Why Putting Your Engagement Eggs in Someone’s Basket is a Risky Move

The changing digital landscape has many brands considering their next step on social media channels, like Twitter and TikTok. Recently, shifts in Twitter policy and TikTok privacy safeguards have left some concerned. For districts, this could mean the platforms you purchased to push social media messages may restrict your ability to publish content or to operate on a social media platform using government-owned devices. For that reason, it’s a good reminder that, just like with your personal finances, putting all your engagement eggs in one basket is never a good idea.

If Twitter or Tiktok is central to your district’s engagement strategy (or yours as an educational leader), take note.

The PESO Model

Enter The PESO Model. It’s an approach that explains the concept of four ways an organization can communicate with stakeholders like families and employees:

Paid. These are efforts for which money is exchanged for access to a platform, be it a radio ad, a billboard, or a newspaper advertisement. Super Bowl commercials are a prime example of this.

Earned. This is publicity about your district that money can’t buy – for good or bad. Whether it’s the blue or red lights of authorities in front of a building that attracted reporters or an accepted invitation to cover a good news story, you can probably expect to see it on or in the news.

Shared. A best practice in recent years for education leaders is to connect on social media with families, employees, and the media. While you have access to these platforms, your district doesn’t own them, and the rules can change anytime.

Owned. This is media that your district controls: website, automated message platforms, newsletters, and even school marquees. Other examples include annual reports, podcasts, and video messages. You could list fliers in this category, too!

As you reflect on The PESO Model, you are probably already seeing the challenges: lack of additional funding to pay for ads; limited access to earned media due to proximity or poor relationships; no ability to impact the policies that govern third-party social media platforms.  Simply put, these concerns can impact your district’s ability to get the word out about what will benefit students.

It’s not to say that paid, earned, and shared aren’t important; they are. They just should be used with forethought. In an era where so much is at stake for public education, districts should recognize that it is important to utilize their communication channels to a) get out the good news, b) provide context to decision-making and c) be transparent.

It’s especially important because your stakeholders expect to get news – good or bad – directly from the source: the district. Why go through an intermediary?

But How?

As a superintendent with an on-staff communicator, ask these three questions:

  1. How can we demonstrate that our district is a trusted source of information for our community?
  2. How are we leveraging the resources our district has direct control of the flow of information (chiefly website, automated message platforms, and newsletters)?
  3. What is our plan if we are limited in communicating via paid, earned, or shared platforms? 


The answers to these questions should help you assess the strengths and weaknesses of your communication program.


Admittedly, not every superintendent has access to an on-staff communicator. Here are three quick tips to help you:


  1. After you’ve designated someone to manage your communication systems, establish a calendar of the information you want to share throughout the school year and stick to it. Think of it as a pacing guide for communication.
  2. Prioritize informing your community of important updates and letting them know where they can always expect to find information from the district on its owned media channels.
  3. Be consistent in this work. This goes a long way in being transparent and building credibility with your community.

It’s not to say that one method of communication is any better or worse than another. All strong communication programs have a mix of PESO model. The key is to determine what proportion of these engagement eggs you need to craft a winning communication recipe for your district!

Still Need Help?

No matter where you are in your communication journey to tell your district’s story, Nichols Strategies can help build a bespoke plan for engagement. Contact us today for your free consultation.

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