Celebrating schools is well worth investing in

Celebrating schools' success

Celebrating schools’ success


By Rachel Read


In cash strapped times it can seem absurd that publicly funded bodies plough any kind of money into ‘PR.’

It’s that dreaded term, ‘PR,’ which comes with it connotations of spin and fluffy marketing and therefore a huge waste of money.

But how about when you run a large organisation with not only hundreds of staff but thousands of young people entrusted to your care? Think schools, think multi-academy trusts (MATs).

MATs are now solely responsible for running dozens of schools without the help and guidance of local authorities – and that means no more access to the council’s HR, finance, legal and communication teams.

No one bats an eyelid when a public body turns to legal, HR and accountancy agencies so why should communications be any different?

In fact, one of the most crucial things for a MAT is effective communications, not only to its staff, children and parents but also to its would-be parents. This is especially true in these days of social media when responses are needed in minutes rather than days.

So who will take charge of these communications?

Well, certainly not teaching staff who should be freed to do that most important of jobs.

Headteachers and MAT CEOs have far too much on their plates to juggle day-to-day communication needs as well.

And employing a communications professional seems a viable option until you realise you can get another senior full-time teacher on the same salary.

So while eyebrows may be raised when MATs turn to agencies like ours what many people do not realise is that it is actually saving the Trusts’ money and, just as importantly, man hours.

There was a hue and cry in the media this week when it was revealed one of the country’s largest MATs, Ormiston Academies Trust, was putting out a two-year £900,000 tender for ‘PR.’ http://www.prweek.com/article/1422726/academy-school-chain-rocked-media-scandals-invest-1-million-comms

In black and white that sounds like a shocking amount of money the Ormiston Academies Trust would like to spend.

But when you drill down the figures you realise it works out £1,171 per school per month (the Trust looks after 32 schools)  – a full-time in-house communications specialist would cost twice as much as that.

And at DSM we are even more cost effective.

Our services cost around a third of employing an in-house professional (and that’s excluding tax and pension contributions a salaried employee would entail).

For that MATs not only receive regular proactive multi-media content that showcases all the good things happening at their schools but they also receive regular advice from communication experts.

Although the majority of our work is positive there are times, especially with organisations responsible for thousands of children, when things can go wrong.

We are at a school's side during a time of crisis

We are at a school’s side during a time of crisis

At a time of crisis the demand on schools for answers and responses is all-consuming, and quite frankly daunting and frightening for people not experienced being in the glare of the media eye.

Having crisis comms experts like us on their side not only relieves the pressure on school staff but also ensures prompt and important communications are being relayed to not only the media but to the whole school community.

MATs aren’t paying for PR, they are investing in providing the most professional service it can to its community.

Without effective communications a school’s reputation can suffer and with that can come poor pupil numbers, causing budgets to be cut.

Schools are doing a fantastic job in educating our future generations and their work deserves to be promoted and celebrated. That is most definitely not a waste of money.