By Peter Arnold
Sooner or later, your school will confront disturbing internet messages, and you will react – to yourself – thinking some or all of the above.
The questions then become: How will you manage the issues and respond to your internal and external communities? Maybe to the public, too? Also, Can you handle this yourself and with your communications team?
To assist you in answering the last question affirmatively, Kalix Communications has produced a White Paper: New Ways For Independent Schools to Manage Crisis Communications. Following is a 300-word summary of the 13 steps it offers you.
On the web, anyone can write and distribute messages instantly to innumerable people. When those messages can inflict damage, be prepared to act fast… making sure you’re going in the right direction. You need to protect your school in ways that manage your reputation.
So preparation is key.
Begin by looking at your current Communications Plan. Does it clearly state steps to follow that are easy implement? If not, you’ll have trouble counteracting what could be a fast-spreading flood of misinformation.
The best way to simplify your Communications Plan is to apply a management decision-making prism: “What do we want to Achieve, Preserve and Avoid by whatever we say and do or don’t do?”
As you apply this management prism, you also need to distinguish what is the problem from what is not the problem.
During this part of the process, assess the damage that can be done. Don’t overreact. Evaluate current conditions and apply a scale of one-to-ten to what is happening and then what might happen. As you carry out plans, return to and reassess this scale. Determine what must be done if the damage increases.
Perhaps you’ll involve others, such as trusted and experienced members of your Administration, Faculty or Board.
Designate spokespersons – most likely including yourself – according to the audiences you are trying to engage.
Track your progress using one or more online reputation management resources.
Of course you’ll be caught up in the issues of the moment, but be careful to assess the level of transparency you offer. Revealing too much information can itself become an issue. Always review your plans through the prism of “Achieve, Preserve and Avoid” before you act.
You can preserve and, in some cases, even improve your school’s reputation as a result of timely and astute communications management.
Peter Arnold has coordinated public relations, media relations and crisis management programs for a number of educational institutions and other non-profit organizations around the country. He is a Kalix Communications strategic partner.