Who do you trust enough to regularly rub your lamp? – SCN Encourager

This question isn’t as kinky as it appears.

I’m actually somewhat serious.

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-7-35-13-pmSo there’s no need to worry about me posting up images from the old “I Dream of Jeannie” TV show with Barbara Eden.

But don’t put it past me.

Although the TV show aired 45 years ago, that kind of research might be fun.

No, I’m talking about the person – your most trusted truth-challenger– who pushes you to get outside of your own lamp on occasion.

I hope you have one.

And that this person’s name immediately comes to mind.

Because whoever he or she is, a bit of appreciation is in order.

You see, I heard a successful marketer recently say “It’s impossible to read the label from inside of the bottle.”


Even I couldn’t miss this point.

Whether you call “your lamp” your comfort zone… your standard operational playbook… or the consensus opinion of your district leadership team, many of the best ideas and a-ha moments are not found within it.

screen-shot-2016-09-22-at-8-29-55-pmSometimes you need to step out OUT of your lamp in order to take a critical step UP.

That’s why you need someone who can honestly share an outsider’s perspective with you; someone you trust enough to routinely rub your lamp and draw you out.

This only makes sense, right?

So if it helps – I’ve gone ahead and posted this picture of Jeannie the genie – just to drive the point home.

And that’s the only reason I did it.

Just to make today’s Encourager more memorable.

It has nothing to do with me not being able to fight off the temptation to somehow work her picture in.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –




We’re all umbrella holders in some way (with a few of us wackier than others) – SCN Encourager

As school leaders and communicators we serve a noble purpose.

It’s true.

I came across this photo and thought of you and me.

In a sense, aren’t we all umbrella holders who attempt to shield and protect our schools, people, and programs from the frequent storms that come our way, be they from the legislature or from life in general?

Wouldn’t you agree? 









I came across this photo on a very interesting (and useful!) website called: Once Upon a Picture: Images to Inspire.

If ever you need to get your people pondering what’s possible and coming to grips with their value – even if it’s just to jumpstart yourself – it’s well worth a peek.

I like it because every photo comes along with its own set of 4-6 questions.

As always, Easy and Peasy are two of the top three criteria for something to be beneficial to me.

My third requirement toggles between “comfortable” and “not too embarrassing.”

And I plug one of those in depending on the situation.

Now…  go stay dry today!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


What are the odds of lightning striking twice? – SCN Encourager

It happened! I’ve beaten the odds!

Forgive my boasting.

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-7-27-58-pmI’d push out my chest with pride if it didn’t require me to first suck in my gut.

But think about it.

Recently I wrote about the importance of first impressions and how we’re really only as good as our last impression.

And dang.

What does master marketing expert Seth Godin choose to write about in his popular blog?

The exact same thing!

And then yesterday, remember how I wrote about “gaps?”
(Okay… humor me and pretend you do.)

Well, it happened again!

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-7-10-11-pmGodin wrote about a “gap” too!

Admit it.

It’s uncanny.

That both of us would expound on similar topics in the same timeframe.

Sure, we approached them differently.

But that’s not Godin’s fault.

As Cindy’s told me frequently, no one on the planet thinks like I do.

Godin said we worry far too much about making a good first or last impression.

Rather, he believes, since we’re more likely to make NO IMPRESSION at all, that’s where we should direct our effort.

It’s all about playing the odds.

screen-shot-2016-09-20-at-7-59-40-pmNow with respect to the “gap” business, Godin deftly inserted it into his essay about reputations.

I took an extra measure of pride in that.
(Why? Who knows? Just being a knucklehead, I guess.)

Godin had a unique way to describe the gap between your reputation and reality.

He called that particular gap…wait for it... gossip.

When there’s little gap between your reputation and reality, gossip is accorded only minimal room to roam.

Pretty cool thinking, don’tcha think?

I do.

I only wish I had been the one to think it up.

But at least Godin and I were touching upon the same topics.

Even if we did so from different intellectual hemispheres.

This doesn’t happen all that often, you know.

And don’t forget to sign up for the free 45 minute Lunchinar scheduled for Sept. 28.

Crisis communications Rick Kaufman will help us level up our emergency response planning.

We don’t get opportunities like this all that often, either.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –






Do you like living in the shadow of all of those “gaps?” – SCN Encourager

No doubt you’re pretty good at it.

Most school leaders and communicators are.

When you get right down to it, we’re usually working hard to maintain a razor thin gap between Awareness and Action.

We’re practically immersed in “gap management.”

– achievement gaps,
– legislative mandate & funding gaps,
– costs & revenue gaps,
– and the gap between who “our students are today” and “the promise they hold for tomorrow.”

We even keep track of gaps during our off hours, too.

–  how far the Tigers are out of the playoffs,
–  the penalities the Lions commit compared to an average 7th grade team,
–  and the gap between what’s actually fun to eat and what’s green and healthy.

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-10-07-48-pmWhile I wish family members would let me battle my “gaps” alone and in peace, I’m don’t have that luxury.

My younger brothers love to remind me about the gaps in our ages.

My daughters love to point out the great distance I typically have to make up between “being clueless” and “having a clue.”

And don’t even get me started about Cindy.

Her omnipresent seeing is believing standard is always a pain.

For example.

I’m a school communicator.

I’m perfectly content to TALK about being less heavy.

Cindy isn’t.

She wants to SEE me less heavy.

How unfair is that I ask you?

And by now, you may be wondering about where all this “gap yap” is headed.

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-10-09-19-pmFair enough.

I just thought I’d point out that Rick Kaufman, the premier school crisis response expert who also wrote NSPRA’s book on crisis communications, is a big time “gap closer.”

He’ll tell you that many of us – when it comes to leveling up our school crisis communications planning –  are way too comfortable with the real-world gap between IF and WHEN.

That is, it’s not a matter of IF you’ll have a school crisis to deal with sometime, it’s only a question of WHEN.

So IF you’d like some help on closing the school crisis response planning gap, here’s WHEN to take action.

Right now!

So sign up for the free 45 minute Lunchinar with Rick which will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 28.

(And if you need more scoop about the Lunchinar itself, here ’tis.)

It’ll be rock-solid live streamed conversation.

Of course, I’m also hoping host Holly McCaw will seek out a different kind of expert in October.

I could sure use some tips for bridging the gap between “my talk” and my wife’s “sight.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – –




Breaking news. Crisis response expert Rick Kaufman is our next Lunchinar guest. – SCN Encourager

We hope you can join us Wednesday, September 28.

We have an awesome SCN Lunchinar planned!


rick-kaufman-at-4-01-13-pmRick was the school PR leader caught in the communications whirlwind during the tragedy at Columbine High School in Jefferson County, CO back in 1999 and he has guided and comforted school officials, students, and families all across the U.S. during times of crisis ever since.

Rick  is a frequent presenter at NSPRA and, in fact, he authored NSPRA’s comprehensive crisis communications book.

His experience is deep and wide and you’ll enjoy his down-to-earth and do-able insights.

Our SCN Lunchinars are FREE live streaming chats that always run from 12:15 – 1 pm EST.

Just picture a lively 45 minute virtual get-together over lunchtime with an amazing guest – and add in a fun group of your fellow school communicators from all over – and that’ll give you a good idea of what a Lunchinar is all about.

Holly McCawEvery SCN Lunchinar is hosted by our video and TV savvy host Holly McCaw, the talented communications director of Otsego Public Schools.

Holly is already working on the interview she’ll have with Rick and your questions are invited, too!

Our Zoom audio/visual live chat system makes the whole process straightforward and simple.

You won’t need to download software or use meeting codes.

We just send you a link.

So here’s what to do:

1. Mark Wednesday, Sept. 28, from 12:15 – 1 pm (ET) on your calendar.

2. Click here to sign up and join us. 

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – 



Is your idea of a Resource Inventory way too narrow? – SCN Encourager

Campaigns and plans need more than money, you know.

Successful campaigns and plans combine a myriad of components.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-7-29-52-pmAnd frequently pulling the funding piece together is the easiest part.

You wouldn’t think so.

(I don’t.
Er… Cindy doesn’t.)

But it’s true.

While money is important, the other 19 assets on my Resource Inventory are actually more difficult to obtain.

Because not knowing where you are with each of these from the get-go will hurt your chances of ever crafting an effective strategy to reach your goals.

Money’s not enough.

You should also consider and gauge these.

Commitment & Intensity
Issue Relevance & Significance
Simplicity of Message/Position
Clear Direction
Clear Benchmarks
Hopes & Dreams (You, Them)
Trust & Character
Teamwork & Mutual Support
A Trusted Devil’s Advocate
Time Availability & Calendar
Audiences That Care
Background Knowledge
A Technology Edge
A Fun & Friendly Approach

For more than 120 election campaigns over the years, these have been the 19 “must know” items on the Resource Inventory I use in preparing my preliminary campaign plan.

screen-shot-2016-09-13-at-9-00-49-pmBut I’ve totally overlooked something.

The strange confluence of millennials, gen X’ers, and baby boomers has created a new “must have.”

A rock-solid Resource Inventory must now include: Generational Participation.

This bumps the Resource Inventory Checklist up to 20.

But that’s okay.

Now as one of my daughter’s would say, “Nice one, Dad. Way to keep old farts in the loop.”

Well, I suppose that’s true, too.

But I’ll tell you, whenever you sit down with a campaign committee or group and ask for help in building up an actionable multi-item Resource Inventory, all of a sudden you’ll see the checkbooks come out!

Go figure.

The more you talk over the items on your Resource Inventory to others, the more they will try to chip in money to make YOU and IT all go away.

(Even Cindy will find cash I never knew she had!)

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


Yay or nay. You’re only as good as your “last impression.” – SCN Encourager

This is an epic “last impression” story.

The facts:

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-5-12-46-pmIn 2004 Blockbuster Video enjoyed $6 billion on annual revenues.


In 2010 it went bankrupt.


So what went wrong?

Well, for starters, on a pivotal day in 1997, one particular Blockbuster customer became irate when he was forced to pay $40 in late fees.

He left the store carrying with him a “last impression” that set in motion his “never again” resolve.

The customer was Reed Hastings, the founder of Netflixscreen-shot-2016-09-11-at-7-59-04-am

Even I couldn’t miss the lesson here.

Sometimes your “last impression” can indeed come back to haunt you.

And don’t I know it!

That’s why as you’re reading this… I’m already working on tomorrow’s Encourager.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


Thanks to last week’s NSPRA leaders for their “leanings” – SCN Encourager

No, that’s not a typo.

It’s leanings, not learnings.

Even though 11 amazing school PR pros did share some great learnings from NSPRA 2016 with us last week.

Delaina McCormack, Tom Scheidel, Jen Harris, & Gerri Allen






Lesley Bruinton, Dane Dellenbach, Karen Heath, & Tracy Jentz






Shane Haggerty, Holly McCaw, & Kristin Magette






I used the word “leaning” because that’s what I “learned” from them.

One-by-one, I witnessed their dedication to – 

lean into what’s new,
lean into what works,
lean into what’s next,
and lean into taking action.

I found them inspiring to tell you the truth.

And once I can stop leaning to catch my breath.

I might even do something about it!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –


Last but not least. The final two school communicators are impressive. – SCN Encourager

Yes, I know “last but not least” is a lame cliché.

But what do I care?!?

screen-shot-2016-09-08-at-9-02-33-pmI’m FREE from yesterday’s stress of writing about three of my Michigan school PR neighbors.

With Shane Haggerty 300 miles away and Tracy Jentz 875 miles away, I can now write totally uncensored and unfettered and not have to worry about offending someone.

Like someone close enough to drive over and publicly lodge a complaint at my next school board meeting.

Now, I’ll admit,  it would be wonderful if I actually knew some words and phrases worthy of censoring and fettering.

But still … it feels wonderful just knowing I could use them if I felt like it!

Shane Haggerty is the Director of Marketing and Technology at the Tolles Career & Technical Center, Plain City, Ohio.

Screen Shot 2016-09-08 at 7.51.54 PMLocated near Columbus, Ohio, Tolles Career & Technical Center is the premier (and most famous!) educational institution of any size in that part of his state.

In fact, I can’t even think of another school or college anywhere near where Shane hangs his hat.

Now maybe if one of those other schools had a decent sports team or something, that might pull some publicity away from Tolles, but what do I know?

At any rate, it probably won’t be too long before we’re all calling TCTC “THE Tolles Career & Technical Center.”

And that’s because Shane Haggerty is a master communicator.

I met Shane when he was the keynote speaker at an MSPRA conference last year.

(We were in the lunchtime buffet line together and he would’ve had difficulty moving away without losing his place in line.)

Shane developed his strong marketing mind and skill set long before entering the school PR field.

He’s a knowledgeable and insightful presenter on social media and other school PR topics and, no doubt, his genuine friendliness and quick wit continue to earn him many speaking invitations.

Rich Harwood

Rich Harwood

You’ll appreciate the four-letter word Shane highlights in his NSPRA 2016 takeaway.

“I was really moved by the Rich Harwood keynote when he called on our profession to “tell a new set of stories that provide our communities HOPE.” It continues to inspire me to be innovative and try new tactics in school PR, emphasizing emotional connections and providing resources to our constituents, instead of strictly pushing news and information. We told the story of our alumni and career-tech in last year’s “Landed” documentary, and we will continue to tell a “new set” of stories this year.”

The next school communicator from miles away is straight out of the “can do” DIY mold.

Tracy JentzTracy Jentz is the Communications Coordinator, for Grand Forks Public Schools in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Whether it’s plugging into NSPRA or participating in our SCN Lunchinars, Tracy is always looking for ways to improve her school district’s communications and reach.

I appreciate how she leans toward ACTION instead of sitting back and testing the prevailing wind.

Tracy is committed to continuous learning and always moving forward.

And Tracy’s NSPRA 2016 tip illustrates this.

“My favorite actionable tip from NSPRA 2016 is to use the technology tools that are available to me to help me with my job. For example, the Adobe Spark products (page, post, video) are great, free tools to use when creating graphics, newsletters, and videos. I don’t have to be a graphic designer (or hire one) to be able to make quality products for our district. In fact, I’ve already made several social media graphics for the upcoming school year, and am looking at transferring our employee newsletter to a new product. Free and time-saving, it doesn’t get better than that!” (Explore it here.)

Now in closing out this super week of tips and thoughts from school communicators I think the world of, I must squeeze out one final tip.

Screen Shot 2016-09-08 at 8.18.39 PMI should’ve known my superintendent would demand to see an NSPRA takeaway from me, too.
(“What the heck are we sending you to Chicago for, anyway?”) 

So. let’s just call this one my personal CYA tip and know I’m grateful for your patience.

While I brought my low tech bullhorn to Chicago with the intention of learning how to step up from my present one button version to a more state-of-the-art two button model, NSPRA didn’t offer any workshops which covered this.

NSPRA offered so many awesome workshops, the conference planners probably didn’t catch this oversight.

Screen Shot 2016-09-08 at 8.17.06 PMBut one of the more do-able (and uplifting) actions I’ve taken since NSPRA 2016 has been to set up and promote a common hashtag districtwide.

A young school communicator from Pennsylvania recommended trying this and Bingo! It’s starting to catch on.

And now, with one centralized hashtag to go to, our idle community ambassador network is starting to pick up some steam again.

So, that’s it.

Thanks for checking in with these NSPRA 2016 inspired tips throughout the week.

And I’m sorry this Encourager ran long… but I couldn’t help enjoying my new freedom!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –





Live from Michigan. NSPRA tips for you. Trouble for me. – SCN Encourager

Unbelievable! I’ve never experienced writer’s block before!

Talk about a panic attack.

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 7.40.45 PMBut writing about these three awesome school communicators stressed me out.

You see, they’re all Michigan “neighbors” of mine.

Yesterday all I had to was write away.

Kristin Magette (Kansas) and Jennifer Harris (Virginia) made it easy.

Because they live hundreds of miles away, I never worried about them reading my Encourager and then punching me in the nose later.

(Well, not too much…)

But this isn’t the case when writing about fellow Michiganders.

It’s dang hard.

When you realize possible retribution is less than a tankful of gas away, you play it safe.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 8.37.22 PMNot that Holly McCaw, the talented Director of Communications for Otsego Public Schools, would play by my rules anyway.

Since Holly is our engaging monthly “SCN Lunchinar” host and has been a part of SCN for three years, I should’ve seen this coming.

I requested one tip.

She sent in four!

I think she was daring me to just try and make an edit.

But I’m glad I wimped out.

Holly’s takeaways from NSPRA 2o16 were excellent.

“I can’t choose only one thing. I’m going to – 
1. Start a student advisory committee with my superintendent
2. Explore ways to our emergency procedures with parents. I think it’s important for parents to know what those drills look like so they’re not nervous when they take place.
3. Get a reverse mentor
4. Use Facebook Live
I took away a lot more on engaging the public and creating quick, but good, messaging in a crisis as well as some new tools, but the four items above are on my short-term list.”

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 4.08.28 PMKaren Heath is the Supervisor of Communications for the Berrien RESA.

She is so good at what she does she can explain the difference in Michigan between an ISD, an ESA, a REMC, and a RESA.

Something I’m not brave enough to try.

Karen and I both “transitioned” into school communications years ago from our previous positions as legislative communication staffers at the State Capitol.

We both learned a ton by working on various political campaigns.

But perhaps the less said about that, the better.

At any rate, I respect Karen’s background and expertise immensely.

And I’m sure not about to skip past her recommendation.

She’s the President-Elect of the Michigan School Public Relations Association (MSPRA) for crying out loud!

“Learn how to coordinate emergency/crisis responses with your county’s FEMA appointed emergency information officers! Unfortunately, school communicators are often left out of the loop when other first-responding agencies are involved in crisis situations. Build relationships with your local FBI liaisons and county emergency response team members to be sure you have a seat at the table!”

Looks like a great way to level up your emergency response plan, don’tcha think?

Screen Shot 2016-09-07 at 4.15.36 PMAnd leave it to Gerri Allen, the Executive Director of MSPRA, to serve up a takeaway from NSPRA 2016 that has all of our personal welfare in mind.

If there’s a nicer person in our profession I don’t know who it is.

This doesn’t mean that Gerri is a softie, though.

The article SCN feature writer Kym Reinstadler wrote two years ago about Gerri and the value of research is classic.

It’s also an example of Gerri’s depth and understanding about what it takes to be a solid school PR pro.

And so is this.

“I left NSPRA 2016 with a fresh focus on the well-being of school PR practitioners. School Communicators are often the first responders in a crisis. We run toward trouble. And, the nature of our job can cause us to remain in a hyper-vigilant state. That’s why it’s important to take care of ourselves.

Chris Williams, Community Relations Director from Davis School District in Farmington, Utah encourages us to purposefully plan rest and relaxation. He also suggests that we read “Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement” by Kevin M. Gilmartin, Ph.D., replacing the term “police officer” with “PR professional” to see ourselves among the pages.

So, as we begin another school year, “let’s be careful out there”… and take care of ourselves.”

Good advice, Gerri.

And I intend to pursue the less stressful “rest and relaxation” component tomorrow.

By writing about two out-of-state school communicators!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –