reputation-management-for-schoolsAll across the country, stories of inappropriate relationships between teachers and students are becoming headline news and inevitably the principal, administration, school board and school district are dragged into a bizarre media circus. The incident becomes a public spectacle tarnishing the reputation of dozens of well-intentioned educators and their colleagues. A thoughtful reputation management strategy can help faculty and school administrators better manage the situation.
Sometimes, these inappropriate relationships begin with the student and teacher exchanging text or Facebook messages outside of school. During the 2010-2011 school year in Texas, 111 cases of sexual misconduct and 152 cases of inappropriate relationships were documented between teachers and students. Texas officials are blaming social media and texting for enabling these inappropriate relationships and angry parents are blaming the school and its teachers.
Online interaction between teachers and students are not inherently bad and in most cases are constructive and support a school’s educational goals. We cannot allow the misuse of technology to lead to its abolition.
However, it’s important to clearly outline some basic guidelines to protect schools and faculty and help prevent inappropriate situations from destroying a school’s reputation.
1. Implement rules on social media for staff. Working together with your staff and their union representatives, collaborate on ways to place policies on personal and work-related social media use. Districts that enacted these types of policies generally prohibit teachers and students from becoming friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter. Additionally, teachers and students are prohibited from sharing personal contact information, like cell phone numbers, in order to avoid texting between the two parties. One exception to this rule tends to be for athletic coaches who, with permission from the child’s parents, are allowed to text their student athletes regarding practice times.
2. Use social media wisely. Consider starting a Facebook page or Twitter feed to communicate with parents; this could be especially useful during school closings, as a reminder about events, and as a way to field questions and concerns. When it comes to interfacing with students via social media, stick to Blackboard or similar sites, as it projects a high level of professionalism and lets students know that this is still “school property.”
3. Create expectations for your students about social media. Let your students know that they are responsible for their actions online. This is essential for social media reputation management. Create a student agreement policy to teach your students about appropriate social media usage.
4. Use social media reactively. Have written plans in place to be reactive when something negative hits the news, and use social media as a part of your crisis communication plan. Make sure teachers and other staff are aware of how to respond or if they should respond to any communications crisis. Adapt your school’s Facebook, Twitter and website to issue public statements and assign communications specialists to respond to difficult questions and comments.
5. Hire the best online reputation management company. Retaining an online reputation management firm as an extension of your PR or communications team will help your school district add an extra layer of protection in the digital age. An online reputation management company, like Reputation Rhino, can quickly implement an online public relations strategy that can counter negative press or blog articles maligning a school during a difficult time.
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