March 27, 2019
The Missouri School Public Relations Association has named Ken DeSieghardt the 2019 Distinguished Service Award recipient. The award was presented at the MOSPRA Annual Awards Banquet at the Lodge of Four Season, Lake Ozark, Missouri. The Distinguished Service Award goes to a person who has done exceptional work in the field of education and has been a vocal supporter of public education.
In a letter of nomination, Past-MOSPRA President, Nicole Kirby, said, “Ken cares about public education. He is vocal in his support of work done on behalf of children. He puts his heart and soul into helping schools succeed, and because of this, many school districts in Missouri and beyond are better able to do their jobs.”
Susan Downing, Director of Communications for the Ladue School District wrote in her nomination letter, “You can trust that any advice Ken gives will be without guile, and straight from the heart. You can also trust Ken to shoot straight, even when he’s talking to your Board of Education, remaining firm in his position, while also making those around him feel valued.”
Mr. DeSieghardt is the Founder/Principal of Patron Insight, a company dedicated to helping its clients with strategic planning and communications.
The Missouri School Public Relations Association (MOSPRA) is the Missouri state chapter of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA). While the membership in MOSPRA is primarily composed of school communication practitioners from both public and private school districts, members also include superintendents, principals, secretaries, education association staff, board of education members and others who work to gain public confidence in education. Like its parent organization, MOSPRA is dedicated to providing citizens with a better understanding of the objectives, accomplishments and needs of the schools within our communities.
It’s a shock, when a ballot proposal fails on Election Night, whether the margin was one vote or in the thousands.
Your search for answers of what went wrong begins immediately. The results of that search are often incomplete because they must pass through the filter of disappointment.
Here is what we have learned from conducting follow-up studies for districts that had a rough night at the ballot box:
Quick “repeats” are rarely successful: Assuming it was a failure of message, effort or timing, school districts might simply rerun the proposal at the next election opportunity. History shows your chances of being successful are slim, and you create animosity with your patrons who think they already gave you an answer on your proposal.
Acknowledging the loss is critical: Districts that step forward promptly and say, “We will be taking time to understand how our patrons want us to proceed” are setting the right tone. This lets the naysayers hear their “message” was received, while keeping it positive for supporters and those who were apathetic.
Overwhelm your patrons and staff with fact-finding efforts: Talk openly about the options that are in front of you and the kinds of conversations that are taking place, as you plan your next steps.
Simplify and personalize your messages: Once you settle on your follow-up ballot proposal, create messages that are simple and benefit-driven. Leave the exhaustive details for your website, and keep the more broadly used messages focused on key points: What’s in the proposal? What will it cost me? Why should I vote for it?
Be honest, but avoid scare tactics: If your original proposal was driven by need, then the need is likely to be even more acute, when your follow-up proposal is placed on the ballot. However, resist the temptation to put out messages that threaten voters with dire consequences, if the proposal fails.
Respond to organized opposition with facts: If your opposition starts putting up their own yard signs and websites, don’t let them get under your skin. Rather, correct their misinformation with simple statements that begin with, “Actually, the fact is…”
If your district has experienced a recent loss at the ballot box, let us help!
Among marketing and advertising folks, there is a well-known case study of a product launch in the mid-1960s that failed spectacularly.
The product was a new brand of dog food, and the reason the launch became famous was the extreme lengths the company went to research the prelaunch of the product. Everything was tested – the shape and design of the packaging, the color of the lettering, the background graphics, and the habits of dog owners as they strolled through the store.
Care to guess why?
Nobody asked the dogs. Turns out initial sales were great, until pet owners discovered their dogs didn’t like the taste and refused to eat it. The product sank like a rock.
We’ve witnessed similar instances in K-12 with strategic planning that failed to cover all the bases. Time after time, we see school districts spend months working with a strategic planning committee to identify upgrades, changes and new policies to only have those fail once implemented in the community.
When Patron Insight works with school districts on strategic planning, we ramp up the data collection phase to insure two things:
- Everyone in the district has a say in the process.
- Everyone is informed about potential changes in the district well in advance of any changes.
Our methodology includes a statistically-accurate patron telephone survey, online surveys for parents, students, staff and the public, and interviews with key opinion leaders. We encourage our school district clients to seek the input of all patrons in the process and publish results of the surveys as they happen.
Using this approach, our clients find once it’s time to implement their strategic planning initiatives, everything falls in place without a hitch.
As Dr. Tim Hadfield, superintendent of the Camdenton School District (Mo.), said, “We’ve never had a strategic plan go this smoothly.”