The SCN Encourager – Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Michigan’s MSPRA school communicators workshop offered solid overview

Thanks to MSPRA President Anita Banach and host district Clarkston Community Schools, a core of five PR professionals from Lambert Edwards & Associates presented on several topics, including traditional media, crisis communications, bond election campaigns, and social media. Getting all of our dots connected as “in the trenches” communicators is always a beneficial thing (even if it’s just in our own minds) so thanks to all who made a good conference happen. You created a nice launching pad into MSPRA’s big upcoming conference (March 7-8 in Lansing).

Beyond the learning, why do I like organized and well-presented conferences? (Not that I go to many … ) Well, they are so much easier to report about once I get back into the office! My boss usually wants to know what I learned, and sadly, I’m not creative enough to just make stuff up on the spot. And, of course, the aura of Murphy’s Conference Attendance Law #74 is always present whether he asks or not: that the more you actually learn at an out-of-district conference, the less any of your co-workers will want to hear about it.

As you know, all good conferences ultimately nudge you into thinking about your own communication practices, and as we were discussing at MSPRA how to build better relationships with the reporters who cover our schools, here’s a tip I’ve found that yields results every time. (I know I should’ve shared this tip during the discussion time at the conference, but I didn’t think of it until two hours after the conference were over. I hate it when this happens!)

Here’s the tip. Follow the work of the main reporter or reporters who cover your schools without stalking them and see what other kinds of stories they are covering. Sometimes in the public letters to their editor, or on the Facebook feed on their media outlet’s website, they may be getting bashed around for something they’ve written or featured. Maybe they had to cover an intensely controversial issue or perhaps they just made an honest mistake. Whatever the reason for their tough situation at the time, if it seems like a nice “hang in there” email or call from you would be fitting, don’t hesitate to connect with them. I’ve found that if I’m supportive during their times of professional stress, they usually respond in kind during my times of professional stress. (This seems kind of calculating, I know. So I just think of this strategy as being “more aware.”)

Tom Page, SCN managing editor

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