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How should schools defend uniforms policy?

17 June 2015

If school leaders under scrutiny believe their uniforms policies are justified, they should say why and do it immediately. Every few weeks there seems to be another school in the news for its so-called ‘unreasonable’ uniforms policy.

So what should schools do?

Firstly, in the digital age, they have to respond almost immediately to media inquiries. Often, as in the puffer jacket case, the story is in social media, and possibly mainstream media, before the school even knows about it. It then takes on a life of its own with Facebook likes, comments and ongoing news media scrutiny.

This is becoming commonplace as the 24-hour news cycle takes affect with social and online media.

It will be hard for schools to keep up, but they need to get their message (or side of the arguement) out quickly before it’s too late and people have already made up their mind about it. Most experts say this must be done within 15 minutes. That may sound impossible, but by understanding the media interview process and practice, it can be done.

A three-point message must be prepared before the school’s spokesperson talks to reporters. One thing I’ve noticed lately is that schools are not always getting their reasons for the uniforms policy through.

This is either because they feel defensive about it, or they are not communicating it in a way that makes it interesting for reporters to liven up their stories.

School leaders seem defensive

The school leaders all appear to be in defensive mode, rather than explaining why they have the policy and backing it. Obviously there is good reason. For example, if a school doesn’t allow beards, it may be because that would be a bad look applying for a job. Whatever the reason, I’m sure a large part of the population would agree. But they need to know the reason. That should be one of the three key points.

School leaders can have far more control over media interviews than they believe. They can’t control the questions, but they have total control of what comes out of their mouths. A taste of media training, and even crisis communication, would give them a whole new perspective on how they can respond.

For more on my media training or crisis communication, contact pete@mediatrainingnz.co.nz or 029 200 8555

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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