Communicate, Communicate, Communicate!

Wickenden Associates
September 8, 2019

In our increasingly networked world, information travels faster than ever. A solid communications strategy has become a pillar of any successful Head search process. Presenting a strong, confident, upbeat message, while keeping your constituents excited and engaged, is key.

From the moment that the need for a Head of School search becomes apparent, the Board leadership should begin planning a robust communications effort that will continue throughout the search process. Perhaps one of the least obvious but most important functions of the Board and Search Chair is to manage the flow of information so that a genuine sense of openness and inclusion is conveyed to members of the school’s family. A search conducted under a veil of secrecy will leave faculty, administrators, and parents apprehensive at best, suspicious or disaffected at worst. Attention to this aspect of the search is particularly important at schools that are already in flux, perhaps as a result of the firing of the current Head, faculty morale problems, or an enrollment or budget crisis.

Communications channels should flow both ways, providing members of the school community with opportunities to share their views with the search consultant and the Search Committee. If the school has a communications director, he or she should be involved from the beginning; a high level of professionalism in these communications promotes confidence in the process.

Customarily, the formal announcement of a Head search begins with the publication of letters from both the outgoing Head and the Board Chair, recapping the Head’s accomplishments and providing broad information about the process that will follow. Additional communications typically follow when the consultant visits to conduct interviews, when semifinalists are selected (though their names are not disclosed), when finalist interviews are scheduled, and when the new Head is hired. Schools can use the website and social media to communicate these announcements.

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