With the COVID-19 pandemic it has been proven that in times of uncertainty, schools must remain strong and continue to work together to maintain learning environments. Managing communications during a crisis like COVID-19 is important across all platforms and devices. Informational sources about the virus are being updated on an hourly basis.
When it comes to Crisis Communications remember: Your job is not about making things better, but about not making things worse.
Getting the information out to the people that need it as effectively and efficiently as possible. Communication will vary from platform to platform and between devices.
When creating messages, they must contain statements of facts and feelings. Statements such as: “Our first priority is the safety of our staff and students.” Not writing anything is a statement which people associate with guilt and will assume the worst.
In this case, you must take control of what you can, the narrative. The way you construct and present messages will depend on the platform you are using.
The differences in the networks and mediums lies in their respective audiences. Each platform provides you with the tool to share valuable information at different lengths. Below are some of the most valuable platforms that can be used for crisis communications.
During your messages on any social media network, you should also provide contact information for individuals who have further questions and concerns, such as a phone number and email address. You may also want to add links to websites for more information.
Sharing messages on Facebook gives people the power to share, stay connected with friends and family. You can express what matters to them. With Facebook being one of the most used social networks, it can be leveraged to effectively share relevant news and local alerts. Through Facebook, you can post anything from text, images, maps, to downloadable content.
Facebook should be used sparingly in a crisis and not used to share breaking news unless you have a full story to tell, which right now might be that schools are closed until X date and that more news will be available on X date. Facebook encourages conversation, so post here knowing that people will discuss in the comments and be prepared for that.
Twitter acts as a microblogging network. You can post and share quick messages that are limited to 280 characters. Within tweets, you can add links and incorporate hashtags on trending news, such as COVID-19. The use of hashtags offers the opportunity for more people to see your content.
The benefit of using Twitter is that you can include a long list of tweets that are related to the same story. Consider creating your own hashtag for this story to keep it contained and grouped together (ex. District School Board could use #dsbcovidnews). Twitter is a better social platform for sharing breaking news and more serious updates.
Sending out an email as soon as possible is important. In an email, you can outline the crisis and recap the problem for anyone who might not know. This also gives you the chance to make sure everyone is up-to-date on the most current information.
You will want to include relevant subject lines so that people will know what information they can expect in the email. For example, a subject line might be: “DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD: COVID19 – UPDATE."
The use of each form of technology differs. With the vast majority of people using mobile devices, it is essential that messages are carefully crafted to be seen on a mobile device. As such the messages and titles must be concise and contain fewer words than what you would normally find on desktop crafted message. Today messages are received effectively through mobile devices. Individuals will check their phones anywhere, anytime.
Many of these tools are helpful both to teachers working to move their classrooms online and to communicators working with their team and sharing out messages.
Many of the following tools have offered their platforms and services for free to Schools and Districts during this crisis, those marked with a Star ★ have a specific offering.
The key is to go about your day as you normally would. You should get up at the same time, get dressed, have breakfast and so forth. This will help you stay focused on what needs to get done.
In order for you to get into the mindset of going to work, having a space that is free from distractions is also important. Ideally, you should have a separate room away from too much traffic.
Its easy to get lost in the work when you’re not in your regular work environment, but you shouldn’t let the work consume you. As a result, you need to take breaks in their entirety. Take an hour break, walk away from your desk/workstation and go do something else.
In order to maintain work relationships, its essential to communicate with other staff members. This also allows you to stay connected and be able to bounce ideas off one another.
Having an agenda or checklist will help you to solidify tasks that need to get done. It will be rewarding to scratch out the tasks as you complete them. You might even find yourself getting ahead and finishing tasks early.
Just like you were going to the office, you should set yourself a finishing time by which you will end your time at work. By setting an alarm at the end of your day, you are able to wrap up and shut your mind off of work.
While you sometimes can’t plan for every exact situation, you can communicate in such a way that provides people with the necessary resources and information. All communication must be victim focused. In other words, the messages must be through the lens of who is directly affected by it.
Additionally, any forms of communications must include facts from credible sources. Various platforms can be used to express information, including Facebook, Twitter and Email. Sources of information on the crisis will often be provided by government sources that have scientific evidence and expert opinions.
To support online learning, various tools are available to assist teachers and students. Lastly, working from home is not familiar to everyone. It is important that you maintain a routine, communicate with your colleagues, have a working space, take scheduled breaks, plan out your day accordingly, and above all pick a time to finish your “work day”.
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