February 14, 2017
for industry news, case studies, new media & communications strategies
February 14, 2017
June 21, 2016
Like any business, school districts witness periods when operating costs increase or revenues decline, and in these moments it may become necessary to request a larger share of property taxes. However, as a business that receives funding from property taxes, schools face certain responsibilities to the public when these events occur.
When the need for a tax increase arises, it’s important that the school district communicate the details – or the “who, what, where, when, and why” – of the property tax assessment and school financing, as well as the allocation of the increased funding, with the public who will be effected. This explanation could even be included in the property tax bills where the increase is seen. Regardless, giving property owners advance notice of an increase, along with the rhyme or reason behind it, will minimize the risk of negative reactions and ensure better cooperation from the community.
Most taxpayers appreciate at least a brief discussion of a school budget: where school revenue is coming from, how the funds are allocated, a key list of expenses, and what strategies have been employed to manage these costs. Furthermore, comparing the school budget to that of another school helps clarify any discrepancies that may exist.
April 17, 2016
When funds are tight, public relations programs are often the first to be cut and sometimes even eliminated. What districts should remember is that communication is how you will garner support for future projects, votes & community partnerships. Without strong positive messaging, your school is at risk of even further budget cuts and a lack of alternative resources.
For schools facing a tight budget, there are several ways to share your key message at little or no expense. Using these cost-effective strategies will help stretch your communications budget while reaching your core audience.
Build Your Media Relations
Your local newspaper, radio stations and television stations are all looking for local content. Find a go-to contact at each media outlet and build that relationship. Call/email them with new stories at least weekly. These stories should cover innovative programs, student achievements, upcoming school activities and, of course, consistent focus on your key messages. Offer to write a regular guest column or to be interviewed. Local media focuses on local news — this is your opportunity to shape the conversation!
Public Service Announcements (PSAs)
The Federal Communications Commission requires that broadcast media operate “in the public interest”. PSAs are a way that TV stations fulfill that requirement. There is strong competition to get your PSA to air so make sure your PSA is short (about 30 seconds long), interesting & informative and that it meets the standard requirements for a news story: who, what, when, where and why. Submit your recorded PSA to the station’s public service or program director.
PEW Research Center estimates that 74 percent of all internet users visit social media sites. There is no cost to join social media but you do need to be creative and strategic in your approach to your social media plan so that you are efficient, reaching your target audience and encouraging engagement. We always encourage our clients to start with Twitter — it is easy, mobile-friendly and works in “real time”. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and many other platforms will help compliment and distribute your content and encourage feedback and further distribution among your followers.
Adding a blog to your school’s website allows you to communicate directly with your community on your own terms and in your own words. Make sure to use social media to drive traffic to your new blog posts in a coordinated effort.
By transitioning your monthly newsletter to be email-based, you can eliminate postal and printing costs. You can either use a desktop publishing program and convert the file to a PDF to attach to the email or use a newsletter web-based service such as MyEmma or Mailchimp to create a newsletter with photos and simple email-friendly designs to send directly to your community’s inboxes.
Take advantage of the communications departments of your local government and libraries. Make sure to share important information prior to publication of newsletters and other regular communications so that they can include updates on your district and your current needs. You can also coordinate with their social media and website teams to share activities, news and upcoming meetings.
Town Hall Meetings
No matter how many tweets you send, you can’t beat the impact of a face-to-face meeting with your community. Town hall meetings empower districts to put a face to the policy, to reinforce their brand and to build real support for school initiatives. Answering questions in real time can help dispel myths, grow enthusiasm and make important issues personal for the community-at-large.
There are many tools and resources available to school districts that will help you share your message effectively and at little cost. Don’t let budget issues keep you from growing support for your school and important initiatives. Be creative and be open to new opportunities and new relationships. You’ll be surprised how much your strategy will pay off — and how impressed your community will be with your financial stewardship and ingenuity!
November 16, 2015
While many districts actively compete in formal grant programs, they often ignore a more lucrative source of funds: celebrities.
Many high-earning celebrities, including actors, directors, writers, entertainers, sports stars, talk show hosts, broadcasters and others sponsor charities, donate items for fundraising auctions, or make pledges to crowdfunding campaigns. Still others engage in “soft grants,” donating funds to projects that capture their interest. Soft grants tend to have no application process. All that is involved is a public or private appeal, and hopefully a check.
In fact, the award of a soft grant may depend more on the publicity value of the donation or whether it strokes the celebrity ego. Sometimes, a specific project may pull at a celebrity’s heart strings and compel him or her to open their wallets. At other times, a grant may be awarded to boost a tarnished image, or heighten a public profile. But in the end, it is the recipient who benefits most.
October 29, 2015
There was a full house at the West Clermont Public School Advocacy kickoff meeting, held Oct. 14 in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Center at Glen Este High School.
The meeting was led by West Clermont Local School District Superintendent Keith Kline, who encouraged school staff, parents, students and community members to learn more about the effect that charter schools have on public education.
“As you know, public education has been under fire for a long time now. Funding continues to dwindle, we send more and more of our resources to poorly performing, for-profit charter schools and the entire teaching profession continues to be demeaned,” Kline said in an email.
He added, “While there has been some movement in Columbus around charter school accountability, there are still major issues around funding, evaluation of teachers, the burden of assessments and the destruction of public education as we know it. Enough is enough!”
October 5, 2015
An influx of young families with school-age children to a community is a sign of economic health and vitality. It also can be a challenge for central Ohio school districts that already are operating buildings over capacity, and looking at enrollment growth in coming years.
The fact that the Columbus region is experiencing the strongest growth in Ohio is evidenced by the baby (and kid) boom in communities such as Powell, Hilliard and Dublin. Their enrollment surge, along with other population shifts around the state in recent years, turns the longstanding reference to Ohio’s “Big 8” urban school districts on its head: Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati still are the top three, in that order, but Olentangy, South-Western and Hilliard now among the top 10 districts in terms of enrollment. Westerville and Dublin come in at Nos. 11 and 12 statewide, while once-big districts such as Canton and Youngstown have slipped significantly to Nos. 20 and 59 in the state.
September 3, 2015
The pressure on public schools today is immense. Public Schools are expected to be all things to all people. Provide top scores on testing, be accountable for every penny of tax dollars being spent and solve all the social problems our society faces. This pressure has meant the job of superintendent has gone from difficult to nearly impossible.
One of the main critiques of schools that I hear is that they need to be “more like the private sector” when they are running their school districts. This is true in one regard. Superintendents need to start acting like the CEOs they are instead of the educator that many were trained to be.
The job of school superintendent can be brutal. It includes long hours at the office, high levels of public scrutiny, a labor face to keep engaged and building a management team that meets high-level expectations, all while over seeing a multimillion-dollar budget.
August 31, 2015
Part of the Dublin Difference is our commitment to ensuring we use taxpayer dollars in the most cost effective manner possible.
Some members of our community have expressed the sentiment, “the schools should be run like a business.”
While we are decidedly different in most respects from a for-profit business, we have indeed embraced private sector business concepts designed to make our organization more efficient in an effort to maximize taxpayer dollars.
Our District has embraced the concepts involved in Lean Six Sigma, a managerial philosophy used by many of the world’s leading private sector companies, including many located within our district.
Using these data-driven, problem-solving techniques, we are implementing a new copier and printer program this coming school year designed to reduce copier and printer costs district wide. We are expecting to reduce the number of printers in our district by about half, reducing leasing costs as well as paper and ink use.
In addition to our efficiency programs, we are also continuously looking for alternative sources of revenue. We aggressively pursue available grants and we successfully rent our school facilities to a wide variety of groups.
May 8, 2015
It’s a common tale, school districts are sure that everyone in the community is aware of what’s going on in the schools. But then a community satisfaction survey is done and hardly anyone is aware of what’s going on and they are usually frustrated with how the district is spending their money.
So how do you change this perception and get real information into the hands of your constituents? The answer is a constant stream of targeted communication.
For example, in 2007 Piqua City Schools were sure that everyone in the community knew about the $3 million in cuts that they enacted due to two consecutive operating levy loses. Regardless, the district fielded a high quality, third-party professional survey that would not only gauge the community’s satisfaction with their schools but also awareness on issues like the district’s $3 million in cuts.
The survey results surprised the Piqua City Schools. According to the survey only 37 percent knew about the cuts and only 35 percent thought they did a good job of spending money. Communication had to change and quickly. So, Piqua started working with Allerton-Hill Consulting. The district overhauled their communication strategy. They began sending out more information and on a steady basis on topics that the community cared about – finances. Moreover, the district was strategic in their engagement and formed community committees. They shared regular information through newsletters, mailers and media outlets and built a better understanding among their community for what was really happening in the schools.
The shift in community awareness and district pride were noticeable. The community understands the challenges that the schools are facing and how that impacts the residents. They also understand that the district is incredibly efficient and careful with its resources. In fact, over the course of the next seven years, the district increased by leaps on the fiscal trust and awareness survey question. Specifically, number of taxpayers who believe the district is doing a good job of spending money has increased by 23 percentage points (from 35 percent to 58 percent). For a public entity, 58 percent is a strong and high number to achieve on a survey.
Success with the ongoing community dialogue on finances also led Piqua from several ballot box loses to a streak of multiple public initiatives including a 10-year income tax, a $65 million bond issue and two Permanent Improvement renewals.
Engaging in continued communications about district priorities and finances is critical for any community. In the case of Piqua City Schools, the district was respectful of the community and talked with them about what they cared about – namely, finances. Thanks to the help of Allerton-Hill Consulting, and through constant community engagement, Piqua CSD gained the trust and support of their residents.
October 16, 2014
Grand Rapids, MI schools is embarking on an aggressive marketing effort to keep more kids in the system and improve student retention. They’re already seeing great results from their grassroots public relations campaign to make the community more aware of what they have to offer, and expect to keep significant amounts of money in their budget as student retention rates rise.