When you think of systems, what comes to mind? Your computer network, internet service, perhaps Google docs? Sure, those are all systems – necessary systems. But if you are going to be truly successful in developing a strong, trusting relationship with your community, you must look beyond what we call the “mechanism” systems (those that allow you do complete your work, like your network and email) and ensure your “method” systems are just as strong.
What do we mean by “method” systems? This is how, when, and why you do things. Some people call them processes or protocols. In the case of a public school’s communications efforts, these are the consistent, replicable steps you take that help build trust and strengthen relationships. They range from philosophies – “We will answer public information requests fully and transparently within X days” … to when you release information – “we will send a district newsletter out every two weeks” … to what you do with the feedback you receive back – “we will evaluate what types of information our community wants and be sure to provide it in a timely and honest manner.”
If you have solid method systems in place, you know exactly what needs to be done on a regular basis. Even more importantly, your community knows what to expect – and being able to rely on your school district doing what they say they will do is key to being able to trust the information they provide.
What your method systems are will depend on your school district. While there may be “best practices” that are likely to apply, after you pass that first layer of communications requirements, every district will be different. It takes patience, continuous feedback, and trial-and-error to determine what will work best for you and your community.