Social media storm and governors

Tuesday 04 October 2016

There are some schools that believe there is so much “chatter” on social media that it is not worth paying attention to it. But imagine that a parent at your school has Tweeted something inappropriate about one of your teachers. Shouldn’t you react?

Your school should be monitoring social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook, checking for mentions of the school and staff (and governors).

The next consideration should be: what should you do about it and who should be making the decision on what approach to take?

The governing body is responsible for protecting the reputation of the school. So any action taken should be underpinned by the school’s social media policy (previously devised by governors).

What next?

The matter should be investigated further by someone appointed to monitor social media activity, as defined by the school’s policy. They should only inform the governors if the situation escalates.

The best course of action would be to contact the parent and meet them to discuss their complaint. Do not think the worst of them – they may have a legitimate gripe, it is merely the way they chose to express it that is the first issue.

If online postings are allowed to circulate, then the local media is liable to repeat them. Allowing a vacuum to develop is one thing but not putting inaccuracies right is also rarely appropriate if you are to protect the school’s reputation.

Further options could be identified by the internal investigation that you undertake, such as the possible involvement of the police or other agencies. This brings with it a whole new level of complexity and can constrain your communications, especially in the case of an active police investigation. That may be difficult but not as difficult as having to deal with a suggestion of a cover-up.

Key tips

  •          Monitor all media channels so you can take appropriate action.
  •          Take the initial discussion offline, but don’t ignore it.
  •          Collate all relating information.
  •          Follow your agreed media processes and be prepared for their enquiries.
  •          Take all action necessary, and never be seen to be on the back foot.

Effective communications can make or break the reputation of any school. The consequences of a poor reputation can include lower pupil numbers, difficulty in attracting and retaining the best staff and a strained relationship with the parent body. That is before you talk about the time, effort and resources needed to rebuild a damaged reputation.