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Checklist in a communications crisis

Faith Behr is principal/consultant at Behr Communications. She advises and counsels school boards and school administrators on crisis communications and public relations. She is a 20-year veteran of school public relations and has worked with dozens of Illinois school districts. She blogs at and tweets on school PR @faithbehr

This column is reprinted from the May/June 2015 Illinois Association of School Board (IASB) Journal.

Social media and digital communications have great power. They have toppled governments, ignited election campaigns, and been blamed for corporate stock drops. In schools districts, I have seen social media derail a school boundary decision, cause a renege on a superintendent’s contract, and crush a board member’s re-election chances.

Communications practices cannot thwart a crisis but can help manage one so that a school board can have a consistent and positive relationship with its constituencies in good times and bad. Here are some suggestions on how to develop effective communications protocols for a crisis.

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5 rules of social media for entrepreneurs

The advent of social media can level the playing field between big corporations and small businesses. Social media provides easy access to your customers, market research and customer service and keeps your business in front of your customers.  It also boosts website traffic and drives sales. Yes, you can grow your customer base using some of the same strategies and tools that the big guys use.  And, in fact, smaller enterprises are often the best and most nimble users of social media and have the most loyal following. Here are five tips for entrepreneurs to use in the social media world.
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What the heck do I tweet?

Now that school superintendents, principals, school PR practitioners and other school leaders are increasingly adopting social media, they’re asking, “What the heck do I tweet (or post)?” They need to get out of their role as administrators and get into the skin of their audience. What does their audience want to know? And, what are your goals for social media? Besides listening and engaging with your new friends and followers, here are some ideas for Facebook and Twitter content:

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Death goes to school, again

I still remember the headline, “Death Goes To School.” Then, 24 years ago, that headline topped an overnight special edition covering a school-shooting spree in Winnetka, an unspeakable tragedy that began a turning point for more school security. I was a newspaper reporter and along with handfuls of staff, we reported on how Laurie Dann, a mentally ill 31-year-old, went on a rampage one day. She set fire in one school in Highland Park, IL and entered another school in Winnetka and shot 6 persons, killing second grader Nicholas Corwin before fleeing to a nearby home, taking a hostage and killing herself.

This was my home turf; Laurie Dann went to my high school and my family and friends had ties to both the Dann family and the victims. Though I was an observer, I mourned along with the community and like them, wondered why this happened.
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Shrinking attention spans

I didn’t think I had a problem with attention span, but if I’m on my mobile phone and some link takes longer than a few seconds to load, I hit the back button.

Yes, it’s a razor thin divide between being intrigued and getting distracted. Mobile use is up and experts predict that it will continue. That, and all the competing distractions have forced us to again rethink the way we communicate.
The problem is, we school communicators have a lot to say. Now, more than ever.
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