Author Archives: Alyssa Schwenk

Education Leaders and COVID-19 Crisis Communications

“Crisis communications” may evoke images of Olivia Pope in a power suit, but they are an essential skill for any school, nonprofit, or education agency. A natural disaster, a flub at a public hearing, or an altercation in your school cafeteria can all be a “crisis” situation even during ordinary times. And, of course, there can be a pandemic.

Education leaders nationwide are being asked to adapt to a fast-evolving public health crisis while serving students and families. Add deep economic uncertainty and, as a leader, you’ve got a complicated communications challenge. 

graphic of a broken heart on a smart phone screen

On Tuesday my colleagues discussed the importance of being strategic even in times of crisis. Today we’ll dig into three best practices for communicating those priorities:

Know your audience

You probably, in fact, have several audiences you have to reach. If you’re a school leader, you may have teachers, families of students, the district or your authorizer, and potentially the general public, all of whom need up-to-date information. A nonprofit leader has employees, the communities served, donors, and perhaps clients or other stakeholders.

Start by listing what information each of your audiences needs to know. Think through what barriers they may be facing — these may be technical (such as intermittent access to the internet), functional (you may not share a language), or relational (you may have to deliver some bad news). 

With those in mind, craft a message, select a medium, and choose a messenger. For instance, as a school leader, you may decide to have teachers make phone calls when sharing updates on closures

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COVID-19: Pro Bono Advising Available Now

Like many nonprofits, Bellwether’s operations are impacted by COVID-19. In particular, the academic advising, strategic planning, and evaluation work we do inside schools is paused, and we’ve shut down team member travel.

Short term, this means we have unexpected surplus capacity which we’d like to make available, pro bono, to school districts and charter school networks that are figuring out how to address a variety of issues related to operations, strategy and decision-making, state and federal policy guidance, curriculum and instruction, and financial planning.

Across our team of more than 60 full-time professionals, we have former school leaders, nonprofit leaders, media professionals, and experienced strategy consultants. Our team members have worked at the Department of Education, The White House, top-tier management consulting firms, and state education agencies around the country. Three-quarters of our staff have worked in the classroom, and some still teach part-time now.

To learn more, please tell us about your district or network and what you need. We cannot service all requests but will take on as many as possible and farm others out to peers as we are able.

If you’d like to share this news with someone in your network, we also posted this update on LinkedIn.