Why do you need public relations
From: Becker-Textor, I./Textor, M.R .: The open kindergarten - variety of forms. Freiburg, Basel: Verlag Herder, 2nd edition 1998, pp. 127-141
Martin R. Textor
It is inevitable that "the" public "gets an" picture "of the kindergarten - mostly only on the basis of fragmentary information and personal impressions. From the last words one can already deduce that there must ultimately be many different "pictures" of the kindergarten, since the individual people - who make up the public - have qualitatively and quantitatively different knowledge about "the" kindergarten and have different experiences did with him. In addition, "general pictures" of the kindergarten itself have to be differentiated from pictures of the respective facility on site. Kindergarten teachers can use the prevailing images of in the local public, i.e. in the community her To a large extent shape kindergarten - and thus indirectly also the images of kindergarten as an institution. In doing so, it must always be taken into account that the prevailing public perceptions about the teaching profession are also influenced.
PR work therefore primarily serves to present the kindergarten and the profession of skilled workers. The teachers want to make their pedagogical work, their achievements, the versatility of their work and their professionalism known to the citizens in their community (and in the wider area) or to point out activities and projects that are out of the ordinary. You want to arouse interest in kindergarten and a positive attitude towards it in the community. Ultimately, they want to ensure that the profile of their kindergarten that they have developed and which is often laid down in a written concept corresponds to the image that other people have of it. Of course, this goal can only be roughly achieved. In addition, public relations work contributes to the integration of the kindergarten in the neighborhood and in the community. It can also be used to establish and maintain contacts with relevant institutions, for example the parish, town hall and city or local council, youth welfare office, advice centers and psychosocial services, companies, savings banks and banks, (charitable) associations and Associations, elementary and technical schools. The resulting networking can be reflected, among other things, in more ideal, political, practical or financial support for the interests of the kindergarten.
In many cases, public relations work is reduced to the creation of letters from parents and similar publications, information events and contacts with newspapers. But it is much more. The public image of the respective kindergarten is decisively shaped by the behavior and demeanor of the professionals: how they greet the children and their parents in the morning and say goodbye in the evening, whether they only supervise the children playing in the outdoor area or whether they lead special activities there, such as They design the windows, the entrance area and the outside areas of the kindergarten, whether they approach neighbors, how they receive visitors and how they and the children behave when walking, exploring and shopping in the community.
In this context it is of particular importance what impression the parents have of the educational work and the work of the parents in the kindergarten - in the end, parents are the "opinion makers" in the community; Their statements about the respective kindergarten influence the citizens' image of it more than all the targeted public relations measures of the kindergarten teachers can. This gives the work of parents an additional focus: If the work with the children is made transparent, the pedagogical approach and the concept are further developed together with the parents, if the needs and wishes of the parents are met, if satisfactory parenting offers are made, then parents become well-meaning ambassadors of the kindergarten in the community. Opportunities for parents to observe, work and have a say are particularly important in this context.
Team conflicts and a bad working atmosphere cannot be concealed from parents. Hardly anything else leaves such a negative impression as when a specialist repeatedly complains to parents about the kindergarten director or her colleagues. Therefore, good public relations work is ultimately only possible if the facility is managed well and competently, if the team agrees on the educational goals and methods as well as the pedagogical approach, if the members have sufficient opportunities to have a say and feel jointly responsible for the tasks are distributed fairly and when nannies, interns, cooks and other employees feel that their qualifications are recognized.
The team is also important when it comes to planning specific public relations measures. It is recommended that all members first agree on the goals and develop a concept for public relations work together. This automatically leads to reflection on one's own pedagogical activities and previous work with the parents. Then the team has to deal with the multitude of forms of public relations work - written materials such as kindergarten newspapers or educational concepts, showcases and posters, events such as "open days" or anniversary celebrations, exhibitions, participating in community celebrations or writing articles for newspapers . Unusual forms such as (environmental) campaigns or the production and sale - together with the children - of cookery books, song books and picture books, calendars, T-shirts, etc. must also be taken into account. The team members will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the individual forms of public relations work, the time required for them and their consistency with the desired goals. Finally, suitable measures are selected and integrated into the team's annual planning. The children can then be involved in the preparation of individual activities. Some possible forms of public relations will be presented in more detail in the following sections.
1. Exhibitions and information events
Exhibitions are one of the few pedagogically valuable forms of public relations work, as they enable children to be involved from the start and, for example, can be the crowning glory of a project (cf. Textor 1995). Handicrafts and pictures by children - or by children from a foreign partner institution, can be exhibited, as the following double page shows. Furthermore, photos or other evidence of kindergarten life as well as collections of natural materials or other objects created as part of projects are suitable. A special form is the sales exhibition, at which the children's products can be purchased or even auctioned.
The type and location of the exhibition depends (in addition to the advertising measures taken, of course) how attractive they are to the citizens of the community. An exhibition in the kindergarten itself mostly reaches parents and other family members. If, on the other hand, it is placed in the community center, in the town hall, in the counter of a savings bank or bank, in a library or in another publicly accessible and heavily frequented building, far more outsiders are usually addressed. In addition, partitions, showcases, spotlights and other aids can often be made available here to facilitate an appealing arrangement of the exhibits.
The following practical example about the exhibition "Life in our village then and now" comes from the Sulzberg kindergarten (in: Berger et al. 1992, pp. 272-275). The strong involvement of the parents is also interesting here:
"There were soon a few mothers who were warm to the exhibition idea: women from long-established village families as well as newly arrived mothers. They began sorting the old pictures, which were initially very sparingly, and addressing neighbors and relatives, partly with and partly without children It was particularly fortunate that the parents of a former kindergarten child included a freelance photographer who enjoyed the idea of taking photos of old images from the same location as they were back then. She also took photos of the venues of today's village children without a fee. In the end, there were a number of comparative pictures available 'earlier - today' of individual buildings, of the districts, of the town center, of shops, etc. In the course of about a month there were around a hundred pictures of the place, of surrounding hamlets and small villages that had meanwhile been incorporated.
Slowly word got around about the kindergarten's plans in the village: older people appeared in the middle of the morning and told - sometimes with little sense of the stress there - from the past, helped to identify districts, buildings and people in old photos, etc. The active mothers found old utensils, toys and prams, which made the exhibition clearer. An educator, who herself came from one of the long-established families of the village, knew how to motivate people, she saw through the relationships and was also the guarantee for the village community that 'nothing wrong' happened in the kindergarten.
What did the children get out of all this? It was certainly important that no attempt was made to include them convulsively in all work steps. They knew about the project, noticed that the mothers were sitting over old pictures, that people from the village came to the kindergarten who had never been seen there before. They thought it was great when a grandpa talked about the past. Some of them heard at home when people were talking about whether they wanted to provide pictures or not. When the opportunity arose, the teachers also showed photos in the groups and let the children unpack old objects and try them out. The children learned that preoccupation with it, as it used to be, was also important for the adults who were close to them and that sometimes it contained things that also made the 'grown-ups' insecure. It was not so much the didactically prepared offer for the children, but rather the experience of working on this topic in their vicinity without excluding them.
Over the course of that summer, the children had visited their houses on various excursions into the village and photographed their favorite play locations themselves. As they walked, they were made aware of old buildings, prominent spots in the village, places steeped in history, and were interested in all sorts of things, as evidenced by impressive drawings, for example. They had found out for themselves that there are old and new houses in the village, and perhaps they had the opportunity to leave the usual evaluation patterns (new = beautiful, ready-made playground equipment in the garden better than climbing trees) aside. They also heard where, how and with what adults used to play in the village. The documentation of this summer village research was a large self-painted map of the place with photos, a painted church and other buildings that were known to the children. It was later added to the exhibition, as was a cross-section of the work of the kindergarten based on photos. At the end of the exhibition, this should draw attention to what children need today as a living space to complement their families. Because the exhibition showed one thing in all its areas: The environment has lost play value for the children.
The children could - like the adults - compare pictures and hear stories from adults about how and where they had lived. And they noticed the lively attention and movement of the many adults - there were certainly 500 on the sunny opening day - who came to their kindergarten: the gymnastics hall was full of people all day long, people were standing together in conversation in front of pictures. Everywhere, children “bustled” around as hosts in “their museum”, showed something, got other explanations, witnessed serious discussions between community leaders and citizens about some of the failed or successful modernizations in the village. No festival program, no matter how child-friendly, could have raised awareness of the “cause of the children” like this piece of cultural work from the kindergarten. When the pupils from the local elementary school visited the exhibition in classes with their teachers over the next few days, the little ones were proud of so much attention, and the teachers felt quite a bit of satisfaction, because up to now they had misunderstood and misunderstood each other by most of the teachers felt underestimated. A part of the exhibition could then be shown in the local Raiffeisen bank for two weeks and there was still a lot of interest. "
This practical example illustrates very well how the kindergarten, through the planning and preparation of an exhibition, moves more and more into the perception of the village public and has a much better "image" in the community after the event. It also shows that the opening of the exhibition can be turned into a big event, to which, for example, district administrators, mayors, pastors, association representatives and journalists also come. The explosive nature of the exhibition in terms of child politics is obvious (see chapter "Kindergarten and Politics").
In small communities and "grown" city districts, a form of public relations work is also the opening of kindergarten celebrations for outsiders or participation in community festivals and parades. Performances by small children are very appealing to adults, but must not get out of hand and overburden the children with regard to the preparation time, the length of the performance and the type of performance. Festivities must by no means become a "performance show of the kindergarten". It is more important that the institution is present in the community through the celebrations or participation in them. At community festivals in particular, the teachers can make important contacts or refresh them. While many forms of public relations are "one-way communication", it is also possible to talk to the citizens about the educational work of the kindergarten and their attitudes and questions in this regard.
The latter also applies to the implementation of information events or an "open day". Thus, in both cases, plenty of time should be left for (informal) discussions. Many institutions already hold an "open house" on a regular basis, but usually only for parents and other family members. If you want to reach outsiders as well, not only special advertising measures are necessary (e.g. creating and hanging up posters, sending out letters of invitation, announcement in newspapers), but also attractive offers: In addition to children's performances, it is possible, for example, to invite a well-known picture book author for a reading to incorporate a puppet stage or to perform a shadow play on the part of the educators or parents. The children can take on the role of host, i.e. greet the arriving visitors, show them the cloakroom, show them through the kindergarten, serve them refreshments and chat with them.
Information events through which the kindergarten introduces parents with children under three years of age and other interested citizens are still quite rare - but due to the forecast competition for new registrations (due to the decreasing number of children), they are likely to gain in importance as an "advertising measure". In these events, which are usually limited to around two hours, it is important to present the educational concept of the kindergarten in the most appealing way possible and to provide insights into practical work with children and their parents. For the former, a short lecture is recommended, which is more lively when it is held on the basis of notes than when a manuscript is read. Eye contact can then also be maintained with the audience and their non-verbal reactions can be addressed. For the latter, video recordings or slides of everyday kindergarten life are best suited, with the help of which the practical implementation of the pedagogical concept, the daily routine, special activities and focus of the practical work can be clarified in an entertaining way. If the event takes place in the afternoon, some kindergarten children can also comment on the slides.
A somewhat out of the ordinary information event "Kindergarten Action" was carried out by the city of Salzkotten in cooperation with five municipal and six church kindergartens as well as a parents' initiative (Hense / Rölleke 1991). Their aim was to make kindergarten work as clear as possible to the broadest possible public. One focus was a one-week action exhibition in the town hall, which was opened by local politicians, parents' councils, educators, parents and children (loc. Cit., P. 15 f.):
"The tour led the visitors through different areas of kindergarten work.The area of visual design formed the beginning. Here young and old visitors had the opportunity to paint, do handicrafts or make buttons. This was followed by the area of nature and environmental encounters. Here, a smell and feel program encouraged visitors to do something for their own sensory perception. Then it went on to the area 'free play'. A doll's corner and a construction carpet particularly invited younger and older children to play. Children not yet in kindergarten discovered interesting play possibilities in the doll's corner on the hand of their parents. The little ones were particularly interested in the building blocks on the construction carpet.
The picture-book cozy corner also conveyed a kindergarten atmosphere to the visitors. Here it was possible to understand the calm and relaxed atmosphere in which it is possible to look at a picture book or listen to a story. In this area, parents could also find out more about a wide variety of picture books. The exercise education area was designed so invitingly that the children tried out various smaller gymnastics equipment on the exercise mattresses laid out.
While the children forgot space and time in the various play areas, interested parents had the opportunity to learn about the theoretical background and objectives of the educational work in kindergarten using display boards. Since the exhibition was looked after by two teachers in the afternoon, there were also opportunities to talk to the 'specialist staff'. "
The second focus was a panel discussion in the meeting room of the town hall, attended by 140 interested people. After an introduction by the city director, topics such as the tasks of the kindergarten, quality criteria, the importance of playful learning, cooperation between kindergarten and parents and support for family education were discussed. Two newspapers and the local radio reported on the "Kindergarten Campaign". Through this event, kindergarten work and current problems were made transparent for the public.
2. Kindergarten newspapers and other publications
Almost all kindergartens use written materials in their parenting work. Letters from parents and kindergarten newspapers are widespread. In many places there are also educational concepts and information brochures for future kindergarten parents. In addition, the written materials must include posters, notices, handouts, leaflets (e.g. on educational issues) as well as notes and letters. In this way, educators inform parents about their pedagogical approach, practical work, special activities and event dates, influence family upbringing (e.g. through articles about child development, suggestions for playing and doing handicrafts with the child, tips on good picture books and guides, etc. .) or, in the case of letters and notes, respond to inquiries from individual parents or provide information about their child. Usually it is "one-way communication".
With all written materials, it should be noted that they also shape the image of the kindergarten in public. This is how they should give a positive impression. This is all the more true if they are distributed beyond the group of parents - it is definitely advisable to send kindergarten newspapers and educational concepts to cooperation partners such as elementary schools, counseling and early intervention centers, youth welfare offices and the sponsoring association. Thus, a professional design of written materials is to be aimed for. It is noticeable here how little use is made of the possibilities of modern word processing by educators - although in our society hardly anything is now possible without a computer. This is largely due to the training and advanced training providers who do not impart the relevant skills. The skills required can, however, also be acquired at adult education centers and other adult education institutions, often even from partners, friends and acquaintances. If the kindergarten cannot buy its own computer and printer, other devices (e.g. in the parish secretariat) could mostly be used - just ask around a little. Finally, parents who have a computer can be involved in the practical creation of kindergarten newspapers, parents' letters and conceptual papers.
This is not intended to negate the fact that kindergarten teachers can create very beautiful written materials in the "classic" way - and do so. In such cases, modern word processing would make a lot of things easier and open up new design options. Kindergarten teachers who still write their texts on a mechanical typewriter using copious amounts of Tipp-ex and still make a lot of typing errors or who send handwritten letters to mayors, parents and institutions do not convey a positive image of their kindergarten and profession.
It is advisable to observe the following principles when creating written materials:
- It has a positive effect when all written materials contain the same elements ("recognition effect"). This can best be achieved with a logo that adorns all fonts - from letters from parents and educational concepts to handouts, notices and posters to letters (letterhead). For materials that appear regularly, such as kindergarten newspapers, the title and text pages should always be designed according to the same pattern (see specialist journals).
- The text should be interesting, easy to understand, and easy to read. Important statements can be emphasized by means of bold and italic type, and headings can be emphasized by means of a larger font and bold type. If possible, the text should not contain any errors, should be written in a font that is not too small and should stand out clearly even after copying (replace the color ribbons in good time!).
- An appealing layout should be selected for kindergarten concepts and newspapers: the text is loosened up with subheadings, underlaying or framing paragraphs; Insertion of high-contrast and, if possible, non-posed photos or children's drawings; wide margins; possibly continuous (category) headings etc. Pages that appear next to each other should not be designed too differently. The table of contents, page numbers and imprint must not be dispensed with; In the case of letters to parents, headings ("Pedagogy", "Special events in kindergarten", "Parents' council" page; "Event information"; "From children's mouth", "Book recommendations", etc.) are recommended.
With today's media offer, kindergarten newspapers and letters from parents have to compete with other newspapers and magazines, television and radio. You should therefore look as attractive and appealing as possible. The same applies to pedagogical concepts and anniversary publications, as they are even more of the "figurehead" of the kindergarten. A nice layout and a good print naturally lead to higher costs. The parents can certainly be involved in these, e.g. by selling the publications or calling for a donation (of a certain amount). Alternatively, sponsors can be sought or advertisements can be printed.
3. How to deal with the media
Not only the prevailing images of one's own kindergarten in the community, but also the general public about the kindergarten itself and the teaching profession can be influenced by the fact that professionals cooperate with newspapers, radio and television. Good public relations work means that the team identifies their contact persons in the editorial offices in the area. At least with journalists in the local press, casual but continuous contact should then be established as far as possible. This can begin with an information meeting in the editorial office and be maintained through visits with children (in small groups), sending the kindergarten newspaper, greeting cards, telephone calls and the like. This increases the likelihood that reports about the kindergarten will appear in the newspaper again and again.
Journalists usually only come to the kindergarten by invitation or on special occasions such as opening or anniversary celebrations. Your questions should be answered openly, honestly and in a friendly manner - if possible without using technical terms such as "situation approach" or "Orff instruments" (otherwise with an explanation of the terms, although you can also show a lot in kindergarten). Unpleasant questions should not be avoided, and a lack of knowledge should be admitted. Journalists want to be as undisturbed as possible when they are talking to children or taking photos.
If journalists cannot accept an invitation due to lack of time or if the team would like to bring a more general topic "into the newspaper", it is advisable to write an article together and send it to the contact person in the respective editorial office. If there is a report on an event or a special event, the manuscript should be sent to the post office (or delivered directly) on the same or the next day if possible, since newspapers are only interested in current reports. The team can, however, take more time for other topics, such as "The first day in kindergarten", "More and more children with behavioral problems", "Can you punish children?" Or for reports on projects, excursions and similar activities.
The probability of whether an article will be printed or not increases not only with the number of - in the opinion of the local editor - potentially interested readers, but also with the degree of approximation to the usual style of newspaper articles. The headline should condense the content into a catchphrase and arouse the interest of the reader. Then comes the gist of the press release (Who? What? When? Why? Where?). Finally, for example, the previous history, background, desired goals, exact process and other details can be discussed. Towards the end of the article, the sentences should become less and less important, as this makes it easier for the editor to shorten the text (by deleting the last sentences). Otherwise, a relaxed and lively style with short, factual and understandable sentences should be chosen. Excessive self-praise is to be avoided. It makes sense to write the article with wide line spacing and wide margins, as this makes it easier for the editor to correct, add, markup, etc. Adding a photo or two also increases the likelihood of a print. These should be as rich in contrast as possible, appear natural, show people during an activity against a calm background and be provided with a short text. Photos with children are more appealing; but there should never be more than five people to be seen.
Furthermore, educators can speak up with letters to the editor. In this way, you can refer to previous articles in which, for example, kindergartens were criticized, questions of upbringing were discussed or decisions hostile to children were documented. Finally, they can reach the specialist public through articles in specialist journals. Their editorial offices - as well as the editorial offices of local and regional newspapers - are by no means drowning in a flood of articles. So there is generally a good chance that a manuscript will also be printed.
(Local) television and radio report relatively often about kindergartens, but rarely come to an institution by invitation. Most of the time they make recordings as part of reports or, for example, to "illustrate" reports on press conferences by politicians or associations. They were mostly informed about the respective kindergarten by third parties (youth welfare office managers, welfare associations, press officers, etc.). Thus, kindergarten teachers suddenly and unexpectedly find themselves in the situation of having to give information in front of the microphone or the camera. If such a visit is announced, you should immediately ask about the objectives of the reporting and give the editor - who is not a specialist - additional information and tips (e.g. about the best recording time). The whole team, the parents and the children should then be informed about the visit.
When making TV recordings, it is advisable to avoid sharp contrasts in clothing and to avoid flashy jewelry. During an interview, educators should move slowly, avoid unnecessary gestures and always speak to the other person. As a rule, people only speak into the camera when the respective person wants to address the television audience directly. Otherwise, for both television and radio interviews, educators should present themselves as specialists, answer with short sentences and avoid technical terms and foreign words. In difficult situations you can save time by asking questions. However, educators must be aware that television teams in particular are very interested in recordings with children and everyday kindergarten work. With such recordings you should behave as calmly, naturally and "as usual" as possible.
Dr. Martin R. Textor studied education, counseling and social work at the Universities of Würzburg, Albany, N.Y., and Cape Town. He worked for 20 years as a research assistant at the State Institute for Early Education in Munich. From 2006 to 2018 he and his wife headed the Institute for Education and Future Research (IPZF) in Würzburg. He is the author or editor of 45 books and has published 770 specialist articles in magazines and on the Internet.
Autobiography at http://www.martin-textor.de
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