Associations have done a great job being there for members in hard times, but one group ended up being there before things took a turn for the worse: providing members with a crisis communications service that turned out to be an even more valuable benefit.

Giving members what they need is a basic tenet of what associations do, but sometimes a great idea to help members can really hit it out of the ballpark.

The Pennsylvania School Boards Association launched a free crisis communications service for its members in 2019. PSBA partnered with the Donovan Group, a public relations firm that specializes in school communications, to provide its members with 24/7 support.

How Does It Work?

The PSBA Crisis Communications Services is available to any size school district, and gives members access to a phone and email hotline that connects them to expert PR guidance any time—day, night, or on weekends—when a situation arises.

There is also a list of frequently asked questions on the webpage, which is designed to clear up anything from the start and let members know no situation is too small to access the service. “Whatever the crisis is, if it starts with clear, confident, and assured communications, it can often head off something that could turn into a worse crisis,” Stevenson said. In addition, members can use it as many times as they need it.

Why Is It Effective?

The confidential service provides added bandwidth, even for school districts with their own communications experts, and a level of objectivity. “It’s a very effective support service for school leaders,” Stevenson said. “We’ve gotten lots of fantastic feedback since we launched it.”

What’s the Benefit?

Members have access to a PR team that is experienced in school communications at no cost to them that’s available any time they need it. And it gives PSBA the opportunity to provide its members with a service it could not have supported itself, without the partnership.

“We were able to find the right kind of partner that brings the level of expertise we would expect, and is also able to support that timeliness,” Stevenson said.

Lisa Boylan

By Lisa Boylan

Lisa Boylan is a senior editor of Associations Now. MORE