Monday, March 24, 2008

Schooled in PR

Interesting article in today's Muskegon Chronicle about the various public relations efforts of area public, private and charter schools.

Gone are the days when schools just calculated--and counted on--enrollment based on the demographics of residents in their school district. These days, people have choice. There's the "schools of choice" law, and the array of options provided by charter schools. Home schooling is also a huge growth trend.

You also have the phenomenon of suburban growth and the loss of students for urban schools--two trends that are directly related. Some people move to the suburbs primarily because of the schools.

So, PR is as well-known in schools these days as the PTA.

Locally, the Grand Rapids Public Schools brought in PR man John Helmholdt, formerly of Jones and Gavan, to handle the district;s PR. Several of our local PR firms represent charter school organizations or other school districts. Intermediate School Districts (ISDs) all have communication staff. There is a National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA). An entire chapter in the textbook I use for my fundamentals of public relations course is dedicated to education PR.

All of this shows how societal trends that give more choice to people--be they consumers, parents, students, government--inevitably leads to a proliferation of PR people, a new specialty area. In education, choice has blossomed, demands are higher, bad performance leads to tangible losses. Schools, like any savvy organization, can no longer merely expect a public response. They must learn and respond to the expectations of their core publics. That's a two-way, symmetrical, mutual adjustment form of school administration. It's better management. It's fundamental public relations.

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