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Your Back-To-School PR Checklist

School days often move at lightning speed. However, 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 with our comprehensive Back-to-School PR Checklist.

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easily check off, such as updating your school’s link-in-bio on Instagram, reviewing your brand checklist, or removing outdated flyers from school offices.

“Preparing for the school year can be a daunting task,” says Andrew A. Hagen, Integrated Communications Coordinator at CEL. “By taking the time to update your communications strategy and refresh a few key items in your toolkit you can set yourself up for success in the upcoming year.”

✅ 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. We recommend some must-have templates to build:

      • Events poster or flier
      • Recognition Certificates
      • 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. Ambassadors. 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.

Maybe office staff are willing to handle small tasks like updating Google calendars on your website and submitting invoices so you can focus on more strategic tasks. 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.

girl raising her hand in the air and cheering

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 accuracy. 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. Your website CMS may allow image and resource tagging so that you can easily search for files by year for quick updating.

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 national or state recognition days, like American Education Week, National Principals Month, and School Bus Drivers Day. Remember, your state may have a different date than national organizations, so either celebrate both or be ready to answer why you celebrate one but not the other. Don’t forget to celebrate School Communicators 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.

Review Your Brand Checklist

A major part of our Back-to-School PR Checklist is taking some time to review your brand. Remember, your brand is so much more than a logo. Things that make a good brand include:

• Versatility
• Accessible color palette
• A logo that represents your community
• Elements that are creative, effective and lasting
• Flexibility – easy to use
• Tone of voice
• Consistency in fonts

Download our Brand Checklist to review your brand. Identify gaps, set future goals, and ensure your brand tells the real story of you who are.

Make it a Date

Take control of your calendar by setting notifications and scheduling recurring time blocks that will allow you to be the most productive. For example, if you need 15 minutes to get settled in the morning, time block a daily appointment on your calendar to protect that time. Or if you need time at the end of each week to organize files, schedule a 1-hour time block on Friday afternoons.

Post the important dates, deadlines, meetings, and events you know to your calendar now. You can also pop in tasks such as scheduling a day each quarter to update your Facebook cover image. When you calendar tasks, they are more likely to get done.

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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. 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 professional goals you would like to accomplish this school year. Do you want to learn about TikTok strategy or present at a 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? Each time you achieve one of your goals, make sure to celebrate your wins.

Schedule Meetings with Staff

No Back-to-School PR Checklist is complete without setting aside the time to get your staff excited about the new school year. If your school doesn’t host a leadership retreat, be sure to schedule short 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, a 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 the 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 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 – Back-to-School PR 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 email groups to share messages with multiple people easily
      • Update your email signature, and consider a standardized email signature throughout your district using a tool such as HubSpot’s template creator or Canva’s Email Signature creator
      • Update your emergency sub plan
      • Create browser bookmarks
      • Reset passwords and turn on Multi-Factor Authentication
      • Identify backup staff, who will have access to key systems, such as mass notification systems and social media
      • Order office supplies and tech equipment
      • Order school swag and branded items like pop-up signs, table runners, and event photo frames (get more ideas from our Brand Checklist)

No matter what you do this summer, take it one check at a time! And remember, if you don’t have the capacity get to everything done 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: May 6, 2023