Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why PR Matters

(The following article is one in a series that I wrote for a distance learning-related blog I used to run circa 2008. For posterity's sake, I am reposting it -and others- here)

In my line of work, keeping the Superintendents informed serves multiple purposes, of which Distance Learning Coordinators benefit as much as, if not more than, the Superintendents do.
  • Meeting with Superintendents keeps your face, your name, and your person, in their minds throughout the year. It is very easy for us (DL Coordinators) to get bogged down in the daily routine of troubleshooting calls, working on systems, scheduling events, and all the other things that go along with the position. By meeting with your Superintendents (either one-on-one or in a group setting), you break out of the routine, and because most of those everyday things happen "behind the scenes," the occasion to visit with the Superintendents does not always readily or easily present itself. By meeting with them specifically, you build the rapport and relationships you need in order to ensure success – not only for you, but for their DL program as well.

    For me, it also helps put names with faces, as I am not very good at doing that. So, I benefit by keeping THEIR names, faces, and persons in the forefront of my own mind!
  • Meetings provide the opportunity to share new ideas and new programs. Many DL Coordinators may find they deal more directly with principals, teachers, and facilitators than with Superintendents. While this may generally help move things along, Superintendents WANT to know what's happening in their districts.

    I made the mistake of NOT telling one school administrator that I was doing an interactive lesson with the National baseball Hall of Fame. When he found out afterward, he expressed his disappointment in that he would have liked to witness at least a portion of the program. Frankly, it was a "cool" thing he missed out on. It is a mistake I will not make again!

    When it comes to presenting new ideas, the DL Coordinator may find resistance at the Principal level (for whatever reason). By talking about the program with the Superintendents, a program may catch on from the top down. Additionally, they have a different perspective of how ideas and programs may affect their teachers and students, so that may offer input in ways the DL Coordinator (and/or teachers and principals) may not have thought of previously.
  • Presenting in front of the Superintendents helps develop and enrich the DL Coordinator's skills. By forcing oneself to speak in front of a group of influential people can help the more introverted DL Coordinator overcome fears, shyness, or other negative feelings. It may seem strange that a person with "presentation" issues would accept a position of DL Coordinator. In my case, I knew the position would require such face-to-face encounters, but I saw things more from the technical side (I am a techie/geek, after all). I also believed that taking this job would help force breaking the barriers that I often hide behind. It is not an easy process, and for me, it has more to do with the things that travel among the synapses of my brain than anything else. That is, getting beyond my public-speaking issues involves replacing the negative things I tell myself more than any external influence.
  • Finally (for the purposes of this post anyway), meeting with the Superintendents provides a sense of accountability and responsibility. No matter how "trivial" the information contained in the presentation, the fact that the DL Coordinator thought enough about those individuals (by keeping them informed) shows that the DL Coordinator takes responsibility in his or her position. It also demonstrates accountability. The DL Coordinator is effectively telling the leaders of the school districts: "I am in charge of this program, and I will do whatever I can to help make it successful for your district. I am also accountable, and accept that accountability, when things go wrong."
Earlier, I presented the following topics to the Superintendents in our area:
  • A brief overview of upcoming CIV events relevant to them
  • Introduction/overview of a couple new ideas for CIV events
  • Maintenance on Video Equipment

Even though only one of the items pertained directly to the group, each item led to further discussion as to how the item(s) affected their districts, encouraged participation, and/or led to additional programs or ideas for events.

After the meeting, the group expressed their appreciation for my coming to them with this information. In short, they WANTED to hear about happenings in distance learning without being overloaded with extraneous (useless or overly technical) information. By presenting to the Superintendents, not only did they benefit by receiving the information, but I benefited from the experience of presenting as well. Hopefully, if you are a distance learning coordinator (or someone in the position of heading up a distance learning program for schools), you will reap the benefits of making such presentations as well.

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