Thursday, March 31, 2011

Facebook as a school district's newsroom

I like to keep track of interesting questions in the hopes that someday I might have an answer or would ask others in the hopes of furthering the dialogue on social media and school public relations.

One such question came from a marketing professional, Chris Stone during the #schoolprchat, (a Twitter chat that is currently on hiatus.)

This is a great question because it forced me to pause and take a critical look about how I was using my school district's Facebook page.

A school district's Facebook page is a prime location for sharing timely, relevant, and interesting content with the community of parents, students, staff and even some random people that have decided to 'Like' the page along the way.

The strategy behind the school district using Facebook could be summed up as fish where the fish are. With so many people on the social utility, it just makes sense for school districts engage their community there.

But Facebook as a school district's newsroom? I think in the traditional sense of the term 'newsroom' perhaps not since it doesn't really provide enough to meet journalists' expectations. From distribution and content expectations of journalists, Facebook doesn't really work.

Ah, but journalists aren't the only people school PR folks are trying to reach. Certainly traditional media should (and will continue to) be a fundamental component for school district communication pros. And we should do everything we can to sharpen our media relations skills and approach.

But don't let that be the only focus.

School districts should already be leveraging Facebook for communication and community outreach. Set your district's Facebook rules of engagement, prepare and gather content from all over the district to share. Post, listen, engage and promote...and repeat.

I know some school districts don't allow you to comment on their Facebook page wall. I don't agree with this broadcast-only practice. The magic is in the feedback. When we post items to Facebook like updates, questions, links, photos, videos, student/staff recognitions, explanations, news, events, etc. it's done with the audience in mind. I use Facebook in my school district to share and engage with the community.

Oh and for the record, I recently tried to pitch a story to a local newspaper reporter only to be told, "yeah, I saw that on Facebook earlier."

Come to think of it, maybe it is the district's newsroom.