by David Safier
When you're talking about kids filling out an application for a charter school, don't call it an "application"; call it an "enrollment form." Don't talk about a charter school's "staff"; instead, call them "teachers" or "school leaders." Charters don't have a "market share"; they have a "student share." They don't "experiment"; they "innovate." Oh, and all those kids and their parents? Never, never call them "consumers"; they're "families."
You can learn all this and more in the 2014 Charter School Messaging Notebook put together by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. (Hat tip to the great blog EduShyster.com for the catch.)
We hope this guide will help fine-tune the messaging you use on your website and in press releases, speeches, and media interviews. The results are clear: when we use words that work, people like what they hear — and that means more support for charter schools.
The 18 page pamphlet is chock full of useful information for charter operators and their PR people about how to market their schools. Lots of it is suggestions for good, positive messaging, but my favorite parts talk about what charter salespeople should avoid, "language we use every day [that is] actually turning parents, voters, and policymakers off."
• Don't attack district schools too harshly. "Most still care strongly for these schools and would like to see them fixed, rather than done away with."
• Don't talk about closing schools. "The public . . . has a strong attachment to the idea of traditional public schools."
• Don't talk about getting additional funding from businesses and foundations. "These arrangements are viewed through a cynical lens because many assume it opens the door for donors to push their particular agenda in the schools. Note: Again, this doesn't mean charters shouldn't accept charitable contributions, it just isn't something we should highlight in our public messaging."
• Don't talk about longer school days and school years. "With all the debate about children being 'overscheduled,' . . . this language does not resonate positively with parents and voters."
• Don't talk about waiting lists and lotteries. "Talking about waiting lists and school lotteries introduces negative information to voters and parents . . . making them believe it's not really an option they would have."
The messaging booklet is all about selling charter schools like a corporation sells a product. And an important part of that sales job, which mimics corporate sales technique, is, according to the pamphlet, "We should avoid using language that sounds corporate."