“Trust is built through communication.” — Dr. Todd Hoadley

Communication is key and, in our changing world, so is learning to adapt. This week, Carole Dorn-Bell speaks with Dr. Todd Hoadley, Superintendent of Dublin City Schools (OH), and Jennifer Economus, Allerton-Hill Consulting. Topics include how to develop communication skills, the limits of social media, the value of face-to-face communication, using Instagram, developing a social media identity, and the importance of local newspaper.

“Our community has high expectations. People expect communications to be accurate. They expect it to be timely. And by timely I mean NOW.” — Dr. Todd Hoadley

Dr. Todd Hoadley is the Superintendent of one of the largest school districts in Ohio and oversees 75 administrators. He is not only tasked with guiding the educational mission of the district but also with ensuring that all of the administrators are also inline with that mission and are implementing it to the best of their abilities. Carole talks with Dr. Hoadley as well as Jennifer Economus from Allerton Hill Communications about how communications training and best practices plays into the growth of tomorrow’s educational leaders.

Dr. Hoadley is quick to point out that “lack of communication skills can get any leader into hot water really quick” and that is why he emphasizes it so often with his administrators and why he works so closely with Allerton Hill and Jennifer Economus to continually analyze and improve Dublin’s communication strategy. Dublin’s strategy includes social media training for principals and Dr. Hoadley makes sure he always leads by example through his own social media use. He also emphasizes the importance of face to face conversations for comfort, authenticity and clarity and stresses to avoid email ping pong, especially when dealing with emotional and hot button issues.

Jennifer has been a valuable asset in training both administrators and the (front line) administrative staff in direct communication workshops to ensure emotional clarity and communications success. Jennifer points out that all of her training — whether it is on social media, internal communications or face-to-face interactions — is focused on best practices and using proven strategies to be effective. “We understand that administrators are busy so we focus on low input, high impact.”

Social media is a critical part of any school’s communications plan. Both Dr. Hoadley and Jennifer suggest meeting your community where it is at. First, Jennifer advises, “Pick one and do it well.” But if your resources allow, determine what your community, your parents, your students, are using and find a way to engage.

Dr. Hoadley is a fan of both Twitter & Instagram. Twitter is economical and efficient. It empowers you to quickly and easily share successes which reinforce the vision and mission of the school. Instagram forces you to think visually which adds a new layer to your message — it also allows for longer posts which can be good for certain topics.

Jennifer understands the hesitation of administrators to engage via social media. She works to remind administrators that social media is designed to be easy and fun. She often uses Twitter challenges and contests to break the ice.

Of course, there is a possible negative aspect to the immediacy of social media. Dr. Hoadley says, “You have to understand that once you put yourself out there, it is a two way interaction. It is opening you up to feedback. You better have a thick skin. … be mindful of that as well.  The beauty of social media is that it allows unfiltered two-way communication. But it can be difficult.”

On a final note, Jennifer advises that administrators remember that some people are still not using / trusting of social media for information. Editorials and also having a strong relationship with local reporters is still important.

Communication with a multi-pronged approach is best to ensure that information is getting to the wrong people and that you are in control of your school’s narrative.

Follow Dr. Todd Hoadley on Twitter @toddhoadley and on Instagram @toddhoadley