1. Develop a planned, systematic, two-way process of communication between your organization and its external and internal publics. Without this element, you can forget about the remaining 49 ideas.
2. Develop a sound communications policy for your organization affirming the system’s commitment to a planned, two-way process.
3. Be creative in your approach to designing messages for your publics. Try a “fridge foldout” or an “annual notebook” instead of an annual report.
4. The most effective communications take place closest to the person being served.
5. Establish a citizen’s advisory group. Understand its role as a sounding board for administrator and staff.
6. Establish a student/client advisory committee.
7. Issue a parent report card – you grade us.
8. Have feedback cards concerning the program at conferences.
9. Provide an evaluation questionnaire for those parents or staff who are leaving the community.
10. Provide certificates of achievement/recognition and thank-you notes.
11. Hold special programs for persons served and parents to work together on projects.
12. Have a set program to welcome newcomers. Have a buddy system for new consumers, a “welcome wagon” composed of parents and retired staff members for the new parents.
13. Hold breakfasts for dads.
14. Maintain attractive, well-kept grounds — a non-verbal type of communication.
15. Develop a logo for your organization. This helps give the system a visual identity.
16. Adopt-a-program. Invite a local business to become involved by “adopting” a school/workshop for a year. The firm can plan enrichment activities based on the expertise of its employees and provide volunteer help.
17. Good news notes. They are an excellent way to tell about positive things.
18. Develop a working relationship with the media. Know their needs.
19. “Project Coffee Cup” — This is a coupon sent home that is “Good for one cup of coffee at ________ on ________ between ________ with members of the staff. NO RSVP needed, but we hope you can join us.
20. Have the principal/facility manager put notes in the agency newspaper or write a regular column.
21. Place suggestion boxes in school, businesses and public buildings.
22. Information sheets included in pay checks to staff. This would include a calendar of events, important messages, etc.
23. Do something about the PR training of your staff. What they say and how they say it affects your image, too.
24. Neighborhood walk. Involve the administrator and parent groups in introducing themselves to the community.
25. Speakers’ Bureau. This provides community groups with information and gives them an opportunity to ask questions.
26. Billboards can be a joint project of a building, community groups and the area Chamber of Commerce.
27. Public service announcements and public affairs programming. This can be arranged through local television and radio stations.
28. Press preview. Invite your local media people in for coffee and a quick look at what the year will be like — such as new people, new programs, new directions and new policies.
29. Weekly tip sheet to media. Include who, what, when, where, why and how.
30. Public Tour Week — bus and walking tour of facilities. The participants are given a quiz to be completed as they tour the district.
31. Take-your-son/daughter-to-lunch. Encourage parents to join their sons/daughters for lunch.
32. Purchase video tapes of television news coverage of your organization. Edit and reuse them instead of a slide show.
33. Provide buttons, posters and post cards about your organization. This can be a joint project with a community organization, such as the realtors association, the Chamber of Commerce, etc.
34. Special display posters with built-in pockets for printed materials concerning the organization. Use at grocery stores, banks, churches, shops, etc.
35. Citizen or student of the month.
36. Discuss the possibility of an “action-line” news column in your weekly newspaper, for questions and answers concerning the organization.
37. Sponsor mini-contests for staff on “How We Can Make Our Programs Better?” and publicize the winners and their ideas.
38. A letter from the superintendent to the parents of graduates congratulating them on the support they have given their children to make their graduations possible.
39. Telephone Newsline — a recorded message, no longer than 90 seconds, changed two or three times a week. This message would include announcements and news of district-wide nature, etc. Also, have a pre-recorded message concerning facility/school closings.
40. Contact local real estate offices and share information about your services so they can provide accurate information with prospective buyers.
41. Have a rumor control clearinghouse.
42. Have a brainstorming day to get several hundred workable communications ideas which are uniquely appropriate to your school/facility.
43. Put up a marquee in your building to advertise all the exciting events. Make them exciting events.
44. Have a monthly “think tank” session for staff members who are interested in attacking problems and finding alternatives.
45. Have a “family day” at your facility during an evening or weekend. This is so that staff members can bring their families to see where they work, with whom, etc.
46. Have people being served be tour leaders for visitors.
47. Have a bus “open house” to stress the importance of transportation and the bus driver’s role. Include bus drivers as one of your priority audiences — invite them to an occasional staff meeting. Let them know how important they are to what happens in your organization.
48. Have an “alumni day” for former students; and consider having a “grandparents day.”
49. If possible, welcome people to your building personally.
50. Consider employing a part-time or full-time person who is trained in communications and has skills which will help your organization.
This list is an abbreviated version of “78 Communication Ideas That Work” compiled from works of school public relation practitioners by John Butterfield, Director of Information Services and Publications, Worthington City Schools.