A superintendent is responsible for communicating in times of crisis; David Lougee of Silver City NM explains how.
A superintendent’s role is to lead their school district and make important decisions about educational programs, staff, and budgets. Another key responsibility to note is their duty to communicate what’s going on, for both positive and negative circumstances. New and experienced superintendents alike must put together a strategic communications plan which addresses crisis protocol.
At some point in a superintendent’s career, they may encounter an emergency or tragedy, such as a lockdown, fire, or accident. David Lougee of Silver City New Mexico explains that in the event of frightening circumstances, employees and parents need to be informed right away. It is the superintendent’s role to know when and what to share.
David Lougee of Silver City New Mexico explains that the first step should be to make quick and direct contact with employees and parents through text messaging, email, or phone calls. Once that communication is sent out, a superintendent can begin putting together a social media announcement. David Lougee notes that only necessary details should be given to the community on social media, including what the superintendent is doing to address the situation.
It is essential that the superintendent maintain control of the information. David Lougee of Silver City New Mexico explains that accurate, factual information should be shared during a crisis to keep rumors and stories from spreading. Always use clear language when describing the situation and giving further instructions. David Lougee of Silver City New Mexico also recommends sending regular updates and answering questions when possible.
Now that the basics are covered, David Lougee breaks down more “do’s” and “don’ts” for superintendents communicating during a crisis.
Do: Create a Plan
David Lougee of Silver City New Mexico recommends creating a crisis communications plan in advance. When an emergency strikes, you can calmly refer to your plan and make strategic decisions. Without a plan, leaders tend to make more emotionally-based decisions that may not be in the best interest of their district.
Don’t: Mislead People
A superintendent should never purposely mislead families or the public. Although it may be difficult, a leader must be truthful about the seriousness of a situation. If honest, there will be little room for error. If a superintendent is misleading, they will lose the trust of many.
Do: Stay Consistent
Create an online platform where blogs, events, and announcements are shared. David Lougee of Silver City New Mexico recommends staying consistent with the platform so that all information can be accessed from one place. Link social media platforms to your website for convenience.
After initial communications, a superintendent must stay visible and accessible. Continue to update the community with relevant information and announcements as usual. If any policies have been put into effect in response to the crisis, share it with others, so they feel safer moving forward. Make sure parents and families are aware of your website and ask them to follow you on social media to ensure they always stay in the loop and know what’s going on.