Wednesday, May 28, 2014

5 Must Do Items for School PR in the Summer

I originally wrote this post with schools in mind, but the information actually applies to any area of PR. Summer is a great time for taking stock in the effectiveness and success of your program and yourself!

In my role as a PR Director for a school district, Summer isnt the vacation that many other school employees enjoy. I work a 12-month schedule, but that doesnt mean my workload is the same year-round.

When school is in session there are activities happening daily at schools, sports are in season, competitions are taking place, district policies are being implemented, parents are volunteering, etc. I have an abundance of items to promote, coordinate and cover. There are always letters, memos and press releases to write and send. But in Summer, theres a different buzz.

Once the students have gone home and teachers have packed up their classrooms, I am working away planning and preparing for next year. Ive come to think of Summer as a countdown to the first day of the next year. Now, there are folks who will tell you Slow down and take a break. If you are looking for that, you are reading the wrong blog post. Im telling you to seize the Summer and make every minute count!


1. EVALUATE. Take the first few days and look back over the previous years events.  I always think its a best to review events right after completion; do a debrief while the events are still fresh. However a year-end review is also important. What stands out as successful? Which pieces got good feedback? Did anything get unexpectedly good media coverage? What didnt work?

If you dont have a good single source of documentation, use your social media accounts. Its not a perfect measure, but itll work in a pinch. Social media platforms often have some very good metrics already in place which you can use to analyze your past year. Which items got reTweeted? Which posts got the most likes and shares on Facebook? Which pins or Instagram posts got the most attention? These can give you an idea of what the community responded to or what things they would like to see.

2. RESEARCH. Create a simple survey for your community or staff. Google has simple, free survey tools that you can use to generate multiple question surveys. There are also a number of other services that have little or no cost such as SurveyMonkey, Zoomerang, and tons of others.  The data is easily collected and formatted as a spreadsheet that can be shared and archived.

Ask questions about the programs and events from the past year and always leave a blank for open-ended answers. You might not always agree with or like what you read, but its good to know what people think about what you do.  And just because someone says something, doesnt mean you have to do it. You are collecting feedback, not taking orders.

3. DECIDE. Looking at what worked and what didnt, and considering the feedback you have collected, decide which things you are going to do again and which you arent. Its ok to not do something again that didnt work, or to retool the event or program in a way that will improve it.

The worst thing we can do is to have the same drab program year after year because weve always done it. I am combing some end of year events for next year. It will hopefully make the event better for the honorees, and it will let us focus more attention on making the event even more memorable.  

Maybe you feel like you have too many things and need to focus on a select group to have the greatest impact. Maybe you find there is a need in your community for a specific event or program. Or maybe you have an idea that you would just like to try out because you think it would help your students, schools or community. So create a list and do them!

4. SCHEDULE. An event or a program is so much more than a single date on a calendar. In order for an event to be effective and successful, you have to plan and build to it. The best way I have found to do this is to schedule my specific date for the event, implementation, kick-off or whatever and then work backwards.

Our Retirement event is in May, so a week before that I need the programs completed, two weeks before I need all of the announcements posted, three weeks prior I make sure all the local media are notified, a month before I send invitations to community members, partners and district administrators, six weeks before I make sure each retiree is invited and try to get an RSVP list. You get the idea. Schedule all the support pieces, so that when the actual date arrives, all the PR work has already built the buzz and excitement.  

5. DEVELOP. Always make a point to take advantage of at least one Professional Development opportunity over the summer. I generally attend the NSPRA national conference in July and one or two state or regional conferences over the summer. During the year I am in the midst of deadlines and projects across my district, but during the summer I can make room for extended focus on learning about new trends and strategies from colleagues across the country. Here are my 7 Tips to Maximize Your Conference Experience.

Even if you cant travel to a large seminar, there are development resources you can access online. NSPRA has a wealth of info and resources for School PR pros on their website. PRSA has a number of webinars and teleconferences available online. Your state or regional chapters and educational organizations will have conferences, often with sessions specifically for PR pros.

So take your Summer and use it to Evaluate, Research, Decide, Schedule and Develop! Did I mention your Summer must-do? Are there things you feel I missed? Let me know! and have a great Summer!

- Jas N
@jasnsmith on Twitter

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