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Communications directors are key members of school districts’ administrative teams. They must know how to communicate both proactively and reactively, while maintaining an overarching vision for stakeholder engagement. They should be able to deal with the urgent needs of the day while still fulfilling the strategies and tactics called for in the district’s communications plan.

Your school district communications director must work each and every day to improve public perceptions of your organization among its stakeholders, which may include parents, staff, students, donors, alumni and community members.

Below are several key attributes we find are important to prioritize when hiring a school district communications director:

Skilled writer: Writing is a big part of the job. This person must be a good writer who can produce content quickly, especially in situations that require urgent communication. At any time, your communications director should be able to drop everything and write a quick letter to parents or a statement to the media to respond rapidly to a crisis situation.  

Calm in a crisis: All school districts deal with situations requiring urgent communication — sometimes referred to as “crisis” communication. When these circumstances arise, your communications director must act calmly and think clearly to ensure the district reaches out to the appropriate stakeholders at the right time. This is not a role for someone who gets easily flustered.

Strategic thinker: Your communications director should have a big-picture view of school district communications and constantly keep an eye on the overall strategy. If your district does not already have a communications plan, this person should create one and stick to it throughout the school year. Look for people who communicate by design, not by chance.

Well spoken: At times, your school communications director may serve as a spokesperson, conducting interviews with newspaper, radio and TV reporters. Some of these interviews may be on camera. To that end, this person should be well spoken, professional and able to represent your district in a positive way.  

Knows best practices: Your communications director should stay up to date on the latest trends in marketing, public relations and communication. He or she should understand and be able to leverage social media, mobile apps and various other communication channels. As new tools become available, the director should incorporate them into the district’s strategy whenever it makes sense to do so.

Innovative: The best school communications directors always aim to do things more efficiently and effectively. They will use key performance indicators (KPIs) to monitor the effectiveness of communications efforts and make adjustments to the strategy as needed.

Basic design skills: You do not necessarily need a professional graphic designer in this role. However, your communications director should know and be able to execute basic elements of graphic and digital design best practices. A good candidate, for example, should know how to use Canva, Snappa or a similar online platform for creating attention-grabbing social media graphics.

When hiring your next school district communications director, we suggest creating a list of “must-haves” when it comes to the characteristics you need in this position. Consider the traits listed above as you move through this important process.

Check out our recent blog post on the Donovan Group’s team-based approach to school district communications.