Advice for schools: what to do in a media crisis
Here at Livewire we love spreading the news about the amazing things schools are doing. Whether this be fantastic GCSE results, ground-breaking student projects or even renovating a World War Two bunker (yes, really!), highlighting the incredible things that students and teachers are achieving is the bread and butter of what we do.
There are, however, occasions when media attention may not be a positive. In the vast majority of cases negative publicity is caused through no fault of the school itself; yet it remains your responsibility to pick up the pieces after a negative news article appears.
At Livewire we understand that this can be an extremely stressful time for headteachers. Having worked with state and independent schools as well as a number of multi-academy trusts for over 28 years, we’re used to dealing with media crisis scenarios and have even won awards from the Chartered Institute of Public Relations for our crisis comms work.
If you’re in the midst of – or are concerned about – an impending crisis, we would always recommend that you pick up the phone and give us a call. We don’t charge for a conversation and it will help you to speak with a professional outside your organisation who can provide perspective.
In the short term, there are actions your school can take. Although every situation is different, following these five initial steps should mitigate immediate further damage to your school’s reputation:
- Step back and assess the situation before making any decisions or talking to the media. Will calling a journalist and shouting at them stop them publishing a story? Probably not, so don’t be tempted to react like this.
- Implement a school lockdown on external communications. Speak to your admin or reception staff and tell them that any calls from the media should be answered politely with the request that they leave a message and the relevant person will get back to them.
- Pull together a small team to help you deal with the situation and with whom you can discuss a potential resolution. This is most likely going to be members of your SLT but may also include staff members who can provide relevant information – such as your data or facilities manager.
- Work with someone external to help you decide what information should be relayed to the media. Should a statement be drafted? If so, what information should it include and how should it be phrased? It’s crucial that this is written correctly so we would always recommend working with an external agent who knows how the media operates.
- Following a media crisis it’s important that you get your school’s reputation back on track. The best way to do this is through highlighting positive stories about your school. Diving back into the world of the media can be a scary prospect, but savvy schools realise that working with journalists provides a great opportunity to showcase their achievements and shout about their successes, ultimately driving admissions.