Today, I want to talk about a topic that has been getting a lot of attention in the #SchoolPR community. It’s a real issue that the team at #SocialSchool4EDU faces, and I know you are dealing with it too.
Frustratingly, there isn’t an easy solution.
I have some resources that I want to provide, but first, a story. This is a personal story from my dear friend, Kristin Magette:
My family recently celebrated the first anniversary of a completely unexpected event that taught each of us a lot — and that played a rather pivotal role in my school PR journey.
In August 2018, my husband and I suddenly found ourselves in the pediatric ICU at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, with our extremely healthy and active son who had just turned 13 — and was officially in (asymptomatic) heart failure.
But that wasn’t all.
It was six days before convocation and the return of teachers and the crush of the back-to-school season was at a fever pitch. I had a script to write, a video to finish, a back-to-school social media series of awesome little homemade gifs to schedule, and a million details that needed me. And I was in the ICU. With my child.
The bad news was obvious. My kid had a bum heart, and my one-person-PR-shop life was nowhere near prepared to run without me. Oh, the “Wonder Woman” lies I had told myself for so many years!
However, I would soon begin to realize the good news. First, our son’s heart could be fixed, and he’d be back to his active self soon. Second, I had an opportunity to do better back at the office.
The next 5 days at Children’s Mercy showed me with incredible and immediate clarity that nothing matters more to me than my family. When my family is in crisis (medical or otherwise), my job does not — cannot possibly — matter. And even if it did matter in the midst of a crisis, I would most assuredly be terrible at it.
I also realized that my district wasn’t prepared to be without me, and that was a real problem. Sometimes life happens and takes you completely out of circulation for a bit. You may not have kids or a spouse/partner, but what if you were in an accident that left you incapacitated? Our employers need and depend on us — and they deserve better than to be left in the lurch.
My husband is in his 20th year of teaching high school science, and I have always known he had emergency sub plans. Why didn’t I? And then I wondered — why don’t we have something for all of our administrative team? If the food service director was suddenly unavailable, would we know how to contact vendors to reschedule a delivery? If the transportation director was out of pocket, would we know how to handle storm-related rural route changes?
Although many functions can be covered through cross-training colleagues in certain areas, that wasn’t enough. So when I returned to the office, I began the work of assembling my own emergency sub-plan. When I shared my intent with the human resources director, she agreed that this should be an administrative team exercise — that we needed basic plans for everyone. Here’s what we determined every administrative emergency sub plan should include:
- An annual calendar of my recurring, predictable events, programs, deadlines, and other responsibilities.
- A list of my logins and/or cross-trained employees for technology systems, including social media accounts.
- A list of regular outside contacts — vendors, customer service, and in my case, the names and cell phone numbers for a couple of trusted KanSPRA friends.
- Making a commitment to keep my work calendar (Google, Outlook, etc.) updated every day with meetings, deadlines, and other projects.
I learned a lot more in August 2018, and some of those lessons are what led me to accept a new job a couple of months later. I will never forget the realization that even a highly-organized, empowered, fearless leader of a one-person shop cannot possibly do it all, all the time. That’s why a thoughtful sub-plan can help ensure that my essential functions continue when I cannot do them myself.”
Can you relate to Kristin’s story? If your head is nodding right now, I have two things to say.
First, a challenge. My challenge to you is simple.
Look at the 4 items that Kristin listed above for creating her sub-plans and actually do them.
You heard me. Take the time and prepare your main responsibilities, share your social media passwords, and keep that calendar updated.
And my second thing isn’t a challenge, but rather an invitation. I invite you to join the conversation on mental wellness in your school PR role. Kristin has collaborated with Shawn McKillop, APR out of Canada to create a safe place for us to talk about things.
Follow the #K12PRwell hashtag on Twitter, and join their email list by completing this form. They share tactical advice through stories on a regular-ish basis and are here to support you in this journey.
What you do for your school community is amazing. I know you love it. But you can’t possibly do it all. No one can. Start taking steps today to prepare for the times when you need help.