Host Joel Gagne talks with Lynda Tran, founding partner at 270 Strategies, about the importance of sharing stories to engage with the community. Lynda was also the press secretary for Organizing for America, among many other impressive roles, and she shares her insight on highlighting individual stories, crisis communication plans and the importance of public schools.

Lynda says her specialty is being a storyteller and helping other people tell their stories. She says she had the fortune to attend both public and private schools, so she has experience in both.

“At the heart of it all, I believe it is part of our government’s responsibility to make sure that we arm our kids with the tools that they need to be successful in life,” Lynda says. She says she would like to see much more parity across all public schools.

Joel asks what schools should be doing to navigate the current world of technology to engage with the community most effectively.

“I think first and foremost school systems and individual schools need to be thinking about how they’re highlighting successes that they’ve had,” Lynda says.

She says that schools should be constantly thinking about the positives to share with their communities.

Lynda says once a school figures out the voices and characters to highlight in its stories, the next step is thinking about how to integrate these stories across all communication channels.

“Don’t be afraid to talk about an individual story,” Joel agrees. He says that powerful individual success stories are a great way to engage with the community.

Lynda says that schools that engage with the parent population tend to be the most successful in their communications.

Switching gears, Joel brings up the importance of having a crisis communications plan in place in addition to having a strategy to share success stories.

Lynda says that the key to having a good crisis communication plan in place is to think in advance about decision-making steps and the phases of communication that pop up in a crisis.  She says schools should have a plan in place for a number of scenarios so that a school is ready regardless of the situation.

Joel says that having a good foundation of communications channels in place (website, social media, email list, etc.) is one of the keys he shares for communicating successfully in a crisis.

“We would encourage schools to really look at how they’re communicating because not everyone gets their information the same way,” Joel says.

Lynda agrees and suggests that schools make sure they have a great database in place to be prepared in a crisis situation.

Joel asks what school districts can do to communicate effectively as local news outlets such as newspapers are shrinking.

“If it’s a positive story they want to share, there are certainly local news outlets, local television in particular, that are interested in these soft news angles,” Lynda says. “If there is a compelling individual character or person–a student, a parent or a teacher–that they can shape their story around, they can be talking to local television about that for sure.”

She says that in crisis communications, those stories are news because of the nature of the situation. Schools can reach out to local news to have them share the information, and it’s important to have a media list ready for a crisis.

Joel asks Lynda what one book she would recommend to our listeners, and she suggests “The Giving Tree.”

She says the lessons throughout “The Giving Tree” can be used throughout childhood and well into adulthood.

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