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Public Relations 101

The Basic Concepts

  1. Messages about social studies are being delivered all the time—at youth sporting events, school functions, in the supermarket checkout line and at other community gathering places and events.
  2. Communicate accurate, positive messages about social studies in your everyday interactions with people, so that they will spread similar ideas.
    Lightbulb icon In addition to the NCSS web site, those who want to learn more about school public relations can contact the National School Public Relations Association, the nation's leader in education communication. NSPRA's web address is www.nspra.org. NSPRA also has state chapters that could provide local assistance and information for NCSS members and state councils.

Shaping Attitudes

The point of any public relations effort is to shape someone's or some group's attitudes regarding your organization or project.

Pat Jackson, a highly-respected PR counselor in New Hampshire, defines public relations as building relationships that change attitudes to bring about desired behaviors.

Our task is to create an accurate understanding of the value of social studies education and what people can do to help social studies educators teach students the knowledge and skills necessary to become effective citizens.

Targeting Audiences

Just as NCSS has identified its members, national legislators, other national education organizations, and the news media as its most important audiences, your grass roots efforts must also select target audiences.

Selecting a few groups for your communication effort is called targeting. Targeting audiences does not mean that you will stop communicating with everyone else. It means that special attention will be given to the targeted audience. Sometimes a target audience will be very large, and you may not have the resources to communicate efficiently with all parties in that audience. So you look for segments (super targets) of that audience that influence the attitudes of others.

For example, if social studies educators want to eliminate a burdensome state requirement that is actually harming education, the State Legislature is likely to be a target audience. You would also communicate with parents, the news media, school board members, etc. since they may communicate with legislators. However, you might super target the Education Committee in the State Legislature since that group is likely to make recommendations on the requirement.

Lightbulb icon Think about the additional audiences in your community or state that need a better understanding of social studies education. Bring together a small group of colleagues and simply brainstorm a list of key audiences. Divide that list into internal audiences—those closest to the school—and external audiences. Prioritize this list so that you have only a few that can receive adequate attention.

Keep in mind that there are two categories of audiences to consider in a public relations campaign—primary and secondary. Primary audiences are those you hope will take the action. Secondary audiences are those that can influence the primary audience.

For example, if you hope the school board will take an action, the school board members compose the primary audience. The superintendent and key advisers compose the secondary audiences.