I am a communicator at heart, so it was very satisfying to me that my alma mater – Creighton Preparatory High School – did an exemplary job yesterday when announcing its decision to begin mandatory random drug and alcohol testing of students in the fall of 2014.
Let’s breakdown what Prep had working right with its communications efforts:
• The plan: From the comments made to the news media by the school’s president, Michael Giambelluca, it was obvious that Prep put a tremendous amount of thought into not only the decision to start this new policy, but also how and when to best communicate it to primary audiences including students, parents and the community at large. One of the keys to their communications success was leaning on the experiences of other Jesuit schools who have made similar changes. That’s a lesson for us all – if there is a similar case study available, study it, learn from it and apply it.
• The message: There is no doubt Prep had clear message points it wanted to communicate. One of those messages was that this change is about providing an early intervention that at first won’t include discipline, and it is about preventing drug and alcohol use by giving students an easier way to say no. But the message I appreciated most as a PR professional was – “this will make us a strong school for our students.” BOOM. As a parent, or alumnus, how could you find fault with this reasoning?
• The execution: The announcement was made just yesterday, but from an outsider’s perspective it appears that so far Prep’s plan has been well-executed. That’s not to say there haven’t been people on local news media websites and social media sites criticizing the decision – there have been. But I am certain Prep knew this would happen. How I judge the execution is by asking a couple questions: Has Prep effectively communicated its message? Yes, the whole city is talking about it. Has Prep stayed on message? Yes, from what I have seen, the school has maintained a consistent theme. More incredibly that theme has been communicated by two audiences that aren’t always easy to predict – parents and students.
So it’s time for the pupil – me – to grade the teacher, and I give Creighton Prep an A+ on its communications plan and execution. I just hope Dr. Stein doesn’t find any grammatical errors in my blog entry.