10 reasons school communicators are quickly becoming leaders in their districts

Now more than ever, school communicators are being considered as a member of their district's cabined and/or leadership team. Here's why they're so valuable.

The roles and responsibilities of the school communicator are quickly shifting. With this shift comes a greater understanding among district leaders about the importance of such essential staff to the extent that they’re being elevated to leadership roles within their communities. Here’s why.

A new report from the National School Public Relations Association reveals that the majority of school communicators are now being considered a member of their districts’ cabinets and/or leadership teams. Over the past four years, the number of communicators holding such positions has jumped nearly 10% respectively. Specifically, 67% of communication directors who serve as the district’s communication officer or public information officer report that they’re also members of their cabinet and/or leadership team.

“Over the last four years, more superintendents and district leaders have come to better understand the vital role school communication professionals play in advancing the district’s goal and mission,” NSPRA Executive Director Barbara M. Hunter said in a statement. “School communicators have the pulse of their communities, and having a seat at the leadership table not only makes sense, but it is also critical to ensuring authentic engagement with and transparent information to families and stakeholders.”

As far as their roles and responsibilities, superintendents often rely on their school communicators to handle the following tasks:

  • Crisis communications (58%)
  • External communications (52%)
  • Social media (48%)
  • Community relations/public engagement (44%)
  • Media relations (43%)
  • Website management (39%)
  • Internal communications (36%)
  • Strategic communications planning (31%)
  • Writing/editing (24%)
  • Marketing (23%)

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Another notable finding is that for the first time ever, more respondents (41%) reported a department size of 2-4 than any other department size. Traditionally, a one-person communication department has been the most reported department size for a decade.

“This is the first time a one-person communication office was not the most reported department size over the last decade, suggesting that districts are increasing their communications staff,” reads a release from the NSPRA.

As expected, those operating with a single-person communication office are most commonly found in districts with student enrollment of fewer than 2,000.

Additional findings

  • The field is growing: Ten percent of school communicators reporting have one year or less of experience, which is double the amount reported in 2020.
  • Crisis communications are shrinking in importance: In 2020, 69% reported crisis communications as a top job responsibility. This number shrank to 58% in 2023.
  • Community relations and public engagement enter the top five list of importance: This year these responsibilities broke into the top five list according to respondents at #4, compared to when they ranked #7 in 2020 and #6 in 2018.

The findings represent the complete survey results of 499 NSPRA members and 63 partially completed surveys from Nov. 8 through Nov. 23, 2022.

Micah Ward
Micah Wardhttps://districtadministration.com
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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