Old Needs, New Demands: How Online Communication has Re-shaped the Practice of School PR

Ed Moore, APR, of Rowan University, presented research on how school public relations is changing because of online communications.

For last several years, he has looked at award winning school websites and pulled the top national winners, and audit them, to identify the components that make them excellent.

Creative approach – special purpose websites (portals) – such as site for school bond issues; new residents; teacher recruitment

Interactive sites designed to provide financial information – pressure to be transparent and comply with freedom-of-information requirements. Schools responding by putting all financial information online.

Issues

Research suggests municipal government websites are often written above the 12th grade reading level. Yet most people believe governments have responsibility to provide information on the web. The question is how well they are actually communicating.

Need to look at metrics – how well schools are doing this. He has anecdotal data of how some districts address the issue. Schools look at improving traffic through site, getting to destination data in fewer number of clicks. Currently no real standard for what metrics to watch. Accuracy and timeliness of information important, but Moore thinks a need for ratcheting up the level of sophistication in performance metrics.

Sees three areas for additional work:

  1. Trying to track how schools are adopting technologies
  2. How to get the most out of communications/PR and IT staffs
  3. Standardizing and codifying performance metrics

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