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Media Relations for School and District Leaders: What You Don’t Say Can Hurt You

[et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ admin_label=”section” _builder_version=”4.16″ global_colors_info=”{}”][et_pb_row admin_label=”row” _builder_version=”4.16″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat” global_colors_info=”{}”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”4.16″ custom_padding=”|||” global_colors_info=”{}” custom_padding__hover=”|||”][et_pb_text admin_label=”Text” _builder_version=”4.16″ background_size=”initial” background_position=”top_left” background_repeat=”repeat” global_colors_info=”{}”]Note: This is a continuation in a series on media relations. To start from the beginning, go here

If all of my time in educational communications has taught me one fundamental thing, it is that you are more likely to get into trouble by saying too little than too much.

This is true for sensitive issues, true of crisis situations, and true of embarrassing situations.

Most of the time, bad news stories develop because the reporter or the public understand only a part of the issue, or think that they understand something that they don’t.

When there is bad news happening to you, it feels like a cold that you can’t shake. Most bad news won’t go away without first harming your reputation or that of your school district.

For that reason I want to make the two related points below.

Don’t bury your head in the sand

All too often the most popular strategy for working with the reporters involves simply ignoring them.  I know of situations where school leaders make a point of never returning calls to the media, never engaging the media in their vision for their school district and doing everything they can to avoid the media.

This is understandable.  However, in ignoring reporters, you surrender your district’s story, critical messages that you want to communicate and your district’s reputation to others.  That is simply not a good strategy.

The bottom line is that most often, when you least feel like speaking with a reporter is the time when it is most important that you do. Don’t let bad news happen to you.

Own your media coverage

As school leaders, you must take responsibility for your media coverage and for promoting your own the story.  Using the tools I will provide you with, you can shape stories and help make them right.

If you don’t feel that a part of your work is owning your story, then I want to change the way that you think about working with the media.

Lets put it this way, if someone in your school were distributing memos or newsletters with incorrect information, you would insist that they correct course, right?

Then why wouldn’t you feel the same sense of obligation in ensuring that media stories about your district are accurate?  The bottom line is that you share the responsibility for ensuring that information about your schools and district is correct including information contained in news stories.  You have to own your coverage.

Now, let’s get back to Steve.

At this point, Steve needs a story.  He is working on a negative story based on a negative press release, but the angle can still change.  After all, Steve has absolutely no experience with curriculum or educational policy.

Imagine that you have just come back from a meeting and hear a message from Steve on your voicemail. You have been sailing through a good day when you get the message.  Your heart sinks and fear drifts in. It is a feeling many of us know well.

Now what?

I will help you specifically with dealing with calls from the media, but first, I want to discuss the five guiding principles of media relations for school leaders.

Tune in tomorrow for the next post in this series.
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