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Your Back-To-School PR Checklist

School days often move at lightning speed. There is a small window, after graduation ceremonies are completed and annual reports are published, to take advantage of the slower pace of summer months to pause, plan and prepare for the upcoming school year. 

In addition to developing your overall communications strategy and establishing school-year benchmarks, our Back-to-School PR Checklist includes several items you can easily check off, such as updating your school’s Linktree on Instagram or removing outdated flyers from school offices.

“Your comms work begins long before the next school year does,” says Kristin Boyd Edwards, content writer and strategist at CEL. “Don’t feel like you have to do everything at once. Pick a few items that will be most beneficial to you as you prepare for the new school year. Small wins now will set you up for long-term success. You’ll be able to hit the ground running when students return to school.” 


Create Templates

Create a library of branded ready-to-post graphics that list common school occurrences such as “reminder,” “important information” and “school closed.” If you have time, you can also design and batch graphics for weekly or monthly features like Staff Spotlights, Throwback Thursdays, and athletic games. Social School4EDU has great examples.Other templates to build: 

    • Basic Media Release 
    • New Hire Announcement 
    • Crisis Communications and Mass Notification Messages for areas such as inclement weather, power outage, school closure and early dismissal

Write Your Department Overview

Write or update your Communications Department Overview. Include department services, contact information, awards and successes, and a list of team members and their expertise. Post your refreshed department overview on your school website, link it in your email signature or use it as a boilerplate.

Find Your Champions

Communications crew. Key communicators. School Champions. Whatever you call them, develop a system of support with staff members and local community influencers. You may be surprised to learn who’s willing to help when you just ask. 

For example, maybe office staff is willing to handle small tasks like updating Google calendars and submitting invoices so you can focus on more strategic tasks, or local influencers can help you distribute news and information within their channels. Communication leads at each school might take and upload photos when you cannot attend events. 

Once you decide how you could use help, consider the logistics — will you have meetings, who will participate, can you offer stipends for employees, how will you establish two-way communications, and how you’ll thank people for supporting your department and schools. 

Swap Out Old Photos and Content

Now is the time to update photos and content. Double-check information on your school’s website, electronic signage, school forms and social media platforms to ensure it is accurate. With photos, swap out old images on marketing materials, website homepage photos, photo albums and social media images. Summer is also a great time to update headshots and bios for school leaders.

Pro Tip: Use a standard naming convention (without the year) to easily replace existing images without breaking links on your website.

Create or Update Your Editorial Calendar

Start by reviewing the past school year and add important dates and events, such as holiday breaks, graduation, award ceremonies, kindergarten registration dates, music concerts, art shows and school board meetings. Next, add specialty occasions that schools often celebrate, like American Education Week, National Principals Month and School Bus Drivers Day. As a part of your communications strategy, consider including content and topics that support district priorities to share with families throughout the school year, such as digital safety, mental health awareness, high school course selection and how to prepare for ACT/SAT testing.

Make it a Date

In addition to creating an editorial calendar for content, take control of your online calendar. We recommend setting notifications and scheduling recurring time blocks that will allow you to be the most productive. If you need 15 minutes to get settled in the morning, schedule a time block on your calendar to reflect you’re unavailable, Or if you need time at the end of each week to organize files, schedule a 1-hour time block on Friday afternoons.

In addition, post the important dates, deadlines, meetings and events that you’re aware of to your calendar now. You can also pop in communication reminders, too. For example, schedule a day each quarter to update your Facebook cover image each season. 

Create Your First Day of School Plan

Avoid getting frazzled on the first day of school by developing a content game plan that outlines ideas and needs. For example, if you want your superintendent to visit each school or ride a school bus on Day #1, create your schedule now and confirm times with building leaders. If you want to post user-generated content, develop a submission system or special hashtag that you can announce in advance. Want first-day publicity? Meet with staff while schools are quieter to find potential stories for media pitches.

Set Professional Goals

Think about three professional goals you would like to accomplish this school year. Do you want to learn about TikTok strategy or present at a national conference? Want to earn your APR, or maybe you want to send handwritten notes to employees each week, distribute the district newsletter on time each month, or launch a podcast series. Each time you achieve one of your goals, make sure to celebrate your wins.

Schedule Meetings with Staff

If your school doesn’t host a leadership retreat, be sure to schedule 15-minute meetings — phone, Zoom or in-person — with school administrators and community partners to review the previous school year, gather feedback and learn how you can support their needs during the upcoming school year. You can also schedule meetings with media members to continue fostering a positive relationship with your local press.

Keep or Toss

Cleaning your office might feel like the least fun thing you could do this summer. But trust us, tossing junk, shredding paperwork, organizing files and creating an archive system (that you’ll actually use!) will provide a fresh start as you kick off the new school year. Consider adding a few office items that bring you joy — a collage of family pictures, a new desk calendar, string lights, colorful Post-Its, wall posters, set of succulents or a special item from home. Your environment influences how you work. Declutter and bring joy.

Check Your Comms Toolbox

Review your existing district and school communications tools to determine which are most effective for your key audiences. Are there any communication gaps you need to address? Develop protocols for how and when staff members will use the approved communications tools and provide training as necessary. Share the list of communication tools with staff members and families at the beginning of the school year.

Pop In — and Say Hello

Continue to build relationships with staff by “popping in” during summer break — just to say hello, chat for a few minutes and find out how you can support them. Casual conversations now will benefit you when you need something during the school year. For bonus points, give the staff swag or sweet treats like popcorn and cupcakes.

Quick Checks – Checklist

Complete quick checks to make sure you have items ready to go for the new school year: 

Save contact information for all school leaders (create text groups for urgent communication)
Create e-mail groups to easily share messages with multiple people
Update your e-mail signature
Update your emergency sub plan
Create computer bookmarks
Double-check passwords
Order office supplies and tech equipment
Order school swag and branded items like pop-up signs, table runners and event photo frames

No matter what you do this summer, take it one check at a time! And remember, if you can’t get to everything on your Back-to-School School PR Checklist, our CEL content and design teams are available to support your communications needs throughout the school year. 

Published on: July 6, 2022