No matter the position you hold in your school, you play an important part in its communications plans--the overall strategic communication plan and the one focused on crisis situations. But when was the last time you looked at either of these? Do you even know what your role is? If you don't know the answer to these questions, consider taking some time to become familiar with them. If you are a district leader, make sure you communicate with your staff how integral they are in sharing positive stories and what their role is when a crisis hits. If you are a teacher or other staff member, make sure you get answers to all your questions.
When you think back on all your district's events and causes for celebration thus far, ask yourself: do you consistently inform your stakeholders about the great things going on in your schools, or is all the positive news kept within the school building's walls? If the latter, now might be a good time to re-evaluate your district's communication strategy.
Ask these questions:
It is imperative you not only consider the threats you could realistically face in your district but also that you have a well-defined plan for how you will share information during any such event. You must be prepared for an active shooter situation, a tornado threat, a widespread flu outbreak or any other number of situations that require reacting sometimes at a moment's notice. If something serious happened in one of your schools, would you be ready?
There's a lot that goes into creating a thorough crisis plan. You must be able to efficiently communicate with staff, students, parents, board members, your community and reporters (who no doubt will appear on your campus to report the incident). So what do you need to address?
Below is a list of critical items to consider when creating a crisis response plan, including a communication strategy that shares accurate, continuous information with your public.
Create your crisis response team
Identify key internal staff who will form your school/district crisis team. As positions change and people move on, reevaluate this list every year (or more often if necessary).
In addition to internal staff, your crisis team should include key first responders within your community:
Create an official list of all personnel selected for the team. Each person should have his/her contact information listed, and all members of the team should have a copy. Further, it's important you go through the plan at least once a year so everyone is familiar with their roles and can perform their duties without having to think twice. Likewise, as staff members leave and you replace them with others, new staff who are part of the crisis team will need to be trained on all aspects of the plan. Remember: When a crisis hits, there may not be time to think about what you're supposed to be doing. Everyone should be able to perform their roles without a second thought, which requires practice, practice, practice.
District/school leaders: Always make sure your staff members are all familiar with their roles in communicating information as well as official policies related to social media, talking to reporters, etc. Never assume staff know their communication roles or district policies regarding sharing information.
District/school staff: If you have questions about the sort of information you can share out, take time to ask. Also, if you see an area in either plan that could use improvement or an update, share it! You may see something from a perspective that hasn't been considered, so don't be afraid to voice your ideas.
Never has it been more important for you as school leaders to be in charge of telling your stories and sharing with the public all the good that comes out of your buildings.
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