The superintendent search from a PR perspective (part 2)

In my previous post, I laid out the reasons the process of hiring a new superintendent needs to be designed for fairness, transparency, and consideration for stakeholders.

Today I’m going to begin laying out eight steps in the process of hiring a school superintendent where the right approach can boost a school’s standing with the public.

The first step is to determine specifically who “the public” is.

1. Who are your publics?

The people who have an interest in the hiring process and its outcome is a large and diverse group.  It includes people are know they are interested and people who should be interested but aren’t.

A school board needs to take a close look at subgroups within the public to determine what kinds of information will get their attention and encourage a positive impression of the board and the school district.

1a. Identify school stakeholder groups

Within a school system, there are identifiable non-student groups with fairly clear-cut common responsibilities, credentials, and employment status. Although the makeup of the groups may vary somewhat from schools to school, they include:

  • administrative staff, both instructional and non-instructional, including principals, the financial officer, the transportation manager, etc.
  • instructional staff, including full- and part-time faculty and instructional support staff, such as teacher aides.
  • non-instructional staff, both full- and part-time. This includes coaches, bus drivers, custodians, etc.
  • the school board members

A district also has some stakeholders outside its buildings.

The most obvious of these is the parents/guardians of current students who do not have family members employed by the school or on the school board. They need to be treated as a distinct group.

1b. Identify outside stakeholder groups

The largest stakeholder group, the “outside community” is likely to be a hodgepodge of:

  • property owners in the district whose only connection to the school may be via their tax bill
  • business owners in the district
  • families who live in the school district but home-school or those whose children attend school elsewhere
  • residents in the district who don’t own property there

People who fit one of these descriptions and do not have current personal ties to the school should be treated as a stakeholder group. Their lack of present, personal connection makes them hard to reach, but their numbers make them an important group in the school district’s success.

Why the diversity matters

In planning what messages to release, the school board’s PR agent has to make sure that the messages are clear to the intended audiences. Terminology that’s readily understood by teachers may be meaningless to the maintenance staff, and vice versa.

Sometimes being clear to stakeholders necessitates preparing one version of information specifically for in-school audiences and another for outside audiences.

For example, parents may not know they are interested in how well candidates manage the budgeting process until their kids’ music or sports program is threatened.

The people crafting the media releases can do a better and more efficient job if they know the makeup of the target audience.

Next:  Set the stage for stakeholder participation

All the posts in this series:

  • Part 1: Introduction
  • Part 2: Identify stakeholders
  • Part 3: Set stage for stakeholder participation
  • Part 4:  Prepare the invitation to apply and  give potential interviewers resources
  • Part 5:  Keep good interview records
  • Part 6:  Check references following interviews
  • Part 7:  Explain your choice & archive paperwork