The surprise victory by now Senator-elect Scott Brown has been the buzz in national news for the past two days. Brown, the Republican candidate for the Massachusetts Senate seat held for decades by former Senator Ted Kennedy, won an election believed at first to be a guaranteed win for his Democratic challenger.
How did Brown pull off this upset? Simple: He connected with the people.
School leaders can learn a few things from how Senator-elect Scott Brown communicated during his campaign. These lessons are particularly important for educators who communicate with parents, the media, and their school-community on school safety and crisis-emergency issues:
- Speak from your heart. Too often, especially as a crisis or high-profile school safety incident occurs, otherwise caring and concerned administrators begin speaking like defense attorneys. Speak from your heart, not just from your defense playbook.
- Be a “real person.” Parents and community members are distrustful of government agencies, and schools are no exemption. When parents turn their children over to educators who are “in loco parentis” (in place of the parent), they trust them to act as a parent, not as a bureaucrat. Be professional, but show your human side when you communicate.
- Focus on those on the front lines. School administrators may interview with a news reporter about a school safety issue, but they are really speaking to their parents, students, community members, and school employees when they make public statements. Keep the focus and message on those on the front lines.
- Be genuine, honest, and candid. Parents want the truth, not spin. They are tired of spin.
- Relate to the concerns of the people you serve. Focus on solving concerns they define as their problems, not just issues you or others try to define as their problems or priorities.
Having the confidence of parents and the school-community during and after a crisis requires school leaders to have their trust before any incident ever occurs.
Senator-elect Scott Brown pulled out a major upset in Massachusetts by connecting with his community. Have your teachers, principals, superintendent, school board members, and other staff connected at the human level with their students, parents, and school-community?