2023 Communication Audit
About the Communication Audit
Ascension Public Schools contracted with the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) for the purposes of identifying the strengths and weaknesses in the current communication program and determining strategies for its improvement. The process for the Communication Audit included the following:
- A review of current communication materials;
- Quantitative research through the surveying of district staff, parents/families, and community members; and
- Qualitative research through conducting focus groups with these same groups, as well as interviews with the superintendent and communications staff.
Key Audience Focus Groups and Interviews
- Ascension Parish School Board Members
- Chief Administrators
- Community Business Leaders
- Community Public Information Officers
- District Organization Team (Directors)
- District Public Information Officer
- Parent Advisory Council Members
- Support Personnel
Following is an overview of this report. For a full understanding of what was learned, the rationale behind the resulting recommendations and what will be required to implement those steps, it is recommended that the report be read in its entirety.
The findings of this NSPRA Communication Audit provide strong evidence that stakeholders hold Ascension in high regard and have high levels of satisfaction with the communication efforts of the district. Without exception, every focus group—parents, teachers, business leaders, even students—noted that the district is known for excellence and spoke of the quantity and quality of communication in glowing terms. While every school district has room for improvement in communication, by all accounts Ascension is a model school district that enjoys enviable levels of trust and support from all stakeholders as a result of providing a steady flow of accurate, understandable and timely communication. The consistently positive feedback heard by the auditor is especially noteworthy in a time when many school districts throughout the country are struggling to find consensus and maintain trust in a polarized climate.
Strengths of the Current Communication Program
- Ascension has a highly qualified public information officer who is widely liked and respected.
- Ascension has a robust communications infrastructure that allows for sending information through a wide variety of channels, including email, phone calls, text messages and mobile apps. It also has an attractive, well-functioning website and a strong social media presence.
- Stakeholders expressed high levels of satisfaction with district communication. Overall, they find information easy to understand, accurate, timely, transparent and trustworthy.
- Stakeholder preferences for how they like to receive information generally align with how the district is sending information.
- Stakeholders show high levels of being informed in key areas, particularly in regard to safety, district and student successes and achievements, and events.
Areas for Improvement
- The capacity of the Office of Public Information to take communication efforts to the next level is limited by the small number of staff in the department.
- Two-way communication, where stakeholders have the opportunity to share input, was one of the few areas where survey and focus group findings indicate a need for improvement.
- Parents and employees are experiencing information overload as a result of the amount of information being sent on multiple platforms.
- Social media and the ubiquitousness of mobile devices creates a constant threat of misinformation or disinformation creating controversy and misunderstanding.
Based on analysis of the research, the auditor suggests the following strategies for enhancing Ascension’s communication program. For each of these recommendations, a series of practical action steps based on current best practices are included in the report. Implementing these recommendations should be considered a long-term process that involves everyone responsible for communicating in Ascension, not just the Office of Public Information. It is generally not feasible to implement more than two to three each year. Action steps that represent opportunities to rethink existing practices are noted with the icon to the right. Opportunities to make quick improvements without a significant investment of resources are noted with the icons shown to the left.
Develop a strategic communication plan that sets measurable objectives based on the findings of this audit.
Evaluate, strengthen and expand the district’s communications capacity and infrastructure.
Address information overload by streamlining, targeting and reducing communication outflow.
Strategically engage the community through enhanced social media strategies.
Combat misinformation and disinformation by providing accurate, easy-to-find information through a variety of communication channels.
Adopt cutting-edge strategies that make Ascension a model for school communication best practices.