- Principals and school staff should search social media on a regular basis to analyze the message(s) students, families, and stakeholders are sharing about the school and its image.
- Learn how to positively contribute to that narrative by having a plan and including many voices.
- Communicate enough positive messages on a regular basis so that a negative post won’t ruin your school’s reputation.
Your School’s Narrative
Every school has a narrative. The question is, “Who owns your school’s narrative?” Principals and school staff should search social media on a regular basis to analyze the message(s) students, families, and stakeholders are sharing about the school and its image. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok, and YouTube all provide a platform to share a narrative. A narrative can impact the impression of a school and its reputation. There are multiple ways to create and share your school’s story.
Sheninger and Rubin (2017) described the importance of becoming the school’s “storyteller-in-chief” and “amplifier” through a variety of traditional and digital platforms. Do you have a plan for sharing your school’s narrative? Sole ownership is not the only method of communication. Some schools allow anyone to share their narrative.Sheninger and Rubin (2017) described the importance of becoming the school's storyteller-in-chief and amplifier through a variety of traditional and digital platforms. Do you have a plan for sharing your school’s narrative? Click To Tweet
Shared ownership is more effective than sole ownership. While the principal and other school staff should have a clear message, the message can be amplified through shared ownership. If students, families, and alumni post and repost school messages, the school’s image and reputation could become a brand worth following. In classrooms, we encourage student voice. Social media should reflect classrooms by combining the student voice with the perspectives of the principal and school staff.
A third way to share your school’s story is through unsolicited feedback. Students post videos while they are at school and teachers post about classroom highlights. School assemblies and posts made by community members can support the school’s narrative. Customers rate and comment on the quality of service at restaurants, hotels, and businesses. Whether you own your narrative or not, customers and stakeholders will continue to share their feelings and experiences for the public to view.
Your School’s Digital Footprint
Students are taught about the importance of their digital footprint. Does your school have a digital footprint? If you are a new principal, you have several things on your plate. While open house, instructional leadership, school culture, and the graduation rate are among your priorities, you should not ignore your school’s brand and the opportunity to promote positive stories. What is the secret sauce that makes your school great? Determine a strategy for utilizing social media to increase the visibility of your school locally and internationally.
Are You Allowing Others to Disrupt Your School’s Narrative?
A narrative paints a picture of a school. Too often, we can become consumed with the daily operations of a school. If we do not schedule time to share our school’s story, we are allowing others to hijack the school’s narrative. We cannot control when someone makes a negative post about the school or a video goes viral. Imagine if your school had already posted 700 positive posts throughout the school year. It may make that single negative post seem less harmful or degrading. In a world that is dominated by social media, we need to celebrate the work of students, showcase artwork, highlight student voice, and promote the excellence that happens on a daily basis.
Lean Into Your School’s Narrative
If a school does not intentionally create a narrative for others to follow, it could impact student enrollment, teacher recruitment, and the public’s trust. A school’s narrative is “cemented by continuous actions that demonstrate the commitment of the [school staff and students] to act in ways that are consistent with the narrative. A genuinely successful narrative requires the understanding, commitment, and engagement of the entire leadership of a [school] to live out” (Schick, 2021). In other words, a narrative impacts how students and staff view their school and can support the school’s culture and ethos.
There’s an App for That
Several schools have created their own hashtag, which makes it easier to follow the school’s highlights and the success of students and staff. A hashtag allows viewers to see multiple posts and to reshare your school’s narrative. Hundreds of schools have created or purchased a school app. A school app allows students and families to follow all of the social media updates and push alerts from their phones. The following questions will help reflect on your school’s narrative.[scroll down to keep reading]
Our School Narrative: Questions for School Teams
- If a parent moving into our community searched our school website and social media, would there be enough information for the parent to determine if our school is the best choice for their child?
- Does our school have a digital footprint?
- Does our narrative reflect our school’s brand?
- What are other public, private, charter, virtual, and home schools in our region sharing on social media? How does our school’s narrative compare to what other schools are promoting?
- How can our school staff become more intentional about sharing our school’s narrative?
Schick, R. (2021). The importance of company narratives. Retrieved from https://topicinsights.com/marketing/the-importance-of-company-narratives/.
Sheninger, E. & Rubin, T. (2017). BrandED: Tell your story, build relationships, and empower. Jossey-Bass.
About Steven Weber
Dr. Steven Weber is the Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning with Fayetteville Public Schools (AR). His areas of research include curriculum design, formative assessment, professional learning, and school leadership.