Going the Extra Mile…To Not Merely Communicate, but Inspire Confidence With Communication

A couple of months ago, I had the honor and pleasure to present a workshop on “Inspiring Confidence During the ‘Critical Hour’” to colleagues and friends at the California School Public Relations Association (CalSPRA) Fall Conference in Costa Mesa. The workshop aligned with the conference’s theme, “Surviving a Crisis of Confidence”—and also coincides with the efforts of the California School Boards Association, California State PTA, and the California Department of Education’s “Stand Up for Education” campaign, which highlights positive—confidence boosting—stories in education(for more info, visit the website …and, be sure to submit your stories for the campaign!)

This was all extremely timely, as the conference came just two days after we learned the the outcomes of the 2012 Presidential Election, which included the competing education funding measures, Propositions 30 and 38. What became so apparently clear throughout this campaign cycle, and has increased in magnitude is this: public confidence in public education continues to decline, and public trust in education is also declining.  And, do I believe that communication can make a positive impact on building trust and confidence in organizations?  You bet I do!

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Who’s Really Selling Your Schools?

Over the past few years, public school districts have seen a shift from natural school enrollment from neighborhoods in their boundaries to… losing enrollment to private and charter schools. Districts have turned to marketing campaigns, advertising and more to re-attract parents to their schools. What happened?

Private schools have always engaged in advertising. Pick up any local social or parenting magazine, and private school advertisements comprise the majority of their ads. Charter schools have made great headway by riding on the wave of “education reform” and parent choice, and communicating their best student achievement results. Public school district superintendents have been scratching their heads to determine why they are losing students, and turn to district-led efforts to sell their schools.

Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Your district is not selling your schools. Your schools are selling your schools. Or not. In fact, when parents go about making a decision about where to send their child to school, they’re not deciding between your district and a charter school or a private school; they are literally making a decision about whether or not to send their child to one of your district’s neighborhood schools. So … why do central office administrators spend so much time pumping up their districts?

I’ll give you a few answers … and a few ways to turn these assumptions on their heads, and to start focusing on selling your schools, instead.

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