About a year and a half ago, I launched Eduflack because I saw there was a voice missing from the education reform debate. Since I’ve built a career on the issue of public engagement, I have long believed that effective communications (and advocacy and public affairs and marketing) are necessary components of meaningful education reform. Few were talking about how effectively we talk about education reform, so Eduflack was born.
Since then, I’ve tried to focus (or tangentially focus) my critiques on the messaging, the strategy, and the communications surrounding education issues. From time to time, as Eduwife likes to point out, I veer off the intended path, moving into more focused discussions of policy and wonkishness. This is particularly true, as any loyal reader knows, of issues such as reading instruction, education research, and accountability.
Over the last few months, I’ve grown troubled. And this is more than Eduflack’s general sense of cynicism, mistrust, and fear of things that go bump in the night. What troubles me? We preach so much about modeling best or promising practices in education policy, but we do almost nothing to put it into practice in education communications.
Over the past 15 years, I have worked on a great number of policy issues — healthcare, technology, workforce development and labor relations, finance, and federal appropriations to name but a few. All those areas seem to have ways to bring their industry communicators together. But not education.
For those involved in marketing, PR, communications, public affairs, design, or advocacy in the education sector, there is little to bring us together to learn or share promising practices. Companies and not-for-profits will work with their PR agencies. Those agencies know who their competitors are. We all often see each other at conferences or events, and many of us read each others’ quotes in education publications or on blogs. But there was nothing to unite us.
In the communications space, we have a number of membership organizations. The International Association of Business Communicators and Public Relations Society of America are the two leaders. Neither organization spotlights the education sector or considers it on level with issues such as healthcare, technology, tourism, or anything else. Those in higher education will often turn to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, or CASE. But CASE is far more of a policy group, whose members just happen to be in the communications field. Again, no true organization to bring us together.
So I’ve decided it is time to try and do something about. Today, I am officially announcing the establishment of Educommunicators, an online community designed to bring together marketing communications professionals in the education sector. I’ll be the first to say this is a work in progress. My hope is that Educommunicators will evolve, over time, to meet the needs of its members. For now, I see it focusing on a few key issues:
* Sharing information on key policy and industry issues, providing news from valuable third parties
* Spotlighting promising communications efforts, be they led by companies, non-profits, government entities, or PR agencies
* Recognizing those individuals who are doing good work in education communications
* Providing a forum for dialogue and discussion on policy issues, the media, and other issues important to members
* Sharing information on new hires, job opportunities, new clients/projects, and similar updates important to members
* Building a broad and deep network of education communications pros, a network akin to what EWA does for education writers or what AASA does for school district leaders
And if I get so bold, we may even start assembling a directory of those PR firms that specialize in education issues (and do a good job at it). No one else is doing it, but there is a real need for such a directory in the education community.
How are we going to do it? Today, we officially launch four different forums to form a network of information sharing. The first is a website — www.educommunicators.com. This site will serve as the core communication vehicle for the organization, and will likely see the most change over time. Pages and topics will be developed based on feedback from membership.
The second is a blog — blog.educommunicators.com. This blog will allow for regular updates on the issues of the day.
The third and fourth vehicles will tap the power of online social networking. Educommunicators has launched a group on Facebook (Educommunicators) that are all welcome to join. There is a similar group on www.linkedin.com (also Educommunicators) that will be open to all those who join it.
I pledge to do my best to share all information across the four platforms, so if you use one, you will still get the information everyone sees. Of course, it also means that some of you may be getting multiple invitations from me, be it on Facebook, LinkedIn, or from my personal contact lists.
What am I asking for in return? First, join Educommunicators. There is no fee and no expectation here. Sign on to the Facebook or LinkedIn groups or send me your contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll then be a founding member of Educommunicators and a piece in building this important online community.
Once you’ve bought into the concept, I hope you’ll participate in its development. Share this post or the website address with any and all interested parties, suggesting they join as well. Send me ideas for the blog or the website. Let me know about your projects or the work you’re engaged in. Alert me to new hires or new job opportunities in education communications. Share any and all information that a fellow education comm pro would want to know. And we’ll just take it from there.
If you want to go the extra step, I could always use writers for the blog. I could also use some volunteers to serve as board members (of sorts) for the organization to ensure we stay true to a mission and core goals.
Lots of opportunities. Few obstacles. All we need is participation. So please join Educommunicators. I need your help. And you’ll benefit from the information and insights that will be gleaned from the process. I promise.