Skip to main content

PR Idea of the Week

This week I just couldn't look away from the PR-wreck in process with a local school district. It's almost comical how predictable the story is. It goes like this:

  1. Local school district writes well-intentioned code of conduct with "zero tolerance" type policies.
  2. Cute first grader brings in a plastic knife to cut her cupcake, or 6th grade punk gives cough drop to his girlfriend, or kindergartner kisses a classmate, or wrestler steals (or forgets to pay for) $1.30 worth of cookies
  3. Gutless principal is very sorry but he MUST apply all the rules to EVERYONE THE SAME and also the punishment
  4. Astounded parents, accompanied by their lawyer, go to the court of public opinion (and real court) via the media
  5. School board and other school officials hide behind policy of not discussing student disciplinary issues
  6. Minor situation that could have been handled by a detention becomes national news story
  7. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until community is completely divided and/or media move on to something else
As a PR person who enjoys a juicy school vs. media showdown, I say why introduce common sense at this juncture. Your zero tolerance approach is really working for you (let me know how that school tax levy campaign goes, will you).

But as a mother, voter and more importantly, a taxpayer, I would like to see schools start thinking about how winning the war of public opinion is always more important than winning the battle over little Suzie's plastic spork.

How to get a passing grade in PR 101:
  1. Insert a common sense clause into your handbook. The American Bar Association has a very thoughtful report on zero tolerance. A key quote: Schools are confusing equal treatment with equitable treatment. . . . Kids in middle school and high school care most about fairness. When they see two students whose 'offenses' are vastly different being treated exactly the same, that sense of fairness is obliterated and replaced with fear and alienation.
  2. Speak up. Assuming you have followed the first rule, then don't wait five media cycles to say something in the school's defense. You have a duty to the rest of your well-behaved students not to let parents, lawyers or media smear your district unfairly.
  3. Get some media training for the school board and key administrators. Don't let your school board send poorly-written emotional notes to the media after the story has almost died down.
  4. Grow a pair--of externally focused eyes--that are able to see how the real world is going to perceive what is happening inside your little educational bubble.
  5. There will be a test. Actually, it will start out as a pop quiz to see how well your administration can handle an unanticipated breech of student rules. Follow steps 1-4 above, and maybe we won't need to cover the same materials on the final.


Popular posts from this blog

Happily Ever After

Last weekend, in a brief moment of remote control ownership, I tuned into basic cable and saw a very disturbing show called "Rich Bride, Poor Bride." I watched two episodes and didn't see what I would call a "poor" bride--although actually, after they blew their budgets, both brides probably did end up poor. One couple spent about $75,000. They talked her out of having live peacocks at the reception. That makes me think about my own much simpler but very nice-for- Farmersville wedding over a decade ago. In many ways it was a disaster. We were engaged for a year and a half; we had plenty of time to plan but fates conspired against us. By the time we got to the week of the wedding, we had buried two people on the guest list and paid our respects to a distant uncle. One of the people we lost was my husband's grandfather who died Monday, we had visitation Wednesday, funeral Thursday, rehearsal dinner Friday, wedding Saturday. How his grandmother handled

I Know What you Did Last Summer

Good gravy (I have taken up saying this since Husband doesn't curse and I was the only one to blame for our household's junior potty mouths), it's Fall. And I still haven't shown you the before/during/after pictures of my kitchen update. Before : greenish "marble" laminate counters with a yellowed fluorescent light cover--only one bulb working. Carbon dating and a close examination of the many knife cuts evident on the laminate surface have led scientists to believe these counter tops date to the early Aquarius period or possibly late Happy Days epoch. To save money on the almost airline-like add-ons involved in having a big box home improvement chain do this project, we removed the counter tops ourselves. I use the term ourselves very loosely, of course, in that Husband did it. I thought we were well-prepared. Fortunately, they did not have a box on their billing slip for We Pulled out the Oven and OMGOMGOMG!! The workers even kindly looked away while I

Weekend Plans Cut Short

I haven't been at my current job long enough yet, apparently, because people still make the mistake of asking me what are you doing this weekend? I say that it is a mistake to ask me about my weekend plans because that question is supposed to be followed with an ordinary answer like going to see a movie or yardwork. But when you ask me about my weekend plans, you're likely to get an answer like this: well, we'll be pretty busy getting ready for our pig auction. Husband has to give haircuts to 100+ pigs. Yes, you read that right. Pigs get haircuts. Husband is grooming them for the pig auction (we call it a sale) that we are having on Saturday. In the market for a pig? Head over here . Pigs have short, coarse hair that in days of old was used to make brushes (and maybe still today). Husband and other pig farmers clip the hair of the pigs shorter to make them look more appealing to potential buyers, who in this case are 4-H kids and parents looking for a hog to take to th