up, you’re surrendering the district’s story for someone else to tell—and that person might not have your district’s best interests at heart.
Allowing others to fill the vacuum can lead to rumors and misinformation. This doesn’t just spell bad news for your district’s reputation. Unreliable sources can skew a stakeholder’s perception of what really happened. Sources outside your district may spread falsehoods and cause tension between you and the school community.
Fill the vacuum with the right information
To avoid an empty vacuum, remember this: too much communication is almost always better than too little communication. When something happens, address it right away with your stakeholders. This can help establish your district as a credible source. Be the first to fill the vacuum, and stakeholders will turn to you for information.
On the other hand, don’t fill the vacuum just for the sake of filling it. Information isn’t of much use to stakeholders if it’s irrelevant! Find out what information stakeholders are looking for. Answer their questions as best you can, and recognize when they’re asking for something you can’t give.
At some point, nearly all districts encounter a communication vacuum. What matters the most is how you respond to it. The sooner you fill the vacuum, the better off your district will be. After all, no one is better equipped to tell your district’s story than the district itself.