Have you thought about the long-term implications of a safety or security threat involving your students, staff, or buildings on your school’s brand? We’ve all learned that perception is reality, and the impact on your brand is significant, regardless of whether the threat is real or a hoax.
Climate initiatives have been front and center in higher education and K12 for decades, and for good reason. Research throughout the world proves that academic achievement is directly linked with a climate in which both teachers and students feel safe, supported, and connected to the community. But have you really dug in deep to think about the long-term implications on your brand when something sparks a deficit in the perceived safety of your school?
Consider the immediate and long-term impact that a safety or security issue will have on your ability to:
- Compete with other schools for students;
- Hire quality staff at every level of the organization;
- Retain quality staff;
- Raise funds from the community and your alumnae;
- Participate fully in federal and state grant opportunities; and
- Address issues associated with escalating insurance premiums or negotiations in civil litigation.
This year’s Mott Poll Report listing the top health issues that parents worry may impact their own children, released August 21, 2017, is an eye opener:
Overall, the highest proportions of parents were “very concerned” about bullying/cyberbullying, internet safety and stress. The next most common issues concerning parents were motor vehicle accidents and school violence.
The fifth most concerning issue among parents for their 0-18 year olds was school safety.
With this intense focus on school safety, misinformation spread on social media during the initial stages of a crisis or during a perceived safety issue, especially one associated with the threat of violence or self harm, can spread like wildfire. The impact of even a perceived threat or a hoax can have long-term consequences to your brand as it taps into a fundamental fear that we all have. It puts pressure on your team to assess safety threats as quickly as possible and address the issues with your community directly.
So, take a few moments to wear your safety hat thinking like a brand. I love this article from Forbes and I encourage you to print it and ruminate over the 13 tips from some pretty heavy hitting crisis PR experts with your communications and threat assessment teams NOW – before you are in a crisis situation.
Your school's brand is inextricably linked to safety. Receiving alerts to threats in near real-time and planning ahead to address how your team will communicate about a publicly posted threat should it happen to you will help you maintain the health of your community as well as preserve your brand.