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Your School PR Summer Checklist

“Ready to enjoy your summer break?”

Summer break can be tricky for school communications pros, as you try to tie up the ends still loose from the year before, plan for convocation and back to school, lead enrollment campaigns, and support at least a dozen other summer projects. Use this checklist to get started and stay focused (with time to spare!) all summer long. 

Four steps to strategic school communications: Research, Plan, Implement, Evaluate

Your work in the course of the year generally falls into four areas: information flow, relationships, digital assets and professional growth. And remember that the most strategic work happens with that four-step process, RPIE. As you review each focus area, ask yourself:

Research: What’s working well? What needs attention? What more do I need to know about this? Be realistic about how much research is needed to learn more; not every project needs a comprehensive study. Remember that your endpoint is a communications plan, not a dissertation.

Plan: How will I address the things I learned in research — on a realistic timeline? Your summer focus is planning all your work, not completing it. Right now, determine what needs to happen and pinpoint a timeline to execute the plan over the coming year. Schedule yourself a few “quick wins” this summer to lift your energy — and sprinkle in a few all year long. Your future self will thank you.

Implement: How will I best use my time and resources to execute the work and meet the objectives in my plan? As a high-performing professional, you may need to resist the temptation to just jump in the deep end of your to-do list and start swimming. Be true to the realistic timelines you planned, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Evaluate: How will I monitor my progress during the year, adjusting as needed and meeting objectives? 

As you embark on your school communications planning, take a step back and remember that no one professional — or PR team — is solely responsible for communications success of an entire school system. 

"Last year was challenging for every person in your community. Especially now, it's important to resist taking any feedback – positive or negative – personally. Treat your work as a scientist. Get curious about patterns, clues and lessons that can be applied in the future. And let go of any personal frustrations or regrets that pop up."

Information flow

Connect with key stakeholders. Using a combination of simple online surveys, small focus groups and one-on-one chats, learn the things that went well over the last year and where improvement is needed. Be intentional about the time and energy you spend in this stage of research. If our CEL team can help with the research, just let us know

    • Did employees get critical updates about the school or school system before others? (Making internal audiences your priority is best practice.)
    • Did office assistants have the resources they needed to answer common questions? What might have made their jobs easier on a day-to-day basis?
    • Did principals feel supported in their communications? And equipped to respond to inquiries with timely support? What channels or procedures could be improved from their point of view?
    • How satisfied were families of students with the format, speed and focus of communication they received? Does family satisfaction vary between campuses?

Using feedback, identify the most valuable improvements for the next 12 months. Rank order priorities from “fast and simple” to those that will require more resources to implement effectively.  Assign realistic timelines to each. 

Refresh your key message document for your school system. The time you spend proactively messaging will be returned ten-fold, simplifying future writing for web and social content, news releases and countless other internal and external messages.  


Whether inside or outside your school system, people are the backbone of your success. As the daily hustle of school days winds down, take a little time to better understand what opinion leaders are thinking about your schools. 

Check in with community leaders and partners. How are they feeling about the school district? From their point of view, what went well and what could be improved going forward?

Identify your brand ambassadors — well-known parents, teacher leaders and other trusted voices. (And keep in mind that school bus drivers often rank high as employees who have parents’ ears!) Ask how they feel about the year ahead. What worries them? What has them excited and hopeful? What are they hearing about the schools from their friends and colleagues?

Consider the opportunities to re-invest in community relationships. An intentional but casual, coffee or lunch date with one or two key leaders each month could go a long way in reestablishing open lines of communication and identifying opportunities for improvement or collaboration. 

If you haven’t started a Key Communicators Network, now is the perfect time to learn more. 

Digital Assets

Your online presence has never been more influential — and essential. Focus on the places your employees and student families are getting their information, and consider sources that are less than official.

How is your website meeting ever-shifting needs? Review your Google Analytics for traffic and behavior to better understand users’ preferences and priorities. (If you don’t have Google Analytics set up, make that a high priority on your communications plan. We can help.)

Website updates keep your content fresh and engaging. Are there outdated headshots of leaders? Student or staff photos that are more than four years old? Pages, documents or other resources that should be retired? 

Analyze insights from your social media platforms. What was the most popular content, time and day of the week, campaigns versus one-off posts, use of photos and videos, etc.? 

    • If you have more than one social media channel, which one provides the greatest reward for your investment of time and energy?
    • Review your social media community guidelines and profanity filters for possible updates or revisions.

A content calendar is one of the most powerful ways to plan and simplify your digital media efforts in the coming year. Spend a day or two this summer mapping out web and social media content. Share it with leaders; they will appreciate your proactive approach. This work can streamline your workflow, no matter how wacky a future week might get.

Assess what a Google search reveals about your district. Use an incognito browser, and ask a few friends in other communities or states to Google search your school and school system names and send you a screenshot of the results. 

Claim your Google Business page (if you haven’t already). Are there Google reviews? Develop a plan to solicit reviews privately (it only takes a few). Consider how you can use the connections and relationships to intentionally build the number of local, positive reviews.

Your growth as a professional

The most valuable (and happy) professionals spend time reflecting on their own performance and learning every day. Summer is the perfect time to take stock of where you are in your career and how you can continue to strengthen your skills and knowledge.

As summer begins, protect time to personally reflect on the past year. As you reflect, jot down what comes to mind — thoughts, insights, regrets, ideas, goals — to help guide your professional growth in the coming year:

    • What insights or skills did you learn? 
    • What makes you most proud of the work you’ve done? 
    • How would you like to grow in the coming year? 
    • Are there activities you’re doing that no longer benefit your role or school system?
    • How has the chronic pressure of a year with intense health risks, racial tensions, economic losses and personal demands affected you? 

Identify a professional learning opportunity, keeping in mind the objectives you’re setting for your district and yourself. Look for seminars suited to your needs, offered through National School Public Relations Association programs and state chapters or other groups.

Strategic abandonment. One of the best ways to stay sharp is to understand tasks and activities that no longer provide meaningful benefit to you and/or your school system. Abandoning these efforts (in coordination with your supervisor and teammates) frees up time to elevate your focus and do more strategic work.

No matter how full your plate is this summer, reserve a few dates on the calendar that you can get away and recharge. If you or your superintendent are nervous about communications needs during your absence, CEL’s school communications team is available to provide professional coverage while you’re away.

If you’ve thought about starting your Accreditation in Public Relations or other advanced credential or degree, take this opportunity to think about a concrete timeline — even if it extends over a few years — that breaks down the work into simpler, attainable steps.

If burnout prevention is high on your list, the k12prWell conversation will give you the  tips, best practices, encouragement and support you need to successfully manage chronic workplace stress and stay at your best for your school system, your loved ones and yourself. 

So, as you consider the weeks of summer break ahead, know that strategic school communications planning will help you do the best work for your district — and even free up your time this summer and in the year to come. 

Published on: May 26, 2021