Rhee/DCPS makes sleek PR move

Michelle Rhee—I want to be just like you when I grow up. Seriously. Some little girls may dream of being a nurse or an interior designer, but I would love to be chancellor of the DC public school system, and particularly, Michelle Rhee.

Sure, she comes under fire for many of the controversial moves she makes. And I understand why some teachers really don’t like her management style. But when she pulls stunts like the one today with the Washington Post, it makes me admire her even more. See the transcript here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2009/09/20/DI2009092001636.html

At 1 p.m., Michelle Rhee signed on to Washington Post for a live Q&A. From a media relations and community relations and a public relations standpoint this is, well, it can be risky, but when it is done so well, it is a golden opportunity for the organization to earn trust with the public and gain solid relationships. Particularly for a spokesperson who is often described by the media as someone who is out for power plays or who is often seen as a tough woman who will let nothing, but nothing, stand in her path to achievement.

So, negative media attention out of the way, Michelle Rhee responds to what seems to be mostly parents in this live Q&A. Coincidentally, her strongest supporters tend to be parents, and so the questions are spattered with:

Is there anything that parents in particular can do to assist your efforts? – Ward 4, Washington DC

Thank you and please keep up the great work. As parents in DC, we like your style and accountability of all of your employees. –Petworth, DC

Thanks for all your hard work. –Washington, DC

along with all of the questions about charter schools and building changes. And Ms. Rhee quickly replied with answers that seemed to satisfy questions. In signing off, she said she only got to a fraction of the questions, which I believe. I can see numerous parents concerned with their children’s education and tax-payers concerned with their taxes delighted to have the opportunity to talk with Ms. Rhee directly.

In reaching out to these publics, and receiving legitimate and positive support for the work she and DCPS is doing, Rhee was able to gain media space that spoke volumes for the organization. No ads with happy children or press releases downplaying the teacher layoffs could ever do this kind of work. This Q&A session was an exercise in successful relationship building. Rhee received praise, answered questions, and made herself available to criticism. As a leader of a large organization, this is risky, but it is certainly can pay off. For Rhee and DCPS, it was worth the risk.

And to make it even more of a relationship building public relations stunt (I use that term endearingly, and positively) Rhee sent out her personal email address! Numerous times! Clearly this shows her willingness to engage in conversations about what needs to be and can be done in the school district. This makes me love her even more. Do you see the leaders of GM sending out their personal email address, asking for questions? I’ve heard Ms. Rhee is a crackberry addict, so I totally believe she’s honest in her request for emails. (it’s michelle.rhee@dc.gov in case you want to send something.) This makes me want to send her my resume…Do you think she would look over it? Maybe I’ll devise a really crafty cover letter.

Michelle Rhee, I admire you and want to be you when I grow up. Do you think that would be a good first sentence?

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~ by monifree on September 29, 2009.

2 Responses to “Rhee/DCPS makes sleek PR move”

  1. Wow, if you want to be like Michelle Rhee then you have some serious problems. And the questions that she took did not even begin to reflect how much the majority of people in Washington, DC despise her.

    Please do not hope to grow up to be an ignorant blowhard who cares more about her dogma then she does about helping children. That’s pathetic.

    • Thanks for the comment. I appreciate hearing other points of view. What I was really focusing on was her ability to put herself out in front of the public and become engaged. I understand she can’t please everyone, but I think things like this Q&A help. Since I don’t know her, I can only judge by what I read; reading her exact comments from concerned citizens seems to me a better way to do so hearing about her portrayal in the media.
      Thanks again,
      Monica

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