Today’s school environment is tense.
In addition, the mental health crisis amongst children continues to be a national emergency.
Given today’s politically charged environment and the 24-7 news cycle, it’s never been more important for school districts to have a plan in place before a crisis strikes.
Here are three crisis communications best practices detailed in The Complete Guide for School Crisis Communications, which will help you make sure your school district is ready for the next crisis — whether it’s inclement weather or a violent incident on campus.
1. Assemble your Crisis Response Team.
The foundation of successful crisis communications is having a Crisis Response Team in place. In addition to the superintendent and lead communicator within the district, it’s important to consider who should have a seat at the table before a crisis hits.
The team will look different at every district and will change depending on the situation. Additional roles and departments to consider including in your Crisis Response Team include:
- Human resources
- Legal counsel
- Information technology
- Public safety
2. Create a crisis communications plan.
When developing your crisis communications strategy, it’s best to plan for the worst, considering every possible scenario.
As you build your plan or update an existing plan, start with the basics. Every crisis communications plan should include:
- A list of all Crisis Response Team members and their contact information
- A comprehensive list of district stakeholders
- Internal and external communications channels
- Internal policies and procedures
- District-level key messages
- Media protocol for frontline staff
- A media list for local print, TV, and radio outlets
To be even more prepared, you may want to develop a more detailed plan that includes prepared statements with placeholders to fill in specific details in the event of a crisis, pre-drafted website announcements and social media posts, and checklists for internal and external communications procedures.
3. Schedule crisis practice exercises.
The best way to ensure your Crisis Response Team is ready and that your crisis communications plan works is to facilitate exercises that allow the team to practice important protocols.
Start by identifying potential crisis situations and working through them during tabletop exercises with your Crisis Response Team. Outline common scenarios — such as school shootings, extreme weather, or student-involved accidents — and schedule monthly hour-long exercises to help the team feel prepared before a crisis occurs.
These exercises can include discussions of “what-if” situations and give the designated spokesperson an opportunity to practice making statements before they’re put in front of a real news crew.
Want to dive deeper? The Complete Guide for School Crisis Communications — written by communicators who have weathered major K-12 crises — will help you be better prepared in 2023. This free guide contains helpful information on how to further prepare before a crisis occurs, handle a crisis once it’s been identified, and manage ongoing crisis communications.
To learn how K12 Insight can help you manage a crisis and provide better customer service and communication in your school district, request a consult.