February 6, 2017
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July 26, 2016
Last year when Starbucks announced its #RaceTogether initiative, the backlash was quick and relentless. The idea of having authentic conversations about race relations between Starbucks baristas and customers appeared to be contrived, a publicity stunt and an elitist, narrow-minded, savior-complex way of approaching a serious and complicated issue that requires the voices of people who aren’t spending $4 on a latte each day. The initiative was considered by most to be a failure and as public relations experts rehashed what went wrong, it was a clear that no matter how well intentioned the Starbucks initiative, there remained a disconnect in delivery, execution and tone.
So how do we talk about serious issues in this coffee-to-go, Twitter-feed world? Or should we even try? Is it possible to talk about race, class, gender and sexual orientation in a real way on a Facebook timeline or in a podcast? How do you balance speed with substance?
July 13, 2016
This week’s show deals with communicating during the summer and how to stay in touch with all the stakeholders in your community. Summer isn’t a sleepy time to cut off communication, but an opportunity to engage, inform and tell your story.
June 17, 2016
When a crisis occurs in a school district, it is essential that calm be restored as quickly as possible. That happens more easily if stakeholders have confidence in school leadership. However, that confidence must be present not only after a crisis has been resolved, but also before and during a crisis. It can be built and reinforced through a targeted communications strategy.
The first step is to determine whether your district has a “confidence gap.” A simple survey of students, staff, parents and the community will determine whether your stakeholders believe your district can handle a crisis. Note that a crisis can range from a disabled furnace during a cold snap or an expensive lawsuit, to school violence or an unexpected death. Each requires a unique set of leadership skills. Any survey must account for that.
While your public may believe the district can repair a furnace, for example, they may not agree that the district is capable of handling school violence. Use the information collected from the survey to develop a communications plan for building, reinforcing, or restoring confidence. Special attention should be given to those areas in which stakeholders have the least confidence.
May 20, 2016
We’ve talked about where to find free images to use in social media and on your website, but sometimes the only image that will do is YOUR image. Having a readily available folder of professionally taken photos whose subjects span the variety of academic opportunities and extracurricular activities your districts offer is key. Use the photos to accompany posts promoting upcoming events and campaigns and to drive the emotional story of your school’s outreach.
Creating content daily doesn’t mean taking photos daily. Setting aside a week once or twice a year to focus on taking a stockpile of photos around the school is a great start. I suggest using a photo storage system that allows you to add multiple tags to to each photo to be able to find an appropriate photo quickly. Adding text to an image to add context and highlight one key message can be a good way to recycle images and to create instant connections. This will allow you to focus your creative design efforts on creating graphics for complex concepts and bigger picture campaigns.
May 18, 2016
An image is worth a 1000 words… and in social media terms, an image is worth an increase of 80% readership of your blog content and a 53% increase in engagement on social media.
Images help draw attention, simplify complicated concepts and re-enforce retention.
But if you are posting social media posts 2-4 times a day, how can you find enough quality images to use?
You cannot use any image that you find on the internet. Whoever took the photo owns the image — even if they haven’t noted this fact with a watermark or copyright notice. Copyright is an automatic right to content creators and does not require the author to file special paperwork. Using copyrighted work inappropriately can result in embarrassment, having your website/social media post removed for violations or even legal issues.
There are 4 kinds of rights applied to images. Understanding what these terms mean will help you avoid issues later.
These are images which are now able to be used by the public domain free of charge for any purpose due to their age (the copyright has expired) or the owner has released their rights.
Creative Commons was created to allow photographers put their images online and dictate how they can be used. They are able to dictate whether the images can be used in other forums, whether they can be manipulated and what credit should be provided along with the image. It is important to read the attached CC license to the photo to understand the limitations placed on your use of the image. Most times, this requires requiring attribution including a link back to the photographer’s site.
These images are available on stock image websites and the “free” aspect of the title doesn’t reflect the cost but rather that once you pay for the image (using either a subscription or pay-per-image model) you are free to use it as often as you’d like.
These images are also purchased but also include a limitation on the number of times they can be used without paying for more licenses.
May 11, 2016
With so many options for accessing media in the classroom, it can be difficult to navigate where to find the best content and how best to present it. There are more than 80,000,000 videos on YouTube. Some are great for a laugh, some are great to inform and some are incredibly inappropriate. Performing blind searches in front of your classroom is an easy way to run into a dead end — or worse. So where should you start?
How have you used YouTube in the classroom? Do your students bring you videos to share? What are some pitfalls you have discovered?
April 17, 2016
When funds are tight, public relations programs are often the first to be cut and sometimes even eliminated. What districts should remember is that communication is how you will garner support for future projects, votes & community partnerships. Without strong positive messaging, your school is at risk of even further budget cuts and a lack of alternative resources.
For schools facing a tight budget, there are several ways to share your key message at little or no expense. Using these cost-effective strategies will help stretch your communications budget while reaching your core audience.
Build Your Media Relations
Your local newspaper, radio stations and television stations are all looking for local content. Find a go-to contact at each media outlet and build that relationship. Call/email them with new stories at least weekly. These stories should cover innovative programs, student achievements, upcoming school activities and, of course, consistent focus on your key messages. Offer to write a regular guest column or to be interviewed. Local media focuses on local news — this is your opportunity to shape the conversation!
Public Service Announcements (PSAs)
The Federal Communications Commission requires that broadcast media operate “in the public interest”. PSAs are a way that TV stations fulfill that requirement. There is strong competition to get your PSA to air so make sure your PSA is short (about 30 seconds long), interesting & informative and that it meets the standard requirements for a news story: who, what, when, where and why. Submit your recorded PSA to the station’s public service or program director.
PEW Research Center estimates that 74 percent of all internet users visit social media sites. There is no cost to join social media but you do need to be creative and strategic in your approach to your social media plan so that you are efficient, reaching your target audience and encouraging engagement. We always encourage our clients to start with Twitter — it is easy, mobile-friendly and works in “real time”. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and many other platforms will help compliment and distribute your content and encourage feedback and further distribution among your followers.
Adding a blog to your school’s website allows you to communicate directly with your community on your own terms and in your own words. Make sure to use social media to drive traffic to your new blog posts in a coordinated effort.
By transitioning your monthly newsletter to be email-based, you can eliminate postal and printing costs. You can either use a desktop publishing program and convert the file to a PDF to attach to the email or use a newsletter web-based service such as MyEmma or Mailchimp to create a newsletter with photos and simple email-friendly designs to send directly to your community’s inboxes.
Take advantage of the communications departments of your local government and libraries. Make sure to share important information prior to publication of newsletters and other regular communications so that they can include updates on your district and your current needs. You can also coordinate with their social media and website teams to share activities, news and upcoming meetings.
Town Hall Meetings
No matter how many tweets you send, you can’t beat the impact of a face-to-face meeting with your community. Town hall meetings empower districts to put a face to the policy, to reinforce their brand and to build real support for school initiatives. Answering questions in real time can help dispel myths, grow enthusiasm and make important issues personal for the community-at-large.
There are many tools and resources available to school districts that will help you share your message effectively and at little cost. Don’t let budget issues keep you from growing support for your school and important initiatives. Be creative and be open to new opportunities and new relationships. You’ll be surprised how much your strategy will pay off — and how impressed your community will be with your financial stewardship and ingenuity!