Intentional Engagement: What Board Members Must Know and Be Able to Do
We have found that Board efforts to communicate within the community is bedeviled by angst, fear, and often a lack of skills. Outreach sometimes is dominated by one member and his/her message. Other boards delegate board communications to the administration and fail to activate the board’s unique engagement role.
The result? Failure to build public understanding or engagement around this herculean task of district governance! Issues such as we are facing now around COVID responses and CRT has the board and district as the target of acrimonious frustration whipped up by the incivility and the divisiveness of current politics and political parties.
School Boards – and their districts – have got to get in the game – building understanding, connections, support for this community business. It is the board’s role “to lead, serve and represent” their constituents. It requires thought-full, planned and executed strategies. And the efforts must be an on-going commitment – not a “one and done.” We are not talking showing up at an Open House or Back to School Night. This is intentional engagement to impact public support for public education.
Consider this article and then let’s talk:
Those who do well in the education market focus on essential aspects of public engagement. We’ve learned the hard way that traditional marketing and PR tactics predicated on the quick sale of ideas proffer perilously weak support — insufficient to sustain commitment or muster the political will to affect policy and practice in education.
In this article, Scott Widmeyer outlines a dozen lessons learned during decades of reform. It echoes our beliefs and teaching with our clients:
- Publicity and promotions are not enough to make a real difference or a lot of money in education;
- Invest time and talent to create informed education consumers;
- Be patient and prepare for fallout from unintended consequences;
- Listen carefully to what the public is saying — and use polling data wisely;
- Beware the perils of pandering to public opinion;
- Gain support by behaving like experts;
- Help people ask good questions;
- Paint a variety of pictures of success;
- Take time to educate the education reporters;
- Keep corporate leaders at the table;
- Be willing to consider real structural changes; and
- Make communications an engine of the learning enterprise.
Strategies may abound. We favor tried and true Key Communicators to build a network of informed citizens committed to linking with you. We also promote the concept of Thought Leaders – the board members engaging fellow elected or appointed leaders in the community on issues and trends impacting the schools and the community’s future viability.
These communication tactics and plans have worked in districts across the country. Start or re-start. Call us.