Imagine when our current students grow up and become the superintendents and CEOs of the world. Undoubtedly they will have new social media tools that long replaced Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to communicate their every thought and experience. This selfie-posting generation has grown up with smartphones in hand.
Many will come into their superintendency as seasoned and prolific bloggers. No PR specialist will need to tell them “you really should have a blog.” Not all of us are as eager to break out onto the social media scene with such abandon. This may be particularly true for superintendents. They may be cautious to put themselves out there, or maybe they haven’t bought into the idea that true connections can be made with their learning community through a device.
Whatever the reason, if you are a PR specialist hoping to get your superintendent blogging, or you are a superintendent yourself, I hope this article gives you the inspiration or nudge you need to get your own blog up and running!
Why start a Superintendent’s Blog? This is a question that must be pondered by the superintendent, as part of the district’s broader communications plan. Reasons for blogging may vary. Dr. Kimberly Boryszewski, Superintendent of Schools for School District 81 in Schiller Park, IL has a mission statement for her blog: “to engage constituents and increase transparency.” Before she began blogging, we had conversations about what she hoped to accomplish. Dr. Boryszewski is a child -centered leader who values connections with students, parents, faculty and staff, and the community. She was willing to put herself out there so that the community could get to know her.
We envisioned a blog that allowed the reader to see the district through our superintendent’s eyes. Dr. Boryszewski’s Superintendent’s Blog was recently honored with a 2014 Merit award from the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) for Excellence in Social Media. Her blog has become a frequently visited part of our school district’s website and engages community members with what often seems like a “backstage pass” into our schools.
Here are five tips for a School Public Relations Specialist and Superintendent to launching an award-winning superintendent's blog:
1. Have a mission and purpose
It is much easier to create content when you establish the blog’s purpose. The blog could be a great opportunity to support and enhance your district’s communication plan. It's also a great way to readily connect your district's leader and leadership team to the parents, staff and entire school community. Entries could chronicle a specific long-term project or goal for the school. The blog could also be broader in scope, focusing on student achievement or perhaps opening up dialogue about important issues in your learning community.
Readers will know what to expect and look to your blog as a go-to source for topics that are relevant in their world.
2. Convey the superintendent’s personality
Capitalizing on the unique traits of a Superintendent’s personality is a surefire way to get and keep readers. Dr. Boryszewski is dynamic and compassionate, and her blogs reflect these traits. She often writes from her heart, is enthusiastic about what is going on in the schools, and is quick to recognize and thank those who help make School District 81 a great place for kids to learn and grow. A blog that merely recites calendar dates of upcoming events will not do much to engage readers and let them get to know the leader of their school district.
3. Find the superintendent’s authentic voice
I have read some superintendents’ blogs that tell family stories, share childhood memories, and highlight personal pictures. The superintendent has to decide what he or she is comfortable with sharing, and it should feel authentic and real. A very casual and familiar tone is an approach that may not work for some leaders, or for their learning community. Other communities may relish the posts that allow them to get to know the superintendent. The blog should be something the superintendent is excited about writing.
4. Share the 'Rudy' stories
If you have seen the sports movie Rudy, you know what it feels like to get drawn into the power of a great story about the human spirit. If your superintendent’s blog aims to make connections with constituents, sharing the uplifting moments in your district can make a great impact. Dr. Boryszewski’s blog posts that celebrate student “wins” are the posts shared and reblogged the most frequently on social media by the parents in our district. They really care about kids, and that is what Dr. Boryszewski loves to write about. One of the most crucial elements of a successful blog are the pictures that accompany the posts. Compelling pictures draw readers in. Investing in a good camera is one of the best PR decisions we have made!
5. Promote your superintendent’s blog
Spreading the word about the superintendent’s blog is easy when you take advantage of cross-promotion opportunities. Visitors to our Campus Suite® website can access Dr. Boryszewski’s blog right from our homepage. Under the pictures published in the district’s monthly e-newsletter are the words “To view additional pictures, please visit the photo gallery in the Superintendent’s blog.” Post a link to the blog on all social media channels you use, such as Twitter and Facebook. Members of your school community will help with promoting the blog, since they will share posts with their own friends and connections.
Keeping a blog fresh with current and engaging content will happen automatically if the superintendent is excited about the blog. Content will jump out at you in the hallways where student artwork is displayed, or even while chatting with a student about a field trip. A superintendent who looks forward to blogging will definitely make worthwhile connections with the learning community.
Kathy Brant is the Communications Director for School District 81, in Schiller Park, Illinois, where she collaborates with the professionals in her learning community to produce the school's award-winning website and superintendent's blog, and all web communications. Reach her at KBrant@sd81.org.