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Leadership webinar: schools' crisis communications (video and webchat)

Discussion in 'Senior Leadership Team' started by AndrewFIS, May 15, 2017.

  1. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    When a disaster strikes, how should a school respond? What are the protocols to follow?

    As part of the TES Leadership webinar series, I’ll be putting your questions to Anna Pedroza, founder of Pedroza Communications.

    We will examine how schools can be more effective when dealing with a crisis.

    Post your questions below now - and, if you can, join in our live webchat on May 23 at 4.30pm.

    Before that, you can watch a video we’ve made in which Anna and I discuss the issues, with key advice for school leaders.


    To access all the videos in the TES Leadership series, plus an exclusive database of grants available to schools, become a TES Leadership subscriber.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 12, 2017
  2. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    The webinar video will be available for seven days in this thread after the webchat. If you wish to view the webinar after 29th May or to access all the videos in the TES Leadership series, plus an exclusive database of grants available to schools, become a TES Institutional subscriber. You can find out more information here.
  3. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member


    Don't forget to submit your questions below ahead of next week's webchat.

    Thank you.
  4. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Good afternoon and welcome to today’s webchat.

    The TES Leadership webchats give you the opportunity to put your questions to industry experts about key school management and operational issues.

    In a few moments I will hand you over to Andrew, who is editor of FIS, who will be hosting this week's hour-long webchat.

    Andrew and this week's guest, leadership expert panel member Anna Pedroza, founder of Pedroza Communications, who will be available for the next hour to answer your questions.

    If you have any questions please submit them below. Don't worry if we run out of time, any unanswered questions will be responded to and posted on this thread later this week.

    I'll now hand you over to Andrew.

    The content of, and information provided in, the TES Leadership webchats and their associated materials (including information posted in these forums in connection with the webchats) (the “Content”) is provided for general information purposes only. Any use you make of, or reliance you place on, the Content is entirely at your own risk. Professional or specialist advice, tailored to your specific circumstances, should always be obtained before taking (or refraining from) any action on the basis of the Content.

    Whilst TES Global and the panel of leadership experts make every effort to ensure the high quality and accuracy of the Content, TES Global and each leadership expert makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) concerning the Content. Neither TES Global nor any leadership expert will be responsible for any damage or loss related to any use of the Content.

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  5. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Hello and welcome to this webchat on crisis communications plans for schools. Joining me is Anna Pedroza, founder of Pedroza Communications. For those of you following this thread, please feel free to post your query. Remember to refresh your page to see the updates as they appear.
    Thanks for joining us, Anna.
    Who should comprise the crisis management team -- and what should their roles be?
  6. Anna_Pedroza

    Anna_Pedroza New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    Hi Andrew

    It's good to be here this afternoon.

    It’s a very good question and is regularly overlooked. Being clear on roles can mean the difference between containing a crisis and escalation. The roles needed in a crisis are:

    • First point of contact
    • Media spokesperson
    • Media monitoring
    • Parent, student and staff spokesperson

    First point of contact
    Who is going to cover the phone, deal with face-to-face enquiries and handle emails? In a school it is likely to be front of house/office staff. Make sure they are briefed and understand what you want them to do. It’s essential this person can remain calm and avoid getting drawn into discussions regarding the issue.

    In general, they should take a message rather than putting an angry parent or inquisitive journalist directly through to the head teacher, or other person who can answer the enquiry. In a crisis it is good to always adopt the three ‘Rs’
    • Write it down
    • Reflect
    • Respond
    Online monitoring
    Who is going to monitor online news sites and social media? Parents regularly take to Facebook when they are angry. Journalists, MPs, councillors and others will share their views about your issue on Twitter. Someone needs to monitor the conversations taking place on these social media channels.

    Dependant on the issue, the school may chose to close their social media channels as part of their planning before a crisis. However, this isn’t always the right strategy as it means you can’t respond to inaccuracies, or point to sources of reliable information.

    The person monitoring social media needs to do the following.

    • Post a brief statement on Facebook encouraging people to visit the school website for more information
    • Respond and correct inaccuracies
    • Point to the school website where more information is available
    • Try to take difficult conversations offline
    Avoid getting into debates and never argue on social media.

    Media spokesperson
    It is essential to agree who should speak to the media, if you choose to offer someone for interviews. It is likely it will be the Chair of Governors or Head Teacher or Principal. Consider:

    • Who will come across clearly?
    • Who has authority?
    • Who can remain calm even when asked difficult or challenging questions?

    The media spokesperson should be media trained and have experience of speaking to journalists, and giving TV and radio interviews.

    The media are also keen to get the perspective from parents and students. It is sensible to identify a parent governor who can speak to the media. Also, if you are a secondary school identify two students who could also speak to the media if required is useful. Make sure anyone speaking to the media is well briefed and can handle sticky questions if asked.

    Staff, student and parent meetings

    The head teacher generally leads on these meetings but the Chair of Governors is often present. For parent meetings it can be helpful for a supportive parent Governor to attend and give their perspective.

    When a crisis hits there is often little time to think through detailed plans. However, making sure you know who is speaking to whom and what they are saying can make an enormous difference to the impact of a crisis and its long term effect on the school.

    There some more information on roles in a crisis in a blog I wrote: http://pedrozacommunications.co.uk/crisis-communications-how-to-get-organised/
    Last edited: May 23, 2017
  7. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    What should be the response protocol in terms of reacting to a crisis?
  8. Anna_Pedroza

    Anna_Pedroza New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    The key things to remember are:
    • Understand the problem - What, when, why, who, how?
    • Get agreement on key messages
    • Control the flow of information – be clear on roles and who is doing what
    • Remember all constituents – who needs to know and when?
    • Take a long view – when we are in the centre of a crisis everything is immediate and reactive. But a school’s strategy needs to include plans for how to draw a line and to start moving beyond the bad news.
    What's important to remember is not to take a combative stance. Avoid the sense that you are going into battle (however much it may feel like that). Demonstrate you are in control and stay calm, losing your temper maybe temporarily satisfying but it isn’t going to improve a situation.
  9. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    When is the right time to speak to the media?
  10. Anna_Pedroza

    Anna_Pedroza New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    Speaking to the media in a crisis is important but it is essential that those directly affected hear from the school first. This also means there is less chance they hear a jumbled version from a third party and helps you to keep control of the message.

    The key people that need to hear before the media are usually:
    • Parents
    • Staff
    • Students

    NB - The exception to this is where a possible crime has been committed or there is a safeguarding issue. In that case external authorities such as the police or social services must be informed immediately.

    Only after this is it right to speak to the media. So, if you speak to staff and students by lunchtime it is likely you will speak to the media at lunchtime or in the afternoon.

    The story will break in the local paper in the afternoon and will be printed in the paper the next day. Dependant on the scale of the issue regional TV will be in touch and will want to film the following day for lunchtime and evening news.
  11. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    How should you manage the media?
  12. Anna_Pedroza

    Anna_Pedroza New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    Managing multiple enquiries from the media can be daunting. This is why preparation is so important! Remember that you want to:
    • Communicate your key messages
    • Reduce speculation
    • Contain the story
    This isn’t a time where ‘proactive’ PR to try and get more coverage is the right strategy!

    Most enquiries will come by phone. Typical questions include:
    • What happened?
    • What went wrong? Why?
    • Who is to blame? Who is accountable?
    • What is happening right now? What are doing to solve the problem now?
    • What are you doing to prevent it from happening again?
    Thank the journalist for their call and ask them to put their request in an email. Check some basic details in terms of where they are calling from and their deadline.

    Don’t start to discuss the issue with them or get drawn into conversation. Make sure you take down their name, role and contact details.

    Dependent on the enquiry you may simply send them your statement or press release for publishing. But generally it is best to get some more information before responding.

    Questions to ask a newspaper (print) journalist:
    • Publication name?
    • What is the deadline for their piece and when it will be published?
    • Where will the piece be published - online, in the paper, or both?
    • Who else they are speaking to?
    Questions to ask a broadcast journalist:
    • Name of broadcaster and whether it is radio or TV
    • What programme are they calling from? (it is usually news)
    • When is the piece airing?
    • Who would they (ideally) like to speak to?
    • How do they want to conduct the interview? Face to face, on the telephone, or remotely from a studio?
    • Do they plan to visit the school?
    • Who else are they planning to speak to?
    Keep a note of all enquiries so you know who is speaking to whom, where interviews are taking place, and when coverage will be made public.

    Log all coverage about the issue. Where facts are reported incorrectly contact the journalist, provide the correct facts, and request a correction, or right of reply.
  13. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Is it OK to say "no comment" to a journalist?
  14. Anna_Pedroza

    Anna_Pedroza New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    I feel strongly that this is the worst thing you can say to a journalist.

    Saying ‘no comment’ gives the message you might actually have something to say but that you’re not prepared to say anything, it fuels speculation, and is defensive. It is never going to improve a situation.

    Even if you have very little to say it is much better to say something like: “We are aware of the situation and are working hard to gather all the necessary facts. Once we have more information will be able to provide more detail.”
  15. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    What are the most common mistakes/errors made by schools?
  16. Anna_Pedroza

    Anna_Pedroza New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    There are a number that come up frequently:

    • Battening down the hatches - not talking to anyone!
    • Giving out conflicting messages, using jargon, or simply not being very clear
    • Leaving people in the dark, or speaking to people in the wrong order
    • Not accepting that there is a problem/issue
    • Not answering enquiries or getting back to the media promptly. Journalists will seek out other sources for information instead.
  17. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    What are the most common issues schools need to manage?
  18. Anna_Pedroza

    Anna_Pedroza New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    Good question, these are the most common:
    • Safeguarding issues
    • Poor Ofsted judgment
    • Financial mismanagement
    • Changes to the structure of the school, e.g. takeover by MAT
    • Accidents involving children or staff
    • Employment tribunals
    • Criminal activity
  19. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    How can schools avoid a crisis?
  20. Anna_Pedroza

    Anna_Pedroza New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    It depends on the type of crisis. Some are ‘cobras’ and they strike unexpectedly and take a school by surprise. Sadly, these can’t be avoided.

    But lots are more like ‘pythons’ - slow burning issues, which can become a crisis if not dealt with correctly. A school should map out issues that might flare up and what can be done now to avoid them becoming a crisis. These might be about:
    • Pupil behaviour
    • Staff contentment
    • Standards in teaching and learning
    If these can be corrected early on then a public crisis can be avoided. However, remember action is nearly always needed to neutralise an issue and limit the likelihood of a crisis.

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