Planning is one of the most valuable tasks for school communicators. After all, a great plan is the ticket to improve school communication efficiencies.
But for all the strategic communication planning that takes place in a school PR office, there’s a surprising lack of thought given to a tried-and-true tool school principals use for their teachers — the emergency sub plan.
What is an emergency sub plan?
Like most professionals, teachers usually know at least a day or two before they will be gone for an appointment, funeral or family need. Even a teacher who is under the weather will often put together a lesson plan or two for a substitute teacher to help keep classroom learning on track.
There are occasions — a traffic accident, medical emergency or other sudden event — when a teacher could be gone without warning or any time to prepare. In those moments, the office pulls the teacher’s emergency sub plan, which has the basics a substitute teacher needs to be able to walk into the classroom and lead the class for one day, until other plans can be developed.
This tool is so commonplace across schools, and it’s high time that school communication pros make use of it themselves. Consider it PR 101 for school communicators.
Want to improve school communication efficiencies when you’re away? Make a plan.
You can’t always choose the moments you’ll be gone. Writing a thorough substitute plan gives you the power to influence how things run when you’re gone — whether you’ve left for a conference, on vacation that has been on the calendar for months, or you got a call during the night about a loved one in crisis who needs your help.
“Especially when you’re a one-person shop, it’s easy to tell yourself a superhero lie,” said Kristin Magette, CEL communications strategist. “‘Nobody else in my district can do media relations,’ or ‘I’m the only one who can handle this committee.’ You may well be right that nobody else in the district can do it as well as you do. But creating a plan and identifying backups allows you to be intentional about cross-training and capacity building during staff meetings, retreats and individual conversations.”
As you create a plan, make a master list of the communications leadership and operations areas that would need attention if you were suddenly unable to work. Then, think through the colleagues and departments you could prepare with the basic knowledge to step in and keep things rolling.
And remember, the goal isn’t to find someone who can do your work as well as you. Rather, focus on finding a few people you trust to do their best and make good decisions in an emergency situation.