It’s very difficult to predict when a crisis will happen or how it will develop but there are some steps that schools can take to prepare for them. And while no communications team can make a disaster disappear, good planning can make sure the response is proportionate and reassuring.
We’ve pulled together 5 top tips to help ensure anybody running their school’s crisis comms doesn’t make a bad situation worse.
1. Anticipate likely crises. It’s impossible to plan for every eventuality but a crisis is likely to fall into one of six categories: sexual; financial; academic (qualifications and inspection); industrial (strikes, boycotts and nepotism); extremism; acts of God. Where do you think your school is especially vulnerable? What would the worst-case scenario be? Make a list.
2. Identify a spokesperson. Usually this will be your head teacher. But if they are unavailable or would prefer not to engage with the media who would be your alternative? Once identified make sure that everyone knows who they are and that in the event of a crisis only the designated spokesperson(s) will communicate on behalf of the school.
3. Draw up holding statements. These will need to be adapted to suit the situation but they can save schools valuable time when a crisis breaks. Practising likely responses also allows a school to sense-check what it wants to say, to whom it wants to say it and if there are any obvious omissions.
4. Think about 'who else'. The media won’t be the only ones who have to be informed of a crisis. Colleagues, parents and carers, governors and in some circumstances outside regulatory bodies will also need to be notified. Have a plan in place so you can update them quickly and easily. Think how you can use social media to help disseminate your information.
5. Cultivate your local media. Having an existing relationship with your local media ought to make it much easier to handle delicate issues when they arise. So if you don’t have one establish one. Most local media outlets will be happy to report on your successes when times are good. Use that relationship should events turn sour.
GKP is looking for 12 state schools who would like to receive free PR support in the next twelve months. Schools will be chosen at random through a Twitter prize draw.
To have a chance of being the third school that we work with you’ll need your head or deputy head to retweet this message:
I want to #win a free day of #PR advice for my #school with the former TES editor #ProBonoGKPComms
Visit here for more information and full T&Cs.