BOARD OF EDUCATION OF HARFORD COUNTY
HCPS STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS PLAN UPDATE
December 21, 2009
The Board of Education of Harford County, in an effort to improve interactive
communications between the Board/school system and the public, commissioned a
Communications Audit in August 2007, engaging the National School Public Relations
Association (NSPRA) to perform the audit. Based on that audit, NSPRA provided a document
that summarized 13 comprehensive recommendations. One of the first recommendations made
by NSPRA was that a Strategic Communications Plan be developed and approved by the
Superintendent/Board to strategically focus the communications efforts of the school system. A
Strategic Communications Plan was developed by a stakeholder committee and the Board
approved the plan at its business meeting on April 27, 2009. The plan supports three
1. HCPS will be proactive and systematic with all communication efforts.
2. HCPS will expand its community engagement and two-way communication efforts.
3. HCPS will continue to enhance and promote its positive image and credibility in the
The purpose of the Strategic Communication Plan is to support the district’s mission,
vision and goals by building strong relationships with stakeholders, aligning messages for key
initiatives and programs, and engaging the community in two-way communication targeted to
The Communications Office began implementation of the Strategic Communications
Plan in July 2009. The Communications staff created a timeline of strategies and tactics for
Phase I (year one) of the plan. As recommended by the NSPRA audit, the plan focus began with
internal communications followed by external. Research has been conducted on the majority of
our major publications, with plans to review the remainder by the end of the school year. An
action plan has been created for every major event and campaign planned by the
Communications Office to include a pre- and post-evaluation component.
Two new internal communication vehicles (411 Update and Superintendent’s Bulletin)
have been developed to consolidate district-wide email communications and to increase timely
message delivery regarding critical issues to staff. While these two vehicles are in their infancy,
they have both been met with positive feedback from employees. The office will continue to
solicit feedback on communication training needs of HCPS employees. In addition, an external
email newsletter will begin this month called the ‘HCPS Direct Connect.’ This e-newsletter will
provide a connection between the district and parents regarding news, event, updates, inclement
weather announcements, Board of Education information, and more.
In order to enhance in two-way communication, an Internal Communications Study
Circle was established. The committee, made up of school system employees representing all
professions, is tackling such issues as email, phone/voicemail usage, customer service, crisis
communications, and technology. The group will establish protocols and guidelines regarding
these communication vehicles for the Superintendent/Senior Staff to review. An External
Communications group will be developed as well. These two groups will also be utilized to
conduct evaluations of the school system’s automated AlertNow phone system and its usage as
well as our eNewsletter component.
The Communications Office is heavily involved in the Readiness and Emergency Management
System (REMS) grant. This federally-funded grant will allow HCPS to develop a Crisis
Awareness Campaign and accompanying materials.
Furthermore, a comprehensive re-branding and marketing initiative campaign is being
researched and an implementation timeline based on available resources will be developed. The
Communications section of the hcps.org website has also been redesigned to be more user-
friendly and includes new sections to promote our HCPS Educator Hall of Fame and our News
and Events section. The News and Events section allows us to post positive news stories quickly,
sometimes even the same day of the event. The Communications Office will continue to research
new recognition programs and evaluate current procedures.
The Superintendent recommends that the Board of Education of Harford County accept
the Strategic Communications Plan Update.