Carol Smith | St. Charles CUSD 303
SHELTER IN THE STORM
How CESO Communications worked with St. Charles CUSD 303 to help bring clarity and focus during a chaotic time.
After two decades in K12 public relations, St. Charles CUSD 303 Director of Communications and Community Relations Carol Smith knows when to charge forward, and when to ask for help. Back in October 2020, during a pressure-filled time when the need for clear communications was at a fever pitch, Carol and her district superintendent wanted third-party confirmation that their approach to the community was effective.
The only problem was she needed a quick turnaround, and these types of audits traditionally take a number of months. On top of that, the output can at times be unclear about how to prioritize action.
CAROL SMITH USED:
A dedicated team of Senior Strategic Consultants interview staff and evaluate your processes, then create a customized and prioritized path to more effective communication.
We take a deep dive into your current social media practices and provide a path to more effective engagement. Plus, our media strategists can optimize your approach to refine the message and grow your community.
Using a variety of methods, from online tools and interviewing to community forums and beyond, we help engage your school community to collect authentic responses.
WHAT WE DID
Carol engaged CESO Communications through a professional contact, and when she met our senior consultants — Bob Noyed, APR, and Jim Cummings, APR — she could tell right away that they were “battle-tested.” And when she found out we could run our Baseline Communications Assessment on an expedited timeline, it was a green light.
CESO Communications got to work right away, interviewing communications team members and school officials for a Baseline Communications Audit. Carol said that while these conversations were sensitive, she felt supported through the entire process.
“They made me feel very at ease — Bob and Jim were just so calm and kind. It did not take me very long to build rapport, and I think it speaks to their experience as professionals. I knew I could be open and honest with them because at the end of the day they’re developing a tool that will help you become a better practitioner.”
Additionally, to get a pulse on how the community was feeling about the communications they were receiving, the CESO Comunications team used a feedback tool that captured opinions of one-quarter of the district (2,000 responses).
“These are former school PR professionals who have been in the trenches, understand the role, the importance of the role, and could give quality feedback you can use in the future.”
As part of the Baseline Communications Assessment, Carol learned that most parents found communications to be accurate and timely, which was an enormous weight off her mind. More importantly, the school board presentation provided by the CESO Communications team helped to give concrete and authoritative answers.
Better still were revelations Carol didn’t expect — like the need for a staff newsletter and more communications activity aimed at community members without children.
What Carol loved about the report was that it didn’t belittle her efforts in any way — instead, it exulted the areas of strength and categorized the action steps based on urgency. “I really like the ‘Do Now,’ ‘Do Soon’ and ‘Do Later’ structure of the report. An audit is such a vulnerable process where you’re putting yourself out there,” she said.
Now that she’s on the other side of the Assessment, Carol continues to use its contents to drive action across the district. She’s already implemented the staff newsletter, and received great feedback on that change. Plus, she’s gained some friends at CESO Communications.
“They made me feel very at ease — Bob and Jim were just so calm and kind. It did not take me very long to build rapport, and I think it speaks to their experience as professionals."
Director of Communications
& Community Relations
St. Charles CUSD 303
“The thing that has been so beneficial is that the relationship didn’t end when they handed me this report. They presented in December 2020, but they’ve taken my calls a number of times since then — CESO Communications has been a reliable sounding board for me.”
We speak your language.
With CESO Communications, you get access to a team that’s been there before —
and we can’t wait to help you become more effective in your district.