Monday, March 2, 2009

I'm here to HELP

The other day my wife and I were carpooling to work. Our kids were in the backseat and our oldest asked, "Mommy, why do you have to go to work?" to which my wife replied, "Well, I go to help people."

Her answer got me thinking and reminded me of something I recently heard at a professional conference. Last month I attended the Texas School Public Relations Association's annual conference. The first day's keynote was delivered by national speaker and motivational humorist, Riney Jordan. Among the many thoughts and stories that Riney shared was a bit of advice for those of us in the education profession: We are here to HELP.

School Public Relations people should HELP education
  • H [Hear] We have to hear (read: Listen). This should be an obvious for PR people. We need to be aware of and anticipate issues within education industry, the campuses, our students, the community and how they might impact the organization. School PR people must be available for counsel and open to constructive criticism.
  • E [Encourage] We have to be able to encourage. A school PR person's encouragement comes from generating useful, relevant, and worthy press releases. A school PR person's encouragement comes from understanding (or first, wanting to learn) how to engage the community. A school PR person's encouragement comes from believing in customer service as the framework for best practices in internal/external communications.
  • L [Love] We have love them. It takes a special person to be a teacher. I believe teachers have to love what they do and love the students they teach in order to be effective. A similar love for education is necessary for school PR people to reach internal/external audiences. This is not an easy trait to demonstrate, in fact it is quite challenging especially when you deal with the things that get thrust on school PR people. But, love is necessary for a foundation of a successful career in education.
  • P [Prepare] We have to prepare. Teachers prepare students for the next stages in their educational careers and life. This one has a dual meaning for school PR people. Our efforts should accentuate the service of our teachers and staff. We need to also prepare ourselves for what's now and what's next. Just as we have to anticipate issues that impact our district, we have to anticipate and explore issues and trends in our professional industry. 
Can you do these things? Do you want to HELP each day? If you can't or you don't want to do these things, please, do us all a favor and don't stay in (or get into) school public relations.