Photo courtesy of: Greg Land

Designing, Building, And Opening A Facility: The Communications Piece

October 4, 2018  |  Karen Summerville

B&D is serving as co–program manager for the city of Baltimore’s 21st Century Schools Buildings Program. As part of the arrangement, B&D is providing two dedicated team members focused on communications and public relations for all aspects of the design and construction phases of each project.

With the vast amount of traditional efforts involved—such as collecting input on the design, reporting construction progress, and organizing a ribbon cutting celebration—it can be easy to forget what a crucial role communications play in other aspects of managing a program. This case study zooms into just one aspect of a larger communications program to show the depth of effort that can be required to ensure a successful project. That aspect: communicating about transportation to a new swing location.

As part of Baltimore’s modernization program, five more school buildings recently went into construction. This relocated 1,800 students to swing locations for 18 to 24 months—a big shift for these students and their families who normally walked a short distance to their neighborhood school. In the past, the communication and outreach strategies regarding yellow bus service were outlined by the Director of Community & Public Relations and swiftly executed by the 21st Century School Buildings Program Community & Public Relations team: B&D’s communications and public relations specialists, transition support staff, and interns. However, this year, the team faced major challenges in receiving confirmation of available transportation services due to a district-wide bus shortage. This challenge caused major delays in communicating to families—some notices were only able to go out days before the start of school.

The Communications & Public Relations team went into action quickly to structure supports needed for students and their families. B&D’s communications and public relations specialists worked with the department’s director, transition support staff, interns, and other district staff on big-picture and logistics planning to ensure that all stakeholders were as informed and prepared as possible.

Big-picture planning required assisting in determining key messages around concepts like why a swing school is needed, why transportation is needed, what areas/students will be impacted and for how long, and all the “what ifs” (e.g., What if my child misses the bus? What if my child is sick?). With so much to convey and so many people needing to receive the right message at the right time, communications had to happen in layers—in meetings, via robo calls, and mailed letters, etc.

Logistics planning involved countless details, for example:

  • Recruiting, securing, and training more than 130 volunteers to work at bus stops, including bilingual volunteers
  • Developing and managing an online volunteer recruitment sign-up portal
  • Creating and distributing informational packets and/or binders for bus stop volunteers, drivers, and aides
  • Branding materials so all communications would be recognizable
  • Creating large bus stop signs for the monitors
  • Mitigating the impact to any in-school breakfast programs
  • Assisting in the planning and execution of a bus stop volunteer appreciation event

Such a breadth and depth of planning within a narrow window of time requires a lot of strategic thought—working through each piece of the puzzle. Flexibility is also key, given the many moving pieces and how they can change from day to day, with rippling effects.

 

"From community relations through the heart of construction and planned completion, we have been blessed by just the right counselor who provided exactly the wise counsel we needed at precisely the right time. And we have even had fun in the midst of a very challenging process."

David O. Treadwell, Executive Director
Central Union Mission

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