The department of education struggled with maintaining a positive public image during times of political unrest and dramatic education reform. Staff morale suffered as several policy changes created a sense of instability in the minds of many employees. Additionally, because of the rapid changes, many employees were unsure of the new policies and procedures or how to communicate around them. As a result, employee interaction suffered as indicated by the department’s quarterly survey, called performance indicators, and a surge in complaints. Our team lead took charge of managing external communication efforts between department employees and its various audience groups including students, teachers and staff, legislators, other policymakers, and community leaders.
The work began with a communication audit. We analyzed every call taken and e-mail correspondence sent by each representative over a three-month period. We also analyzed the department’s performance indicators and contacted select survey respondents to inquire about how future interactions could be improved. Based on this in-depth evaluation, we developed a set of approximately 50 frequently asked questions and corresponding answers for both e-mail correspondence and phone scripts. These scripts highlighted the department’s primary initiatives, positioned the agency in a positive light, and provided factual information about various policies and processes, including teacher certification, failing schools, student discipline, academic, new policy decisions and more. The scripts became the messaging guide for all employee interactions with the public for each of the agency’s 650 employees.
In addition, we:
- Provided content direction for the public agency’s new web site
- Wrote easy-to-understand web content so the public could easily navigate the new web site
- Served as the point of contact for state legislators, government officials, and other dignitaries for all questions related to public policy
- Ran the department’s standardized testing study hotline to help prepare students for state testing
- Managed the print and distribution process for student testing booklets in all public schools and select private schools statewide
- Designed, developed content and distributed statewide newsletter for policy updates
- Managed special newsletter to track legislative updates and policy decisions during legislative session
- Served as point of contact for all public school complaints and grievances statewide
- Served as point of contact for all confidential, legal, and policy matters for both parents and teachers
- Developed an electronic and printed operations manual to guide all employee interactions with the public in person, by phone, and via e-mail
As a direct result of these efforts, the following was accomplished:
- Streamlined and improved external communication efforts of employees so that messaging was consistent and thorough.
- Significantly improved the results of the quarterly performance indicators, moving the average satisfaction score from a 3 (average) to a 4.5 (very good).
- Significantly decreased complaints registered with the agency, from approximately 15 or 20 per month to approximately 1-2 per month
- Significantly reduced the amount of time call center staff spent with each caller, moving from approximately 5 to 7 minutes to 2-3 minutes
- Saved the agency more than $250,000 in printing costs by re-organizing booklet copy and streamlining instructions.
- Engaged more educators in public policy by keeping them informed of legislative and state board of education updates