Rarely have I been angry at a conference speaker. Oh sure, sometimes I disagree, but last week, I listened while the sponsor of our luncheon gave some of the most fearful remarks I’d ever heard. Ever. He used dramatic silence and speech to get us to imagine some of the worst scenarios in a school, followed by a few features of his product.
I wanted to tell him, “You are the reason why vendors are often not trusted,” and “how does this help build trust in education and the hard decisions we have to make?” I’m often involved in conversations with communicators in education who want to take the fear out of the equation. The objective is to make your community feel comfortable, safe and prepared, not fearful.
As educational institutions across the country (and the world) face uncharted territory presented by the spread of the Coronavirus and associated concerns, school districts need to create a sense of trust, not fear in the community. How do we do it?
Trust only happens when there is communication.
We learn this over and over, but the safer the environment the more opportunity there is to build trust. Trust is built through proactive and open communications. In communications, our narrative needs to be one where we reiterate what is being done to limit potential risks to our students, parents, staff and community.
Being decisive instills confidence.
Your school district is making some hard calls and showing a clear statement is important. If you have ever watched the referee who makes a decision late, the crowd questions the call. Confidence helps to deliver a message that will ensure that your community supports and has confidence in your decisions.
Clarity is the goal; an abundance of facts is not.
Your community can find their own answer to how the COVID-19 is spread, you have a responsibility to indicate why you are making the decision as it directly impacts your school and to redirect to for supporting facts to expert sources. It is easy to get sucked into a web of information when often-times we can share a simple set of facts and refer to the CDC or your local health department for facts.
Right now, we need communicators who can deliver a message without fear. We need our schools and districts to continue to build trust and deliver safe experiences to students and their families.