The “Media Training for School Administrators” symposium was held on December 4th to brief educators on the importance of presenting clear and effective communications in dealing with the press and social media. Mark McGuire of Schenectady’s Daily Gazette and Dan Bazile of WNYT-13 offered valuable insight into developing productive school-media relationships while Queensbury Superintendent Dr. Douglas Huntley shared his experience with Facebook, Twitter and smart phone apps as his district has developed a robust social media presence.
Both Mr. McGuire and Mr. Bazile centered their presentation on the importance of school administrators having meaningful relationships with journalists. McGuire began his presentation by stressing that “you need to know who is covering your schools” while Bazile offered Elaine Houston as an example of a colleague who is widely known and trusted in the educational community. McGuire and Bazile acknowledged that schools face media exposure primarily in the context of crisis – in situations that present notable difficulty in terms of negotiating confidentiality laws that protect students and preserving a sense of normalcy in the scholastic environment. In these situations, it often seems that the less said, the better. Mr. McGuire, however, stated that “the words ‘No Comment’ should never leave your lips”. Both he and Bazile emphasized that declining comment and hiding from the press gives the public an impression of indifference or worse, subterfuge. By acknowledging the situation, even in the absence details about parties involved or situation specifics, the public is reassured that school administrators are being diligent and transparent in the handling of the crisis.
Dr. Huntley spoke about the importance of establishing and maintaining a visible social media presence for schools. He offered keen insight into the reality that parents of elementary and middle school students are part of “the internet generation”. These parents, he argued, interact differently with information. Daily Twitter and Facebook posts offer a means to communicate positive school-related stories and engage with parents in a meaningful, yet astonishingly efficient manner. These interactions, when used wisely, are yet another tool to strengthen the links in the school community.
While many administrators are wary of the press and social media alike, the presentations offered by Mr. Bazile, Mr. McGuire and Dr. Huntley show that these fears are quite unfounded. In fact, the panelists at the “Media Training for School Administrators” forum encouraged attendees to see the media as an opportunity to develop meaningful relationships in their community and proactively cast their schools in a positive light.