Donovan Group Insights

What You DON’T Say CAN Hurt You

There will come a day when something negative happens in your district. School leaders often avoid media inquiries and hope the situation will clear up on its own. But if you don’t say anything, those situations tend to stick around and fester even more.

It’s in your district’s best interest to address the situation. The public will hear about it eventually, so they might as well hear it from you. What you don’t say is often what they’ll remember the most!

Reach out to tell the district’s story

When a sticky situation occurs, district leaders may feel the urge to hide from the media. They believe addressing a negative story will only make things worse. But in reality, going radio silent doesn’t do you (or the district) any favors. If you don’t tell the story, someone else will.

Don’t relinquish control over your district’s reputation. District leaders must be proactive and reach out to the media with their side of the story. This can help prevent outside sources from warping the public’s perception of what really happened. Don’t wait—the sooner you act, the better.

Respond to media calls right away

District leaders tend to ignore missed calls from the media. They know why reporters are calling, and they don’t want to add fuel to the fire. Unfortunately, ignoring an issue won’t make it go away. Your silence on the matter can actually do more harm than good.

Protect your district’s reputation by returning media calls as soon as possible. You should jump at every opportunity to explain what happened, why it happened and what you’re doing to rectify the situation. When you feel like hiding from the media, that’s exactly the right time to speak up.

Provide all the necessary details

School leaders will do whatever it takes to make the district look good. In some cases, that involves purposefully omitting certain pieces of information. Giving half-truths is only going to backfire on you. Your community will hear the full story one way or another. If they find out you were hiding something, community members might lose their trust in the district.

Tell the public everything they need to hear, even if it makes your district look bad. You might get some bad press in the short term. But in the long term, your district will appear credible and trustworthy in the eyes of the public.

District leaders are often too afraid they’ll say the wrong thing. But usually, it’s what you don’t say that deals the most damage. Find the courage to address sticky situations with the media. When you speak up, your district will fare all the better for it.

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