Education Leaders: Prepare to Communicate Unpopular Information

Maintaining safe operations amid COVID-19 presents unique challenges. From mask-wearing enforcement, social distancing plans, and supplying enough sanitizer, no one is immune from the burdens. Significant planning, diligence, and leadership are required. When it comes to schools, stakes are higher. From colleges and universities, to public, private, and charter schools, basic decisions to open or close become more complicated.

School leaders face crisis after crisis – many completely out of their control. The pressure is applied from students, faculty, parents, unions, and political leaders – each with a point of view, valid arguments, and demands conflicting with other equally important stakeholders. Regardless of conclusions and decisions school leaders face outrage, complications, and resistance.

Knowing the dire situation, and decisions proving unpopular, school leaders must forge ahead. In a webinar last week, held by Education Admin Web Advisor we provided counsel for these administrators and officials to better prepare for what is coming as students return, or as they engage in remote learning. We guided them on the fundamentals of strategic communications – and inspired many to begin developing a plan or playbook to ready themselves for whatever comes their way.

School leaders (and any communicator for that matter) should regularly review the key elements of their communications strategy. Specifically, considering:

  • Scenarios – What could possibly happen?
  • Messaging – What can be said (and done)? What can be communicated proactively to blunt the negative?
  • Protocol – Who is communicating when/if crisis presents?

Leaders must prepare for various situations. What if a student tests positive for COVID-19? What about a teacher? What about 100 students? What if a faculty member dies?

Adopting a communications plan and testing it to ensure the messages and protocol are in place (and understood but those on the front lines) takes the pressure off in stressful situations. However, communications must be clear, frequent, and directly responsive to audience worries.

How administrators develop and communicate policies and procedures in the COVID-19 era will define its adoption success – or failure. Planning the message, how to say it, and preparing the messengers is critical. Effective communication in a crisis is just as important as the effective operational response. Take control of the narrative and communicate proactively.

Without proper planning, there will be lots of defensive justification and explaining – and when you are explaining you are losing. How are you working to transform perspectives despite unpopular circumstances and decisions?

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