The widespread use of social media has presented some complicated challenges to both educational leaders and society at large. While plenty of negative criticisms can be reasonably levied against social media, there is no doubt it is here to stay.
The Pitfalls of Avoiding Social Media
With all of the negativity and criticism that inundate social media, many school districts instinctively avoid using it as a communication tool altogether. However, Dr. Lance Gibbon points out that the irony is that not using social media is likely to be even more detrimental to those school districts’ reputations than using it and potentially opening themselves up to the negative aspects.
“If there’s going to be a negative news story regarding your school district, that news will undoubtedly make its way to social media, along with all of the critical comments that anyone on the platform may want to share,” Dr. Gibbon explains. “If you’re not there to offer any insight, the narrative is then well beyond your control, regardless of how true or untrue it may be.”
Beat the Grapevine
Avoiding social media is allowing others to tell your story. And bear in mind that your silence on these platforms suggests a story of its own. Whether the news is good or bad, you want to be the first to release the info so that, at the very least, your school district has a say in how the public perceives the news.
“If you’re second or third to get the info out, you’re seen as reactionary, not proactive, and it’s hard to correct the record,” Dr. Lance Gibbon notes. “The goal is to get it out on multiple platforms to all of your audiences as quickly as possible. Don’t just limit yourself to social media, though. Use all your communication channels.”
Provide Context and Reassurance
You may not be able to prevent bad press, but through social media, you can quickly offer context that can reshape the narrative around that bad press and prevent misinformation and mischaracterization from taking hold.
From there you can begin reassuring the public by letting them know what you’ve done, who you’re working with, what policies or precedents you have in place, and what you’re planning to do to address the problem.
Dr. Gibbon adds that you should also update posts or follow up with additional posts as new information becomes available. “You don’t want updates from elsewhere to draw eyes away from your page and take control of the message,” he cautions.
Respond to Comments on Your Posts
Critical comments can sway public opinion, regardless of how fair the criticisms truly are, so it’s important that you address them graciously and offer your own perspective while also showing appreciation for commenters sharing theirs.
However, according to Dr. Gibbon, it is best to keep responses contained to your own page.
“Avoid replying to comments on other pages about your post,” he advises. “You don’t want to create an expectation that you’re monitoring pages outside your district. To build public trust, you want people to see your page as the place to go for accurate and timely info.”
About Dr. Lance Gibbon
Dr. Lance Gibbon is a dynamic servant leader in education based in the Puget Sound area. He excels at providing student opportunities, building community connections, and promoting positive, inclusive learning and work environments. A passionate community supporter, volunteer, and board member, he was twice recognized as Community Leader of the Year.