Why schools should care about their online reputation

For independent schools, reputation is everything. It can be a deciding factor when attracting the best teaching talent or convincing prospective parents to enrol their children. What happens, then, if your school becomes embroiled in an online scandal or backlash?

The power of social media

We are living in a truly digital world and one where social media plays an ever- increasing role in influencing our day-to-day decisions. For independent schools, there are a number of channels that could spread messages which have the potential to damage reputation. From pupils to parents, and even teachers, all schools have an online community that is likely to keep growing.

As social media is keeping people better connected than ever, it can sometimes feel almost overwhelming for independent schools to keep track of any negative messages. That’s because monitoring social media activity is a 24-hour job and it doesn’t halt at weekends or during the school holidays.

When an allegation does arise, delivering an appropriate response can also be very complex. All issues need to be dealt with sensitively, with legal and PR advice a likely requirement, while the further protection of insurance will help support any potential damages.

For example, a pupil – past or present – spreading negative messages about a school could have significant consequences. In particular, historic allegations about the behaviour of someone connected to the school, whether true or false, can have severe repercussions on a school’s reputation.

Given the prevalence of social media, it can only take one tweet to a journalist or news outlet and a school can quickly find itself on the front line of an online reputation war.

How can schools protect their online reputation?

If caught quickly, a school’s online reputation can be repaired and damage from negative posts can be minimised. As the internet doesn’t have a shutdown period, schools need to be alert all day and night, with many damaging posts being made out of the usual school hours.

There are ways that social media activity can be easily reviewed. Endsleigh is able to provide access to online reputational risk tools that monitor digital channels.
Combining the latest social listening technology with access to expert risk analysis teams, such tools can detect, identify and assess online reputational risk for schools.

While such red flags could include negative reviews, online complaints or libellous accusations, it can also be used to track and monitor public social media conversations relating to the school in real-time. This can be invaluable for flagging and stopping worrying activities such as pupil-organised parties on school property, or inter-pupil online bullying.

A rogue story has the potential to undo a schools’ reputation in a matter of hours. It is now more important than ever that schools put plans in place to monitor, protect and preserve their reputation online. The easiest way to do this is ensure your school is covered by an insurance provider that has access to a portfolio of online reputational risk tools.

Doing so can provide much-needed peace of mind that if a false story or allegation emerges, it can be flagged, addressed and resolved as soon as possible, mitigating the risk of long-lasting reputational damage.