Communicating to Overcome Distrust

Updated: May 4

Schools aren't the only institution being affected by an erosion of trust but schools have been on the leading edge of growing distrust driven by events and people far removed from local school districts. News media and especially social media are shaping perceptions of district patrons of all ages. Trying to get in front of it all can feel like outrunning an ever-accelerating treadmill.

Here are some tips for breaking what seems like an accelerating cycle of rising distrust threatening school/community relations, but read on even if you aren’t a school administrator because these tips can help every organization.

Complete a communications audit -

What’s been done well? What needs some work? How might you encourage stakeholder feedback to gauge how people feel about the organization? Don’t just focus on external stakeholders, but dive into how internal stakeholders feel. How your internal stakeholders feel about the district will say a lot about the quality of past communication, and they’re especially important because of the essential role they play in being district ambassadors.

While you consider conducting your audit, here are some of the most glaring shortcomings we routinely encounter.

Use every media available - You can't shape online perceptions with handouts and social media posts won’t build a relationship with stakeholders relying on print. So use all the media your stakeholders rely on; social media, website, news outlets, email, text, and don't forget ink on paper. Organize processes for sharing information - Processes get power from planning, practice, and refinement. An established process names a person or internal position tasked with the responsibility for daily communication. Essential to the process is access to the tools needed for efficiently sharing information across a multitude of platforms and experience using them. Who is responsible, how will they do their work, and when will their work be accomplished are the questions to answer.

Commit to frequent communication - Effective communication is ongoing and frequent. Frequency is an essential part of an effective communications plan so note how frequently you’re reaching out to all stakeholder groups. Remember, if you’re afraid of annoying people by communicating too frequently you’re struggling with creativity, not audience overload. (see below)

Communication is a two-way street –

Communication in the heyday of print and TV went one way. Powerful businesses and organizations pushed information out and an audience with limited options took in what was shared. Use that model today and many in your audience, especially the youngest ones, will decide you’re hopelessly out of touch.

Are you afraid of what might two-way communication might uncover? Just remember, it's being said now but you can’t hearing it.

Don't forget creativity - Similar information delivered in the same way leads to a lack of engagement; think of the most monotone lecture you've endured. Think through creative strategies to develop nearly endless variations of essential themes to keep interest, spur engagement, and to consistently reinforce your expertise, professional commitment, and positive impact.

I'm happy to share what we've learned about building trust through frequent, creative, and process-driven communication with communities, so be in touch. Reply to my email to set something up, or use this link to schedule right into my calendar: