By Brad Hughes
KSBA Director of Member Support/Communications Services
It was April 1994.
U.S. news of note that month included the death of former President Richard Nixon, the Supreme Court banning gender as a basis for jury exclusion, and the prohibition of smoking at the Pentagon and all American military bases. Headlines from around the globe told the horrific beginning of what is now called the Rwandan Genocide, in which an estimated 800,000 people were killed.
Not surprisingly, a Google search of news from April 1994 produces no mention of the first publication of a commentary about communicating in the Kentucky School Boards Association Journal. The column was entitled “Avoid the ‘Black Hole of Public Opinion – ‘No Comment!’” Actually, it did generate a small degree of reaction which – mixed as it was – demonstrated that some readers were interested in the general subject.
Somewhere around six centuries ago, English author Geoffrey Chaucer was credited with the original verse, “All good things must come to an end.” After somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 editions of this column, its time to end has arrived, matching my retirement after nearly 24 years of observing, counseling, agitating and encouraging readers to think.
A final message
After at least four drafts that may for the best have gone the way of the “Delete” button, a couple of recent occurrences drove this final topic.
An emailer from a district inquired about adding two school board members to the KSBA eNews Service. Since that district is a subscriber, the board members already should have been receiving the updates. It turns out that one member’s email was incorrect in the database. The other member had a district email address – one that wasn’t being used. Two quick fixes and we truly hope the members are benefitting from the service.
In another situation, a colleague agreed to be on a public radio talk show. But when the station announced the program lineup, our representative was missing. A voice mail went undiscovered, an email unread. Fortunately, the miscommunication was discovered in advance and it all worked out well.
But effective communications depends on both parties to make it work, especially when technology is involved. No individual, no organization, no business or government entity completes the responsibility to communicate by hitting “Send” on the computer keyboard or cellphone/tablet keypad.
Overdependence on texts, emails, voicemails, web posts and the like is a choice based on ease of action or just plain laziness, not a commitment to informing others. Too often we mark as “mission accomplished” the fact that we left a message for a legislator or emailed an invitation to an event. We accept failure to receive information that we care about as, well, that’s just how things go.
In my days as a radio news director, I’m sure I stifled more than a solitary groan when someone called to ask about receipt of a news release. Yet I recently sent a reporter an advisory using three email options, only to discover by a coincidental contact that none had reached him. Fate doesn’t always produce such happy flukes.
Of course, technology can help. Face-to-face interactions may be achieved via options like Skype. Software can tell us whether email blasts are being read, allowing for other options in cases of greater importance. Even a simple telephone conversation almost always achieves a more informed outcome compared with a message left to chance.
Technology creates wondrous options to reach out. But when it really, truly matters, the most personal form of information exchange – by giver and receiver alike – will be the choice of the greatest impact.
The Last Word
Finally, thank you for contributing, reading and thinking about these commentaries. And most of all, thank you for being advocates for the child in the local classroom and the teacher imparting knowledge. You are the true contributors to the tomorrow we will live in.
And that’s a final message worth getting out.