As school districts worked tirelessly over the 2020 summer to prepare for the coming school year amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, John Guilfoil Public Relations saw a significant need for schools to define clear policies, procedures and expectations for communications. The communications plan, which was a required component of reopening plans for New Hampshire schools, would ensure all stakeholders received announcements in a timely manner, in a consistent style, from a designated spokesperson, and through a communications channel or channel(s) appropriate for that specific update.
Communications Plans feature an alerts hierarchy that designates how updates are shared depending on their urgency and time sensitivity. The hierarchy outlines through which channels, such as social media or press release, certain types of communications are made. For example, a phone call home is not always a necessary step, unless a crisis or emergency is underway, like the identification of a positive case of COVID-19 in a classroom. The plans also outline the importance of ensuring evergreen communications about ongoing expectations, for example new policies requiring mask wearing, social distancing, hand washing, etc., be made available for review on a district website or blog for stakeholders throughout the school year.
The plans identify a district spokesperson and back-up spokesperson, as well as who must approve all communications, to ensure consistency and an authoritative voice parents, guardians, students, staff and the community can expect to hear from.
Communications plans additionally include an inventory of all of the communications resources districts have, including websites, social media accounts, email lists, and so on. The plan further includes the contact information for all those with administrative access to those resources.
Media relations and social media policies of the district were also included in the plans.
The Communications Plans serves as a tool to ensure timely communication with stakeholders amid an ongoing pandemic, in a clean, professional, consistent and reliable manner. Streamlining communications for districts reopening amid COVID-19 would bolster the confidence of the community in district leadership, ensure a clear understanding of the reopening plan, reduce any confusion or concern, and underscore the district’s commitment to keeping its community informed, safe and healthy during a challenging, unprecedented school year.