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The drumbeat is getting a bit louder with every school research project we undertake: Don’t forget to tout achievements other than athletics.
We hear it from districts, where the academics are clearly more of the story than what takes place on the field of competition, and also from districts that have cases full of trophies. Patrons want to know that their schools are succeeding with students who have varied interests and abilities.
One way to check your district on this issue is to ask each school to do an audit of what they promoted during the 2011-2012 school year. This “promotion” can be via voicemail, e-mail, and even the morning announcements. How many times (roughly) was the message about a sports team accomplishment versus anything else (not counting fundraising pitches)? If it looks out of balance to you, it probably is.
A great way to bring things back in line is to find opportunities to promote typically lower profile clubs and activities. News about projects undertaken, programs being started and groups being organized are just as valuable to building your “well-rounded” brand story, as are championships being won.
The school nurse has been summoned, due to an outbreak of “senioritis.” You’ve giving a passing thought to installing blackout blinds or some other device to keep students’ minds from wandering these last few weeks, days and even hours. You may have even noticed some larger smiles on the faces of your fellow staff members, as the end of the school year fast approaches.
If you haven’t already done so, now is the time to load up on the “thanks for a great year” messages in all your various venues to all your key stakeholders. Whether it was the best year ever, fairly average, or perhaps even difficult at times (aren’t they always, at least at times?), you don’t want to let these moments slip by without multiple mentions of appreciation.
Why? To continue to build your district’s brand, as one that recognizes that it can’t succeed without the help of those key audiences. Even if you can’t put your finger on some specific example of “help” you’ve received from a target group, thank them anyway.
At some point in the future, you’ll need them in your corner (a ballot issue, a tough decision you have to make, etc.). Don’t miss this chance to keep them pointed in that direction, before you’ve lost their attention for the summer.
Our great client, Platte County R-3 School District, in the northern part of the Kansas City, Missouri, metropolitan area saw the ugly effects of outside influences and money on its bond issue election last week.
The district – which has been growing in student count by leaps and bounds, with no end in sight – had a proposal that would solve the problem, with some new construction and expansion, and would take advantage of the lowest borrowing and construction costs anyone has seen in years. The price tag was reasonable, but not pocket change. However, the general mood among the campaign committee was cautiously optimistic.
That all changed with the arrival of a last-minute, well-funded attack campaign from well-known out-of-towners who call themselves “Freedom PAC.” Their goal was to scare, and they knew just how to do it – by carpet bombing the community with simple, frightening messages that bred mistrust and took the community’s eyes off who would actually benefit from passage of the proposal.
While local people were clearly operatives, make no mistake: This was not a grassroots, well-intentioned effort to offer another point of view. This was an effort that was well-funded by out-of-town interests who saw Platte County’s proposal as one more domino.
Now that they have succeeded, they’re moving on, leaving the school district to pick up the pieces and try to figure out just how it’s going to accommodate the needs of all those students.