SBR: Stewart: Evaluate public relations activities

By G. Kent Stewart, School Admin Prof. Emeritus, KSU, bcsgks1@cox.net

During the past 10 months we have talked about public relations activities practiced at the central office level. While most PR activity occurs at the school building level, those utilized by the central office are critically important from the standpoint of developing understandings that engender advocacy.

About every three years PR activities should be evaluated. Something similar to a focus group is an effective low-cost evaluation method, and it doesn’t require much time.

Barry Flinchbaugh, long-time professor of agricultural economics at KSU, believed community power structure could be charted on a pyramid where the very few really important community decision makers are clustered at the peak of the pyramid. These few individuals, termed “kings” were followed by a small group of individuals that Flinchbuagh termed “kingmakers.” The kingmakers were followed by a little larger group termed “involved” community leaders. Next were “interested” citizens, and at the base at the pyramid were people he termed as “uninterested” in community matters.

Given that workable model, the school superintendent and Board should identify about a half-dozen community members known to be kingmakers and involved leaders. These people are then invited to join the superintendent and a couple Board members to spend an hour reviewing central office PR activities aimed at achieving public understanding of the school district and hopefully help interested people become active education advocates. Your staff PR person should be included.

After choosing and inviting the conferees, send them copies and explanations of each activity to be evaluated. Include the meeting date and time, a list of invitees, an agenda, and explanation of what you want the evaluators to do. A late morning meeting should conclude with lunch catered by the school cooks.

Of course you could meet and lunch downtown, but its good PR to meet on school turf and eat school lunch. Who knows, school lunch for your conferees may be their first since graduation!

Simple meeting agenda

Here’s a proven outline that can be easily modified to suit your unique needs:

  • Meet in the Board or conference room
  • Have coffee, tea, and water available
  • Introduce the conferees
  • State briefly why you have convened the group
  • Introduce the first activity in the evaluation packet along with your rationale for using the particular activity
  • Listen to what your conferees have to say about its effectiveness as a central office PR activity, how it could be modified and improved, or whether it should be discarded as ineffective
  • Continue to review each activity unitized by the central office

Incidentally, this evaluation model works well at the school building level except evaluators need not be the visible leaders and kingmakers in the community. Rather, the school principal and PR staff person could choose a half-dozen or so well-regarded parent leaders representing the school site council, the PTO, and the athletic boosters club.

Remember once again, we are trying to develop public understanding aimed at helping community leaders become visible advocates for education.

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