If you’re reading this right now, you’re experiencing the work of Near North District School Board’s (NNDSB) communications team. The team disseminates information from the Board of Trustees and Director of Education Craig Myles to a wide number of stakeholders.
The two-person team is supervised by Liana Blaskievich, Officer Corporate Affairs and works closely with senior administrators to provide timely and accurate communications. The team is a new addition to NNDSB, working as part of the Director’s office, and was formed in response to an extensive consultation that showed a deficit in communications. The team’s goals are to share NNDSB news and decisions with a variety of stakeholder groups.
The team is comprised of Communications Officer Deb Bartlett and Communications Coordinator Josh Casey. Both graduated from journalism programs; Casey also has a post-grad certificate in public relations and corporate communications, and Bartlett has a marketing diploma and just completed a communications degree. Together, they execute the plan that supports the board and while increasing communication to, and engagement with stakeholder groups.
Communications is a catch-all phrase that encompasses a variety of skills and activities that involve building relationships inside and outside the organization. The team is responsible for messaging and promotion of the NNDSB brand internally (within the board) and externally (outside the board); to increase awareness about the board and its activities; and to foster improved media relations. These goals are achieved in a number of ways – providing concise dissemination of Ministry of Education information, emails to staff, media releases, fresh web content, letters to families and updates to trustees as provided by senior administrators, Board Highlights and regular posts on a number of social media channels. The team also consults with the senior administrative team on issues relating to brand and perception.
Casey started with NNDSB in September 2020. He is responsible for covering news at the school level, updating board news on the website and managing social media. Bartlett joined the board in January 2021 and is responsible for board-level initiatives, creating and implementing the communications plan. She is the Freedom of Information (FOI) and Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act lead and has just agreed to take the lead for records management in a consultative role to board departments.
The team has already launched several initiatives to increase awareness and other ideas to be implemented that align with the board’s Multi-Year Strategic Plan (MYSP) which will come to the Board for approval in June and launch board-wide in September. Two of the four pillars of that plan – excellence in communications and excellence in relationships – are key focuses of the team. Its initiatives are strategically developed to fill communications gaps and when possible, are being measured to ensure they are meeting their objectives. Among the initiatives the team launched are increased frequency of media releases (media monitoring is taking place), enhanced social media activity (with tracking of analytics to measure engagement), this In the Works feature which highlights roles and positions in the board, and an initiative that will officially launch in September that amplifies the student voice in NNDSB communications.
Additionally, the Board Highlights document is shared with staff and stakeholders as well as media to share the news and decisions of the Board, and the Director’s monthly staff newsletter provides updates about Board and senior administrative decisions.
“Excellence in communications and excellence in relationships are key objectives for NNDSB. This means extensive work to repair and build long-standing partnerships and forge new relationships,” says Blaskievich.
“We strengthen our relationships by building trust in the organization. We do this by providing authentic, transparent, timely and accurate communications. We have come a long way in 2020-2021. This is the first time that NNDSB has benefited from a team of communicators that is focused upon sharing the best of NNDSB. I am proud of this team and how they have embraced NNDSB as their own, communicating to reveal our best work and highest intentions. We have more work to do, but I have the utmost faith in this team to make it happen,” she said.