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Communications Critical in Education Reform

While education reform can seem like it's all about policies and politics, strong communications are an important piece of the puzzle
February 12, 2016
If you ever want to feel like an epic underachiever, spend your time with thousands of Teach For America (TFA) alumni.
I was reminded of this when I joined 15,000 TFA alumni and corps members at the organization’s 25th Anniversary Summit in Washington, D.C.
From running for office to inspiring students every day in classrooms across the country to starting incredible school networks, TFA folks are making an impact all across the country.
As a TFA alumnus, I was overwhelmed and so proud of the amazing things the TFA community is doing.
As a communications professional who is fortunate enough to work exclusively on public issues, I was encouraged not only by the amazing work being done in education, but also by the number of times communications was mentioned as playing a critical role in ensuring that one day, all children will have the opportunity to attain an excellent education.
Wondering where communications might fit into your work in education? Here are a few tips I picked up:

Make yourself a social media influencer.

If you are looking for an audience, you need to go where your audience is. And chances are good your audience is on Twitter.
Twitter influencers @MrDavidJohns, @alexanderrusso, @MsPackyetti, @andreperryedu, @aliciaherald and @deray said it has provides them a platform to share student voices, tell the truth about what is happening in their communities, generate momentum around a specific cause and build incredible online communities with folks doing ed reform work around the world.
Looking to build your influence on Twitter but not sure where to start? One easy first step is to get active: Identify up to three content areas and tweet about them at least three times a day.
These influencers also emphasized that social media shouldn’t just be used to promote your cause: Use it to share your personality as well!

Get involved in policy – and make sure you’re talking about it well.

How do we make sure ed policy works for all our students? Colorado Senator Michael Johnston spoke about the need for alignment and proper implementation of four things: programs, people, policies and politics.
New Mexico Secretary of Education Hanna Skandera directly addressed the role of communications in ed policy work. She said we’ve failed to communicate effectively with teachers in the midst of so much policy change.
And a crucial part of working on policy is communicating about what is passed – so teachers and members of the education community understand and are able to implement what is decided upon.

Share your good work!

During the Main Event, all of us gathered in the Verizon Center to celebrate and hear from some of the top teachers and leaders in education.
Before TFA CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard spoke, a video highlighted her role in the organization. It was great to learn more about the person shaping the future of TFA, but perhaps most exciting was when I noticed some familiar faces on the screen.
If you fast forward to 1:45, you’ll see the smiling faces of students from Rocky Mountain Prep, a public elementary charter school network in Denver. The next 30 seconds features some amazing footage from the schools.
This was a very fortunate placement for Rocky Mountain Prep — 30 seconds of video in front of 15,000 education influencers — but there is an important message for those looking to share their work. Had the school not invited Elisa and recorded the visit, this opportunity wouldn’t have happened!
Sharing your work with influencers – whether in person, through owned media or through earned media – allows word to spread quickly about the good work you are doing.
(Oh, and for the record, it’s also nice when POTUS sends your organization a special message, too.)
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