ASHLEY HALL IS
a 6th-grade teacher at Lovett Elementary School in Clinton, Miss. All of her education, training and work experiences are in teaching. She never has worked in the communication field.
When her principal asked her to oversee the school’s social media, Hall was excited and eager to tell the story of all the wonderful things happening inside Lovett’s classrooms, but she needed some direction.
As my school district’s public information officer, I oversee the district’s use of social media and work with one person or a team of people at each school to manage the schools’ social media pages. It’s important for school districts to decentralize social media so that the content being shared is school-specific and more relevant to parents.
When Lovett’s teachers returned in August, I met with Hall and reviewed some basic guidelines on four areas.
» PHOTO CONSENT.
We encourage schools to post images and videos of students, but we insist they have parental consent before doing so. In our district, the photo consent form is part of the online registration process so we know when school starts which students can and cannot be photographed, and we share that information with teachers.
If you are not sure who created a graphic or took a photo, do not publish it. Some images that look like clip art are actually copyrighted and could cause legal issues if published without permission.
» CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS.
If a crisis happens at your school, defer to the principal and the district PR person for crisis communication. Refer inquiries to the district’s established communication channels for updates.
» NEGATIVE OR INAPPROPRIATE COMMENTS.
Business solicitations, political ads and comments that contain foul or offensive language or graphics are not appropriate for a school page and should be hidden (or deleted). If someone posts a comment that is negative toward a student or school employee, notify your principal immediately. Cyber bullying is not tolerated on school social media.
In addition to these guidelines, I also share resources to help school staff build and manage social media pages throughout the year. Through our digital media team, I provide the guidelines and resources in an information packet they can keep handy on their devices.
One of the first questions I’m asked is “What type of information should I post?” The information packet lists story ideas including special events, business partnership activities, school plays and concerts, annual schoolwide events, PTO activities, new programs and grants, charity drives led by students, contests and competitions, special guests (elected officials, guest speakers), construction/renovation work and volunteer opportunities.
Members of the digital media team are encouraged to create an editorial calendar that lists school events each month, including school photo days, testing schedules, spirit nights and other information. Check with the principal, counselor and PTO president about school plays, guest speakers and choir concerts.
Once the editorial calendar is set, it’s easy to preschedule notifications to publish at a later date. (“Parents, check your child’s backpack tonight. Report cards go home today!”) In our district, the calendar notifications are considered the bare minimum and digital media team members are expected to post on social media at least once a week.
Hall jumped right into her duties at Lovett. Once the elementary school got underway, she added lots of engaging photos, videos and announcements through social media, which I’ve shared on district pages. The page analytics for her school are fantastic, and she’s getting great feedback from parents and teachers.
The digital media team model in our 5,300-student district has worked well. I’ve shared the basic structure and information packet with colleagues around the state and nation. If your district is not doing something similar, I encourage you to get started.
is public information officer with the Clinton Public School District in Clinton, Miss. Twitter: @AprSandi