The Value of School Public Relations

By Dorreen Dembski, CESA 6 Director of Communications, WSPRA Board Member

Rex Harlow, a pioneer public relations educator who founded what eventually become the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), once compiled more than 500 definitions from almost as many sources. After mulling over them and talking with leaders in the field, Harlow came up with this definition:

“Public relations is a distinctive management function which helps establish and maintain mutual lines of communication, understanding, acceptance and cooperation between an organization and its publics; involves the management of problems or issues; helps management keep informed on and responsive to public opinion; defines and emphasizes the responsibility of management to serve the public interest; helps management keep abreast of and effectively utilize change, serving as an early warning system to help anticipate trends; and uses research and sound ethical communication techniques as its principle tools.”

– from Public Relations, Strategies and Tactics, 6th edition, Dennis L. Wilcox, Phillip H. Ault, Warren K. Agee, and Glen T. Cameron

There are key components to any public relations program and they are:

  • A public relations program is DELIBERATE;
  • A public relations program is PLANNED;
  • A public relations program serves the PUBLIC’S INTEREST;
  • A public relations program includes TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION;
  • A public relations program is a MANAGEMENT FUNCTION.

What is the value of a deliberate, planned public relations program that serves the public interest with two-way communication?

Good public relations programs will predict trends and provide administrators or managers with counseling on the communication effortsthat will increase the likelihood that the message or program will gain acceptance, or what communication efforts are needed to insure smooth implementation.

Good public relations programs will create relationships-like a bank account creates savings for use at a later time, public relations builds trust that is needed when schools face issues that require support from various stakeholders.

Good public relations create positive media relations that in turn increase the likelihood of accurate reporting, placement of positive stories, and effective reporting during crisis situations.

A good public relations program increases employee/member relations through timely responses to concerns and misinformation, and provides new information that employees need to do their jobs more effectively.

A good public relations program establishes relationships with legislators and regulatory agencies so that the public interest is better served with accurate two-way communication between agencies.

About the author

The Wisconsin School Public Relations Association (WSPRA) is a professional association representing schools, school districts, educational associations, consulting agencies and organizations. WSPRA is a state affiliate of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA). 4797 HAYES ROAD | SUITE 103 | MADISON, WI 53704 | PHONE: 608-241-0300 | WSPRA@AWSA.ORG