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How Do You Tell Your School's Story?

Did you know that no matter if you are the superintendent, a teacher, a janitor, a library media specialist or any other staff member at your school, you are all responsible for being storytellers for your school? This isn't just the duty of one person. Every school employee plays a part in the public's opinion of their local school--if it's successful or not, if its curriculum is well-rounded, if its programs are groundbreaking and challenging, if it's welcoming to all students, etc.

Thus, it's vitally important that all employees are well-versed in the mission, vision and the school/district's central messaging. Consistent messaging is key so people understand the overall goals you have for educating your students and your plans for achieving them.

This means that district and school leaders should have training to ensure staff know and can share this information with others. This is especially important for new staff. In addition to the components listed above, what's the school motto? What's the mascot? Are there particularly important historical facts about which the community has a strong sense of pride? These are just as important to a school and the ties to its community.

But what about the every day stories?

Never forget: there are things going on in your buildings every day that you will want to celebrate and of which the public needs to be aware. And when we say you as staff members are the storytellers of your schools, we mean it! You don't want people hearing about what is happening through the rumor mill on social media, through texts students send home to parents or through any other avenue. Because just as bad news can be twisted through the grapevine into a story that isn't entirely true, so can the good news. And these too can land in the media's hands and are just as frustrating for you to have to clean up, so stay in control of the message from the get-go by being the chief storyteller.

What's the best way to tell your stories?

  • First and foremost, be timely. As soon as you hear of something that is newsworthy, begin crafting the message. You'll probably want to include images and perhaps video along with the story, as so many more people are engaged (especially on social media) by pictures and video than they are simply by text alone.
  • Make sure your story is relatable to non-educators. People don't want to read just about numbers and statistics. It's wonderful if your school went up a letter grade on the state report card, for example, but really, why would the regular public TRULY care? What does this REALLY mean to them? Give them solid examples of what this grade means. Demonstrate how learning has improved by going in-depth on maybe one highly successful teaching strategy an educator has implemented in her classroom that has helped create academic gains. This will help the public understand data that otherwise might seem like reading a foreign language.
  • Make your story heartfelt. As humans, we love good stories that pull at the ole heartstrings, especially when it comes to our kiddos, right? Now, I'm not telling you to be insincere with or falsify the stories you tell. What I am suggesting is that you tell stories about your students that you know will inspire your readers, ones that will make them reminisce on their own educational journey (maybe at that same school) and perhaps will make them want to come out and support your schools during fundraisers, during bond elections or any other times of need. We relate to human-interest stories; they remind us that no matter the age of the person in the story, we've all been or will be that age. It connects us to one another. Use this to build and strengthen your community bond.
  • Once you've determined the story you want to tell, you must determine the avenue(s) you will use to share it. How does your community prefer to receive news about your schools? Through the local newspaper? Is there a local radio show that has you on as a weekly guest? Do you host a weekly podcast? How about Facebook Live? Do you blog your news? Do you share everything on a special news section of your website or on multiple school social media accounts? There are so many ways to share out the news, and we haven't even mentioned the larger Oklahoma, regional or even national TV stations, newspapers or other news outlets. You never know if the story you have merits much wider attention than just your local community. If you think you've got something big but aren't sure, hit us up, and we can help you.

The overall takeaway is this: every single one of you has amazing stories that aren't always getting told for a variety of reasons: they're simply being overlooked, your staff is just too busy to be able to share them or you just don't really know how to go about doing it. These things are not your fault. You're just wearing too many hats and have too many responsibilities to have one more thing to worry about.

But you don't have let these wonderful moments go unnoticed! You AND your students work too hard to miss being celebrated for all the things you are doing. So let us help you. We have staff who can work with you to build your stories and get them out there for the world to see. Ready to tell them? We're ready to help you share them.

Sarah Julian

Director, Communications

Sarah serves as the Director of Communications for the OPSRC. In this role, she provides support, consultation and training on a variety of critical tools and PR functions, including communication plans, social media policies, crisis communications, media relations and website content.

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