It could be a couple of months before Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) has a new communications strategy.
Heather Massell, the current acting director of communications for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA), met with trustees during their regular meeting on Thursday, June 2 at the request of the board in hopes of examining how they can make improvements to how the division as a whole can do a better job at getting out their messages.
Massell has done some previous consulting work on the topic and, instead of leading off with talking about what WCPS could do, she put the ball squarely back in the court of the trustees by asking what they want to see their communications do for them.
“Being aware that you want to do something to reach out with those positive ideas and stories is great and I’m all for sharing those kinds of stories, as that’s what media in the community, such as a local newspaper, is always looking for,” Massell said.
“If you can build on those positives, it raises the value so when something negative does happen, the good news may somewhat balance that out.”
As for what the trustees envision as necessary in their communication strategy, the overarching theme was being able to reach all of their stakeholders with the positive things going on in WCPS in a timely manner in order to really save some schools.
“We need to celebrate the good things that are going on in the division in order to promote our schools and program,” stated board chair Trudy Bratland.
Trustee Bob Huff added the landscape is changing and the public school system is no longer the only choice for students.
“Potential students are going other places and we need to be the place they want to come,” he said.
“We need to market our rural schools since people vote with their feet and if we don’t promote it who will? Plus, social media is driving a lot of this change too.”
Trustee Donna Peterson put it all in perspective with reference to social media stating, “Everyone wants things so fast, this instant, so it’s important that we know how to deal with this correctly.”
The discussion turned to the fact WCPS hasn’t had a full time communications position for several years, with many of those duties being rolled into other people’s job descriptions over time, begging trustees wonder whether bringing back that job would be prudent.
Massell indicated she has always been an advocate of there being one central communications position in an organization, simply because it can help cut through the noise.
“I think back to when most of us went to school as compared to the abundance of media choices there are now, including social media. A communications person has value in being able to push through all that noise and emphasize the pointed information you want people to receive,” she said.
“They also play a big role in an emergency situation, but it has to have value and its much easier now to quantify it with the facts and statistics we can access now. With the technology and tools that are around today it’s almost a full time job just doing that, so I can’t say enough how much I believe a communications person is important to any organization.”
She added that position can also help keep the messaging consistent, streamline the process, make things concise and timely plus bridge the perceived gap between how different generations receive their information.
Massell will now take all of the ideas, suggestions and comments from the trustees and administration under consideration along with looking at how the division presently performs their communications functions before putting together a road map the division could follow to achieve their objectives and goals.
There is no set timeline for when the board will receive or review any recommendations.