Don’t let the lengthy session title fool you. The case for a school district’s presence on social media can be summed up in a tweet: engage.
“Just like we talk about meeting our kids where they are, we need to meet our community where it is and that is on social media,” said Nathan McCann, superintendent of Ridgefield School District in Washington.
McCann was one of five superintendents who served on a panel discussion at the AASA national conference on Thursday. It was titled “Using Social Media to Support Your District’s Mission: Manage Consistency of Branding to Engage and Empower Students, Parents and the Community.”
Brian Troop, superintendent of Ephrata School District in Pennsylvania agreed with McCann on the importance of social media.
“I don’t know what credibility I would have as a superintendent to not use social media to communicate,” said Troop.
Social media should be part of a district leaders’ toolbox as the “chief communicator,” said Susan Enfield, superintendent of the Highline Public Schools in Washington, who maintains a frequent Twitter presence.
“I am relentlessly proud of our kids and our promise and I share it with the world,” said Enfield.
Like Enfield, Mike Brophy, superintendent of the West Valley School District 208 in Washington, recognizes the power of social media.
“As a superintendent, there are two big things on which people evaluate us and that is trust and judgement,” said Brophy. “Those two things can really get screwed up if you don’t do them right.”
Social media offers that chance for transparency.
Relatability and relationships are what leaders like Eddie Manuszak want. The superintendent in Dundee Community Schools of Michigan was happy to share his social media experiences before the AASA crowd in San Diego, despite missing the chance to see his student-athletes compete for their 12th wrestling title this week.
The self-proclaimed fan of selfies said that through social media, he was there with the athletes in spirit. Earlier in the school year, he had taken a selfie with the wrestling team.
You could find that photo on his Twitter feed.
“Even when I can’t be there, I am,” he said. “That resonates with the kids in my district.”
They admit that some leaders are concerned about what could happen on social media, but Enfield said leadership is not for the fearful. For her, leadership includes having social media policies and training whenever implementing a social media strategy. Her five-person communications staff leads this work at Highline, but she acknowledged that such resources are not available to every administrator.
”If you don’t have a comms team and if you don’t have people to help you guide this work, go to the NSPRA website,” said Enfield. “You don’t have to go it alone.”
(Lesley Bruinton is the president-elect for the National School Public Relations Association and a contributor with AASA’s Conference Daily Online.)