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Schools need pre-prepared statements to cope with Social Media

7 July 2015

The speed of social media has caught schools out lately, with stories taking on a life of their own before the school can even take a breath.

So how can they deal with this? In the Digital Age, the whole focus of crisis communication has changed. While issues like school uniform complaints and rants about the curriculum may not be classed as crises, they can turn into major issues if not addressed quickly.

The only answer is to have pre-prepared statements ready to send out at a moment’s notice. For example, any high schools with a uniform could be the next topic of discussion on Facebook. But once that discussion starts, it will grow just like earlier ones have until traditional media start to show interest.

This will all happen so quickly that school management may not even know it’s happening. But they need their reason for the policy to be in the conversation before people make up their minds. Otherwise it’s too late. Then they have the harder job of trying to change people’s minds. And that’s only if they are still interested.

In a nutshell, pre-prepared statements are written in anticipation of their sudden need. Then when they are needed, it’s a matter of some simple tailoring before sending. Then the school’s point of view is out there in cyber space with everything else. It will also make it into the media. The alternative is usually a one sided story. At the bottom reads: “The school would not comment,” or that’s second cousin: “The school did not return calls.”

Pre-prepared statements like this are used in crisis communication plans. These are also a must for schools. But recent evidence suggests they should be used for less serious issues that could develop into crises if not managed early.

For more on my media training or crisis communication planning workshops, contact pete@mediatrainingnz.co.nz

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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