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Keyword Archives: best practices

Effective media relationships ensure your message is heard

December 5, 2015

There is more to working with the media than simply responding to questions.  You need to develop a cooperative relationship, and become a valued resource.

When you are on good terms with the local media, they can become an important tool in your district’s communications toolbox.  The media can enhance your image, or they can destroy it.  A relationship built on mutual respect benefits everyone.

To build a solid relationship, it is helpful to understand what the media looks for in a source.  Some tips:

  • Tell the truth, no matter how much it hurts. One needs to look no further than the current presidential race to understand that lies warrant headlines. The truth is rarely as interesting. This does not mean, however, that you must reveal every ugly truth or fact that will have a negative impact on your district. Sometimes, it is better to say nothing. But when you do speak, tell the truth.

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Posted in Allerton Hill News, Campaigns, Community Outreach, Education, Policy, Social Media
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Letters to the editor: get your message heard

December 2, 2015

Looking for a simple way to get your message heard?  Write a letter to the editor!

Letters to the editor are probably the best read section of a publication.  Whether you chose to contact a newsletter, newspaper, or magazine, letters to the editor are great ways to:

Complain, about unbalanced coverage, poorly conceived content or illogical editorials.

Set the record straight, about ill-conceived articles, inaccurate information, or unproven misperceptions.

Express a strong reaction, to community events, news coverage, and taxpayer issues.

Explore ideas, about life, community needs, and politics.

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Posted in Allerton Hill News, Campaigns, Community Outreach, Education, Policy, Social Media
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Pick your target and aim: Effective communications

November 12, 2015

Some school communications programs throw tax dollars out the window. Not intentionally, perhaps, but that money is wasted nonetheless.

Those programs are failing to effectively target key audiences.

Identifying who needs to hear your message is only part of the communications process. You must also ensure that they receive and understand your message. That means embracing learning styles, and developing strategies that target each.

According to the Bepko Learning Center at Indiana University, there are three basic learning styles:

  • Visual: Learning is best accomplished by using objects that can be viewed, such as graphs, charts, pictures, or words.  Learning occurs in a closed environment without distractions.  Information that provides a big picture, and then focuses on details, works best.  Bright colors and large numbers also enhance the learning experience. Experts say about 65 percent of all people are visual learners.
  • Auditory:  Information is retained through hearing and speaking.  Often auditory learners prefer to be told information, rather than reading it.  Repeating information may also be important. This type of learner benefits from group settings, where information can be read out loud, discussed, and repeated in several different ways.  Music enhances the learning experience.  Experts say about 30 percent of all people are auditory learners.
  • Kinesthetic:  For this group, information is best learned through demonstrations, experiments, and field work.  Learners benefit from an explanation of how something is done, accompanied by an actual demonstration.  They also learn more effectively if engaged in physical activity while information is conveyed, for example, standing rather than sitting. Most kinesthetic learners are also visual or auditory learners. But those skills are enhanced by the physical activity.

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Posted in Campaigns, Community Outreach, Education, Policy
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AHC on Social Media, Part 5: 8 Tips for Facebook Engagement

September 11, 2015

With the recent announcement that Facebook had 1 billion users online in one day, there is no question that maintaining a consistent Facebook presence should be an important part of your social media – and your overall communications – strategy. Facebook’s ever-changing algorithms and display practices, especially for public pages (as opposed to personal profiles), can sometimes make it a frustrating exercise and you should not rely on it as your only means of diffusion for important and time-sensitive news. But it still remains one of the best ways to connect with your community – and connect your community amongst itself. Its ease of use, ability to post a variety of kinds of posts and intercommunication capabilities are all reasons that even as the social media landscape continues to grow and change, Facebook should always be in your toolbox.

 

Facebook rewards pages for engagement – the more interaction your page receives, the more visibility it will have. To that end, here are my 8 top tips for writing posts that will inspire comments, likes and shares.

 

1. Write in a natural voice.

Don’t write in “press release” jargon but rather use a familiar tone. Follow Facebook’s practice of calling connections “friends” is no accident or haphazard business decision. It will benefit you to write conversationally, especially if you want your followers to converse back!

You can also take lead from the White House’s practice of using “-bo” to sign any posts or comments written by President Obama. For any posts written by your superintendent or principal, add a signature to add the personal touch and voice.

 

2. Clearly state your call-to-action.

If you want your followers to click a link, tell them! If you want them to show up at an event, make sure all of the details are listed clearly.

 

3. Be visual.

Images have a 68% higher engagement rate. Avoid using blurry, too-small or boring/clichéd stock images. Real images of your school in action or custom graphics will always yield a higher response.

Horizontal images work best on Facebook’s timeline. For more about timeline post dimensions as well as profile & cover photo dimensions, I suggest you read this article from the Omnicore Digital Marketing Agency.

 

4. Brevity is your friend.

While Facebook does allow for longer posts, try to keep posts – and most definitely keep any calls to action – above the “see more” link.

 

5. Create an emotional connection.

Use Facebook to tell success stories, put a human face on any calls-to-action and build a meaningful conversation between your community and your school’s administration.

 

6. Ask questions.

Want a response? Ask for it!

 

7. Respond to any direct message as quickly as possible.

Even if it is just to say thanks for a supportive message or to say that you don’t know the answer to their question and will follow up with a more complete answer. Comments on your page should at least get a “like” if not a reply. Show your followers you want dialog and they will respond!

 

8. Use full links and take advantage of the visual link preview.

While Twitter’s best practices include using shortened links due to its character limitations, Facebook user analysis shows that full links get 3x as many clicks as shortened links do.

 Allerton Hill Consulting Strategies for Best Practices on Facebook

 

Allerton Hill Consulting can help you craft a social media strategy that works with your school district’s core themes, that will share important news and connect you with your community on a daily basis. From finding your key messages to creating a weekly editorial calendar, Allerton Hill Consulting’s social media experts are here to help! For more information, please contact us for a consultation.

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Posted in Community Outreach, Social Media
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AHC on Social Media, Part 3: #Hashtags101

August 28, 2015

Organically developed on Twitter by its first power users, hashtags are now a ubiquitous tool on social media. They still have dominance on Twitter but are also used on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Google+ and many other networks. Hashtags are, most simply, a way for people to connect and search for tweets (or posts or pins…) that share a common topic. By instantly linking social media posts together, hashtags have helped fuel (and organize!) social media’s ability to disseminate breaking news with great efficiency, efficacy and engagement than ever before

The hashtag is a powerful and critical social media tool that should be a part of your strategy across all platforms. Proper use of branded and keyword tags will grow your community and your schools’ brand recognition.

The Basics

1. Although you can use multiple words, hashtags do not allow for spaces or punctuation.

Any easy way to make multiple word hashtags more readable is to capitalize each word such as #AllertonHillConsulting. Hashtags are not case sensitive so tags that are or are not capitalized will be included in the same search.

2. Hashtags can occur anywhere in your message – in context or as an addendum to your message.

Don’t forget tonight’s #MHSchoir concert in the Seewald Auditorium!

Sign up today to volunteer at our fall carnival. #helpwanted #MHSpride

3. Hashtags should be obvious, easy to remember and hard to misspell. This included watching out for adjoining ambiguous characters or using hashtags that are so similar to large brands that they will cause confusion and/or misdirection.

 

Hashtags 101 by Allerton Hill Consulting

How Are Hashtags Used?

1. Highlighting keywords for context and search results.

Connect with people who share your interests and who are invested in what you have to say. # to mark the word/phrase that is most important to your tweet/pin/post and when others click on it, they will be taken to a results page that shows other posts that have been hashtagged with the same term — and vice versa!

Think about the words that you want your community to use to find you — these are words that you will probably already be using in your social media. Hashtag these important terms to highlight and increase their impact.

2. Identify your brand – and help others align with you

You should create a hashtag that is applied to all official tweets to reflect your school’s brand. Typically initials or a school mascot/identity works best. Followers will take note and also use this hashtag when writing about events and issues important to your community.

#MHSpride #OPSpanthers #ParkwoodHS

You can also use this concept to create subgroups on your Twitter feed such as #MHSchoir or #igersohio (Ohio Instagrammers) to denote particular topics of interest within your district’s overall brand.

3. Promote Campaigns and Events, LiveTweet Events & Host TwitterChats

Taking hashtag-branding one step further, encourage the use of a particular hashtag to tie together tweets/photos/pins/posts that cover one particular event – #MHSBacktoSchoolPicnic – or that contribute to a crowdsourced campaign such as #MHSsummerphotos.

You can also livetweet an event by tying all posts together with a unique hashtag such as “#Parkwoodrelay4life”.

Superintendents should host monthly TwitterChats using a hashtag such as #AskDrSoandSo to field and answer questions from parents and community members.

4. Parenthetical Interjections

We really encourage schools to use social media to help humanize their staff and create emotional connections with their community. Using hashtags for their most casual purpose – asides and humor – can be tricky and takes nuance but also can help you get noticed in the onslaught of newsfeed posts. You can also participate in social meme conventions such as Throwback Thursday (#tbt) or create your own aside hashtags such as #gamefaceon or #FridayTreat or #PantherBookClub that can grow into regular “features” in your social media.

Best Practices

Find Your Hashtag Sweet Spot

Tweets that have 2-4 relevant hashtags yield 24% more engagement than tweets with no hashtags and 13% more engagement than tweets with 5+ hashtags. Moderation is key – hashtag to create context but don’t overfill your tweet with #hashtags or your #followers #will #stop #reading #or #worse #unfollow #you.

Don’t Spam Popular Hashtags

Just because a hashtag is trending doesn’t mean you should jump on the bandwagon for exposure. Only use relevant hashtags – and check out the context for a trending hashtag before using it. Many gaffes have been made by major brands who use a trending tag only to realize later that it was trending due to negative reasons such as a crime or natural disaster. Using non-relevant hashtags is one of the quickest ways to turn off and lose followers.

Double Check Your # for #Hidden #Meanings

If you are planning to use a hashtag to brand your district or an event/campaign, test it out first to see if there are any hidden or double meanings that could be offensive or confusing.

Follow Leaders in Your Industry

Learn by participating. Take note of the hashtags that other educational and communication leaders are using and incorporate them into your own posts.

Don’t Make Your Hashtag Too Broad to Track

Using the hashtag #school might seem obvious but it also is such a general term that it ends up being useless in monitoring engagement or garnering new followers. Focus on making hashtags unique and easy to remember.

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AHC on Social Media, Part 2: What Goes Where?

August 21, 2015

There are over 80 social networks with over 1 million users and at least 10 social networks with over 50 million users!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to recommend that you use them all! A large majority of these site have specific audiences in mind such as travel, parenting, photography or connecting with friends during a health crisis.

For schools, we highly recommend focusing your efforts on the general social media networks that many people in your community are already using, ensuring that you will reach your target audience without asking them to sign up for another social service. These sites include Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and Pinterest. YouTube is also a powerful platfrom for connecting with you users – especially with its sharing capabilities across other social media networks. We also highly recommend that you use LinkedIn for professional networking with other education and communications professionals.

Monthly Social Media Usage Statistics from Allerton Hill Consultants

 

Facebook

Hubspot, a leading media website, reports that 93% of all adult users online are on Facebook. You should be using Facebook daily if only because it is going to get your message in front of the most people. Beyond the benefits of saturation, however, keep in mind that Facebook offers great flexibility in what and how you share information, providing you with more opportunities to engage with your community.

Facebook should not only be a means of dispersing information but also a way to add an emotional connection to your calls-to-action using photos & video and by communicating directly with your community in the comments section.

A few notes on Facebook usage statistics:

  • Posts with photos have a 83% great chance of being shared or commented on.
  • Posts with 250 characters or less have a 91% higher engagement rate.
  • 65% of all Facebook engagement occurs between Wednesday and Friday so plan your important posts accordingly.

Twitter

As the internet becomes more and more mobile, Twitter is becoming the go-to social media platform. It’s 140-character limit and mobile-optimized interface makes engagement quick and easy. We recommend having both an official district Twitter account as well as an account maintained by your Superintendent to help humanize your administration and promote strong community recognition and interaction.

Half of Twitter’s 650 million users are on the site more than once a day, with 29% using it 3+ times a day, each time for more than 15 minutes. And remember that over 60% of those users are on mobile devices – keep your tweets on message and make sure any links you use are mobile-friendly by using link shorteners and ensuring that any page you link to is mobile-optimized.

While Facebook, Pinterest and Google + are all good options for finding new partners and resources within your community, Twitter is known for its strong ability for growing loyalty among its base members. Make sure you are talking to this audience – your parents, students and valued community partners – when composing your messages.

# Hashtags (to be covered in depth in a future post in this series) are a vital part of your Twitter strategy to ensure your tweets are reaching your target audience and to create cohesion in your communications.

Google+

While Google + often doesn’t get the airtime that Facebook & Twitter does in social media conversations, it has seen a 33% growth in the past year and now boasts 300 million users. By organizing your contacts into “circles” you can target your Google+ messages to targeted audience members, sharing school lunch menus and upcoming sporting events with parents while posting notices about budget meetings, community-wide events and important issues to a larger community-partner circle.

Google+ is integrated with Google’s powerful search engine and its suite of apps. This has helped to jumpstart the social media platform’s popularity and make it easier to use in tandem with Google Hangouts, Gmail, YouTube (a Google acquisition) and even Google Maps. Take advantage of these integrations to make posting easier and to also encourage interaction.

Instagram

As a visual app that is incredibly easy to use, it’s no surprise that Instagram is a huge hit across demographics. Instagram is a fantastic way to add depth and heart to your key themes. Featuring photos of students in action, successful community events and teacher profiles will humanize your district’s mission and help make your calls-to-action more vital.

Pinterest

This might seem like a weird fit for a school district – and we will explore exactly how we suggest you use Pinterest at a later date. But for now, consider how every image or “pin” actually links to somewhere else on the internet. This means that you can easily use Pinterest as a visual hub for linking to your website, Twitter feed, YouTube videos and other important content.

It is also a great place to engage with users to get them excited about back to school, community events, holidays and fundraising campaigns through the use of themed boards that provide inspiration, links to important information and yet another easy way for your community to help share the information throughout their own networks.

YouTube

Videos are a great way to break up any social media feed and generate more interest and engagement. Short 30 second videos that emphasize core messages are far more powerful & effective than the same information written out. Videos that highlight student academic achievement as well as of school plays & concerts, sporting events and community service initiatives will show taxpayers their money at work and inspire further support when needed in the future.

Share your YouTube videos across all platforms – and share them often! Follow up and share an important message video with an “ICYMI” (“in case you missed it”) tagline to help emphasize the video’s importance. Re-post a video from last year’s choir concert to get students excited about this year’s auditions.

 

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Allerton Hill Consulting can help your school district create a comprehensive communications plan that finds a balanced strategy between traditional and new (social) media. Our communication plans include real world examples and editorial calendars that apply directly to your demographics and current communications issues. For more information, contact us via email – inquire@allerton-hill.com – or call 800-549-2285.

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AHC on Social Media, Part 1: The 4 C’s

August 13, 2015

As the 2015-16 school season starts, this is a great time to reassess and ramp up your social media efforts as a school district. For the next 7 Fridays, I will be sharing some general information about social media platforms, best practices for maximum impact and strategies for staying current and sane while managing an ever-evolving world of communities.

First, let’s talk about more general best practices and concepts to keep in mind regardless of the size of your social media following or which platforms you are using.

Your intentions and usage should always reflect The 4 C’s of Social Media:
Content
Conversations
Community
and Connections

 

Content.

Use social media to get information out! Whether you are making sure people know about an upcoming school holiday, promoting the fall choir concert or encouraging people to get out the vote, social media will get information in front of people’s eyes in an immediate and unavoidable capacity. Both Business Insider and UBM Tech’s Social Media @Work report that as of 2013, over 60% of all internet users go to social media for part or all of their news. Why not make sure YOUR news is being read at the same time?

(Content should be presented in a way that best reflects the medium you are using. Images work great on many platforms but need to be optimized for each network. Hashtags also serve different purposes on different networks. We’ll talk more about what goes where next week.)

 

Conversations.

It is not enough just to post regularly – daily! – across your social networks. Take the time to read and respond to comments and direct messages in a timely fashion. If someone comments on your wall, respond to them publicly as well. Chances are, others have the same question – and it will also encourage more comments and growing conversations! Be sure to address concerns and questions in a thoughtful and specific manner. If you don’t know an answer, promise to provide one and then follow up! This also means, of course, that anyone who is representing your school district on social media accounts must have easy access to information from top sources.

That being said, you should never engage with abusive or troll behavior. Any posts to your wall can reflect on you negatively if you they are not dealt with quickly and decisively without inciting further negativity or an escalation of an argument. Any comments that are defamatory towards your students or staff, that contain hate speech or that are antagonizing the conversation should be quickly deleted AFTER you take a screenshot of the offending comment and save it for future offline discussions and to protect your account’s integrity. Multiple offenders should be blocked from participating on your page.

 

Community.

There is a reason social media platforms are called networks. You should not only be posting your own content on your own accounts. Take the time to engage with students, parents and community members on their own page. This will prove that you are open to more conversations and are participating in social media as a community member and not using it as a bullhorn.

Obviously, you shouldn’t be chatting about last Friday’s party at a student’s house on Facebook or “liking” a student’s selfies on Instagram. But re-tweeting a student’s excitement about an upcoming football game or sharing a community organization’s calendar of events will show that you are paying attention and will earn you more followers.

 

Connections.

Are you looking for volunteers for your next blood drive? Do you need more intern applications? Are you looking for student contributions to your school Facebook page? Just ask! Social media should be an extension of your day-to-day community and should serve as a way to connect people with your school’s message and your needs. A “backpack express” note will only reach the parents who read it but a Facebook post has the potential to be shared across networks and find the right people to fill your needs.

 

For more general thoughts on how to approach your social media strategy, you can refer to this guide of “Do’s And Don’ts” for social media best practices:
(click to view image in full size)Allerton Hill Consulting Social Media Best Practices & Tips Guide

 

 

Next week (21 August): What goes where? Determining which social media networks are best for what kinds of content and engagement.

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Posted in Social Media
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