PR’s Focus on Educating the Public about Public Education

Your neighborhood high school is celebrating winning the highest honor schools can achieve, the School of Excellence Award. To commemorate this event, the school holds a talent show featuring the best performing arts students. To publicize the event, administrators reach out to local media outlets, and they promote the event. Opening night of the show, the house is packed!

At the same school, different event, students are given the opportunity to participate in a summer program at the local college that prepares them for collegiate life. The program involves not only academic subjects but athletic ones as well. By the end of the summer, the student has not only learned valuable time management skills, but they have also learned to adjust to the rigors of college life, in addition to earning college credit toward courses taken in the term!

Yep, same school, different activity. As Thanksgiving rolls around this year, your school participates in a number of food drives to help the community meet the needs of the underserved. As a part of a county-wide program, your school donates turkeys and other canned goods to impoverished families as a part of the “Turkeys Are Us” program. Sometime just before school lets out for the term, all the schools gather the donations at the convention center and then hold a festive lunch where community members are invited to fellowship while handing out donated goods to needy families. Billed as one of the city’s major social events, more than 20,000 people attend—20,000 people!

Of all of these activities, which ones involve public relations?

All of them. Public education, just by virtue of the populations it serves, is involved in relating to the public through a number avenues. In fact, public education organizations have quite a few publics with whom they engage including students, parents, teachers, and the community at-large. While these publics form direct relationships with school administrators, depending on the event or the purpose, the institutions might also form relationships with policy makers, police departments, and a host of other groups.

When educating your children and engaging the public, what do educational institutions do?

Educational institutions might engage in the following PR activities:

  • Engage the community by informing them of the school’s academic program, in addition to other extra-curricular activities the school might want or need the community’s involvement in. Usually, these communications come in the form of E-bulletins and mailers or by simply inviting the community to participate in school functions, i.e. open houses, field trips, PTA meetings, etc.
  • Organizations might seek non-government funding for programs that are no longer funded by the government. For example, as funding for many arts and athletics program are reduced, educational programs might campaign for funding from outside sources.
  • Engage media. Institutions use media, whether it is social or traditional media, to promote events and programs or to give props to students who excel.
  • Administrators engage in public relations especially during crisis management. One of the main duties that administrators have is to anticipate and plan for emergency situations (accidents, injuries, natural disasters).

In today’s fast-paced, tech-drenched society, how can PR help students stay in the game?

Because of the number of tools and avenues in which information can travel, administrators are challenged with relating to the public in a way that is not only efficient but effective as well.

Some of the most pressing concerns for today’s administrators include:

  • Issues that schools face today are more complicated and require a more sophisticated approach from administrators. In days gone by, a student who was victim of bullying only need go home for safety. However, today’s students might go home only to turn on the computer to find unkind or disrespectful comments about him/her online. For school administrators, the types of crises they face require constant vigilance.
  • Again, because of the speed with which information travels, administrators have to have an action plan in place for all occasions. Parents, teachers, students, and the community all have questions regarding the daily functioning of the institution. Basically, schools have to make sure information regarding policy and school contacts is up-to-date.
  • While in the past community involvement was an option, community involvement is a requirement for schools administrators today. Just in terms of the number of events and activities schools sponsor, administrators need help in organizing and running these events. As a part of a complete PR program, community engagement is standard in today’s academic climate.

Ultimately, the relationship that academic institutions form with their publics support the organization’s goal of educating both students and the public.

And the import to all of us….

PR promotes access. PR in the public educational setting allows for the populations being served to access the institution. By relating to the public, teachers and administrators specifically are more approachable to parents and students alike. More significantly, these relationships support and influence the academic curricula that educates our children.


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