Experiences of Texas Public School Communication Directors in the 21st Century: A Phenomenological Study

Abstract

Communication directors have become part of public school districts’ administrative framework in the 21st century. Maintaining a social media presence and satisfying stakeholders’ expectations for current, up-to-date, and accurate information have increased the need for superintendents to employ a public relations professional. The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to explore the various experiences of communication directors in public schools. Grunig’s (1992) excellence theory served as the conceptual framework for the study. By employing a purposive sampling strategy, six current Texas public school communication directors were selected for face-to-face interviews and completed a demographic questionnaire. The five themes of Preparation, Responsibilities, Expectations, Challenges, and Recommendations emerged through constant comparative analysis of the data. Multiple rounds of descriptive and in vivo coding revealed numerous subthemes within each theme. The findings of the study highlighted the importance of developing relationships in the field of public school communications. Engaging in mentorships, networking, and building school and community partnerships were viewed as vital to success in the position. The ability to write well and convey the district’s and superintendent’s message was also acknowledged. Challenges of managing social media, crisis situations, and public opinion were common to all participants. By better understanding the experiences of public school communication directors, districts can provide appropriate support so the position is successful in meeting districts’ goals.

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Keywords

Communication, Public relations, Public schools, Social media

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