Book Reviews

Why School Communication Matters: Strategies From PR Professionals

by Kitty Porterfield and Meg Carnes, Rowman and Littlefield Education, Lanham, Md., 2008, 250 pp. with index, $85 hardcover, $29.95 softcover

Why School Communication Matters provides a good overview of why public communications work is so important to the success of school districts and students. Co-authors Kitty Porterfield and Meg Carnes know their material because they are veterans of the school public relations business.

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Especially helpful was the book’s Chapter 9, “Claiming Our Political Heritage.” The authors describe how the act of responding to concerns and questions is just as important as developing your own message. They demonstrate how empowering people allows for ownership of the school district mission and contributes to a more effective change process.

Chapter 10 teaches one of the most valuable lessons in my experience: School district employees need to be the first-priority audience for communications and marketing. Toward this end, the book makes a strong case for beefing up your internal communications.

As Porterfield and Carnes point out so well, your school district’s reputation will be managed, so you better be the one managing it. Too often, we let our organizations be defined by others on the outside who have an interest in portraying us a certain way, often negatively.

Beyond motivating us to act, Porterfield and Carnes provide the tools for school administrators to elevate their communication to the next level. These tools could be especially handy for superintendents in districts without a public relations professional.

My only suggestion would be for the authors to provide an executive version for superintendents. While their writing is full of great information for the PR professional, some chapters are a little wordy for the typical chief executive. Still, I would recommend this book to anyone involved or interested in school leadership.

Reviewed by Sandra L. Husk, superintendent of Salem-Keizer Public Schools, Salem, Ore.