Emotions are running high as some school districts across the country grapple with the topic of banning books deemed inappropriate for discussion in schools. As with any approach to communications around sensitive topics, it is important to keep these tips in mind when navigating highly charged, quickly evolving policy discussions:
- Determine what success looks like.
It is critically important, especially with regard to polarizing topics, to define the successful outcome for your organization as a result of communicating broadly on topics like book banning. Your definition of success will serve as a “north star” to keep you grounded and focused in the (very likely) event that your key messages are not well-received by your audience. Keep in mind that, often, the goal of communication is not to make your audience happy; instead, it is about making sure that they understand your point of view on the topic and what (if any) actions you will take that are aligned with this perspective.
- Consider your audience.
Knowing your audience, what motivates them and how they best receive information is important for any communication – but it is exponentially more important when communicating on sensitive topics like book banning. Understanding where your audience gets their information from, what fundamental beliefs they hold that inform their position on the topic of book banning and where they are most likely to discuss the information you share will help you determine the “how,” “when” and “where” of your communications around this topic.
- Tell your story.
With success defined and your audience thoroughly considered, it is important to tell your story with authenticity and empathy. Here is where it’s important to remember the principles of duality – that many things can be true at the same time. For example, it is possible to both acknowledge the emotionally charged nature of the conversations around book banning AND to communicate your organization’s intent to stay the course with respect to school curriculum until more information is available. And while this may or may not be welcomed news to your audience, if it is absolutely true for your organization, it is always best to simply say that.
There will always be sensitive topics that require careful consideration before communicating – and book banning is the latest example of that. But with a clear definition of success, careful consideration of your audience and a willingness to tell your story, you can help your organization navigate nuanced conversations with integrity, transparency and grace.
Stay tuned for future posts on relevant topics to support your school communications needs.