Why is public relations in schools important? More than ever, a solid public relations strategy is the best tactic an educational institution can invest in today. Third-party endorsement from the media, important influencers and industry thought leaders play a critical role in developing brand awareness, cultivating beneficial relationships with stakeholders, enhancing two-way communication with key audiences and advancing your school’s mission. Here’s everything you need to know about harnessing the power of public relations in schools.
Getting Started: What Is Public Relation in Schools?
What exactly is public relations in schools? The National School Public Relations Association defines educational public relations as a planned and systematic management function to help improve the programs and services of an educational organization. It relies on a comprehensive two-way communications process involving both internal and external publics, aiming to stimulate a better understanding of the school’s role, objectives, accomplishments and needs. Educational public relations programs interpret public attitudes, identify and help shape policies and procedures in the public interest, and carry on involvement and information activities that earn public understanding and support.
The Importance: Why Schools Need Public Relations
Public relations is the strategic communication that shapes the public’s perception of a school and its administrators. Essentially, public relations is about making your message count. It’s your chance to join important conversations and ensure the right people know what they need to know about you. Effective communication engages the audience through compelling content and action-oriented storytelling via multiple channels — from earned media to social media and videos and bylines.
The educational landscape is constantly evolving — especially with the rise of virtual learning since the COVID-19 pandemic. With the increased demand for online learning, public relations is a key differentiator for schools to stay competitive and ensure their key stakeholders — students, teachers and parents — have the information and resources needed to achieve educational success. Explore more ways public relations can help advance your school’s mission:
Secure a Competitive Advantage
An effective public relations program helps distinguish your school from its competition. What makes your school unique? What are its greatest strengths? The answers to these questions will guide your public relations strategy and give your school a competitive edge.
Unlock Community Connections
It might be simple to connect with some of your stakeholders — students, parents, teachers and staff — but what about the other important stakeholders that exist outside of your direct school community? Public relations can help your school share its message with parents of prospective students, taxpayers and other community members who don’t have children in schools and build a larger community of support.
Boost Marketing Efforts
If your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room, public relations is your chance to join important conversations. And if marketing is what you’re telling your audience, public relations is listening to their response. Public relations in schools can help listen and respond to audiences, amplifying marketing efforts.
Bolster Crisis Communications
One thing is certain in the world of education — crises happen. Whether external or internal, there are forces beyond your school’s influence that may create challenges. From a pandemic and natural disaster to the death of a student or act of violence, schools must plan ahead for potential crises to successfully navigate them under duress. Preparation is key and following a plan is easier than creating a plan under extreme pressure.
Achieve Third-Party Credibility
From events, statistics and inspiring stories to faculty research and innovative programs, when your message is shared through credible third sources, your school’s reputation, brand awareness and trust elevate too.
Highlight Thought Leadership
The stars behind every school are the people. Showcase leadership talent, teacher insight and student accomplishments to boost brand awareness and highlight what makes your school unique.
Best Practices to Create an Effective PR Strategy for Your School
What’s the best way to design a public relations program for your school? Taking the time to create a thoughtful, personalized approach that prioritizes effective communication and beneficial relationships will help your school achieve success. Consider these best practices for school public relations.
Evaluate Brand Perception
To get to where your school wants to go, you must first truly understand where it currently stands. Start by assessing your school’s reputation, sentiment and brand perception. This understanding will provide an in-depth analysis of your school’s strengths and weaknesses among key stakeholders and audiences, identifying opportunities to seize and areas to prioritize.
Conduct Competitor Research
What are your competitors doing? Consider their branding, positioning and marketing channels. What do you like or dislike about the way they present themselves and how can your school differentiate itself from theirs?
Create a Boilerplate
Does your school have an updated boilerplate that accurately sums up its mission? Ultimately used for press releases, drafting a boilerplate is a great way to hone in on who your school is and what it stands for. Essentially, a concise, well-written elevator pitch.
Assign Skilled People
Whether your school has the budget for a public relations team or your public relations program responsibilities need to be segmented among staff, it’s important to assign tasks, provide resources and ensure your team has the proper training. From social media management to spokesperson, everyone must understand their role in public relations to thrive.
Public relations is a balanced art of proactive and reactive efforts. Identify and package your school’s stories to pitch to media, share on social media, and offer in newsletters and other content sources. From written content and visuals and graphics to current events, alumni achievements and commenting on education trends, create proactive content that showcases your school’s success.
When working with the media, you’ll often find yourself in a reactive state. Make sure your school’s contact details are accessible on your website, key school information is updated often and media queries are responded to quickly.
Prioritize Crisis Management
Don’t forget to create a detailed crisis management plan as part of your school’s PR strategy. Identify crisis scenarios that could affect your school — from natural disasters to information technology hacks — and think through the preparation needs for navigating them. A clear plan of action that can be implemented during a crisis can help prevent things from escalating into a catastrophe.
Partner With a PR Agency
Need more resources than your school’s staff can provide? Consider teaming up with an experienced PR agency to create a strategy, solidify a plan, build brand awareness, forge beneficial relationships and refine messaging to achieve your school’s public relations goals. Communications Strategy Group (CSG®) is an education PR and content marketing agency that helps schools activate opportunities, achieve objectives, foster brand champions and build thought leadership.
FAQs About Public Relations in Schools
What is the role of public relations in institutions?
Public relations helps educational institutions share their message with target audiences through strategic channels to develop brand awareness, promote thought leadership and advance their missions.
What is the scope of public relations for schools?
The breadth of education pr is vast. Content and story ideas can be packaged into a variety of forms — from pitches and bylines to social media and blog posts.
What is a good example of public relations in schools?
A school that is investing in proactive public relations efforts — making informed pitches and outreach — as well as reactive tactics — equipped with a personalized crisis management plan — is effectively harnessing the power of public relations.
Ready to Develop a Winning Education PR Plan For Your School?
From bolstering reputation and connecting with key audiences to navigating crises and building thought leadership, a public relations program is paramount in today’s education landscape.
Ready to partner with an education PR agency and leader in strategic communications to help your school achieve PR results? As an award-winning content marketing and public relations agency, CSG understands how to best promote your school’s messaging, achieve its goals and elevate its mission.
Contact us today to discover how CSG can help your school fully harness the power of public relations.