Social Media

Branding Alongside a Communication Pro
By MICHAEL LUBELFELD/School Administrator, May 2019

MANY SUPERINTENDENTS are effective communicators. However, as with all aspects of effective leadership, the superintendent alone cannot do or be everything needed in terms of all that is expected.

If the superintendent is the communicator in chief, then the director of communications functions as chief of staff, leading and learning, listening and analyzing, gathering input and acting on the input. All of these roles contribute to trust, engagement and support for effective schooling and school operations.

In my three superintendent posts over the past decade, I have had the good fortune of working in two districts with individuals serving specifically as the communication administrators. In my first superintendency, we had a limited administration so I doubled as the communication director.

Though I’ve worked in both types of district leadership situations, my illustrative examples capture the synergy that comes from working alongside a communication professional.

Social Platforms
Today’s modern superintendents need to understand how to leverage every communication tool at their disposal to lead effectively. That means having the capacity to fully use an array of social media tools to produce clear, timely, relevant, accessible, frequent, varied and on-message communication.

The communication professional, making deliberate and creative use of social media platforms, can be the eyes, ears and voice of the superintendent. This can play a significant part in building trust.

With a communication director alongside, the superintendent has four ears instead of two — exponentially increasing the listening abilities of the school district. Through the National School Public Relations Association, the superintendent can tap into limitless support and informational resources for the essential work of public communication.

For communication and branding, we regularly use Facebook, Twitter and podcasting (Lighthouse 112), and we are also increasing our use of video in marketing.

Constant Contact
In my current post, the communications director and I have been engaged in intentional relationship building since December 2017 when the board of the North Shore School District 112 in suburban Chicago made the decision to hire me. Though I did not take office until more than six months later, the director of communications, Nicholas Glenn, and I were in constant contact regarding both tactical and strategic communication.

As early as February 2018, we hosted a “meet and greet” activity with more than 100 community members and staff in attendance. He used the district’s communication tools to generate excitement about the event, which he videotaped and posted to the district website.

Since then, the posting of videos and FAQ documents has become a hallmark of my partnering with the director of communication.

Hashtag Ready
A school communications professional can do much to extend the superintendent’s reach by collecting background information, writing, editing, messaging, handling internal and external outreach, conducting analysis and branding. Well before I took office in North Shore, Nicholas was gearing up to share my brand.

On the day I officially came on board, we launched the new district hashtag on Twitter, #112Leads. The intended messaging in this is that everyone in the school district is a leader. The branding is that in District 112, we lead. We want everyone to know that excitement and success are the keystones of North Shore School District 112 with its 3,900 students in grades P-8.

Just as superintendents need financial officers, academic officers and administrative assistants, they also need communication professionals to impact student learning and success through direct, deliberate and professional communications. In fact, the relationship between the school communication expert and his or her superintendent may be one of the most important and impactful roles the superintendent has on the district’s leadership team.

MICHAEL LUBELFELD is superintendent of North Shore School District 112 in Highland Park, Ill. Twitter: @mikelubelfeld