How movers and shakers “spent” their time while I was eating pie and watching football – SCN Encourager

My  secret spies confirm it. Movers and shakers INVEST rather than SPEND.

And I’m not talking about more than money here.

See a mover and shaker here? I don't. Where's Waldo?

See a mover and shaker here? I don’t. Where’s Waldo?

For sure.

Today’s upper tier leaders simply don’t fit the profile of most of our wild and crazy Black Friday shoppers.

Movers and shakers don’t anything I routinely do, sad to admit.

Well, shaving, maybe.

They do that.
(But I doubt they listen to podcasts and sports talk radio while doing it though.)

Movers and shakers just do things differently.

And as leaders committed to intentionally impacting the attitudes, behaviors, and culture within their organizations, they have firmed up their 2016 goals and action plans already.

This is a big way they are different.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 7.59.09 PMThey don’t believe in vague resolutions inspired by the calendar.

They don’t wait around to see “what’s trending” as they head into New Year’s Day.

They’ve set their investment priorities for the new year in motion right now.

And remember, I’m not talking about money here.

So, thanks to my spies, here’s what I’ve learned.


#1  How they direct their ATTENTION: with whom (key relationships), on what, when, and where…including attending to their health and fitness

#2  How they nurture their GRATITUDE: making sure to connect with its psychological benefit; which research says is right up there with meditation and prayer

#3  A PROCESS OR SYSTEM that both prunes and promotes: They will say “no” in order to say “yes.” They are comfortable in “letting go” of old ways in order to “move ahead” with new ways.

Movers and shakers just do things differently.

They don’t keep piling onto their plates.

They do what it takes to beat back the overwhelm.

Wish I could say the same.

Too much couch-potatoing has hampered my own moving and shaking of late.

I’d better do something about this soon –

or hope that “tummy jiggling” has some yet undiscovered hidden value.

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Did you see Seth Godin’s unique Thanksgiving gift to his readers? – SCN Encourager

Take the time to browse through it… and snag a possible school PR idea, too!

Seth Godin must have some “school communicator” in him.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 7.34.29 PMHe consistently manages to strike the right chord.

Godin’s a master marketer.

But he’s never salesy or pushy the way most of our commercial message-makers now seem to be.

He actually works hard to convey the right context… in the right spirit… at the right moment… and this is why I think he’s got to have some “school communicator” in him.

The school communicators I know (like you!) also work hard to do the same.

Yesterday Godin emailed a Thanksgiving gift to his readers.

Screen Shot 2015-11-24 at 7.50.11 PMHis downloadable pdf is certainly a unique presentation – something he hopes will inspire a little more thoughtful engagement between family members and friends gathered together for a Thanksgiving table.

Leave it to Godin to figure out a way to “crowdsource” the meaning of Thanksgiving.

I particularly liked this quote by Robert Nelson Jacobs.

“I think we’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, what we create, and who we include.”

This one’s a keeper in my book.

Godin was also smart enough to make his participatory pdf totally “Page family” friendly, too.

It’s meaningful and touches your heart, but it’s still short enough to be squeezed in during the halftime of the Lions game.


Along with the right context… in the right spirit… Godin still connects with the right Thanksgiving priorities!

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Oh, the school marketer I’d be with a bit more “chutzpah” – SCN Encourager

Wouldn’t it be a blast to inject some “shameless audacity” into a PR campaign sometime?

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 8.07.58 PMJust once?

I think it would.

I always fall into this rabbit hole whenever I hear an ad that pushes brazen to new heights.

A radio ad I heard yesterday made a big deal out of Stan Druckenmiller.

I had never heard of him before.

But the ad touted Druckenmiller as one of the world’s most respected investment advisors, “right next to Warren Buffet.”


“…right next to Warren Buffet.”


That must be nice.

Buffet, not Druckenmiller

Buffet, not Druckenmiller

And within seconds of establishing good ol’ Stan as an authoritative voice, the ad then pitched the wisdom of investing in gold (like beginning yesterday…) and closed by repeating its toll-free number about six times.

It made me jealous.

It also made me want to immediately launch ads of my own.

Of course, I’d have to write them first.

Awesome, well-written ads that would tell you how Holland High’s football coach probably “coached up” Mark Dantonio prior to last weekend’s big victory over the Buckeyes, how NASA probably relies on Holland High’s Quiz Bowl Team to double-check its calculations, and how the FBI most likely won’t even make a move on a fugitive without first consulting with our school’s police liaison officer.

But I can’t.

I don’t have the gall.

Besides our district finance director turned down my request for a toll-free number.

But oh, the school marketer I could’ve been…

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Don’t allow “math phobia” hamper your school PR – SCN Encourager

When people ask what you do, here’s a simple way to tell them.

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 7.42.40 PMAnd this tactic is connected with the two really big deals that are trending in marketing and communications.



I’m sorry it involves something like looks like a math formula.

Had I thought it up – rather than marketing ace Mike Koenigs – it would’ve looked more like a pizza and my favorite microbrew.

But despite its algebraic appearance, Koenigs’ formula works.

Especially if you want to level up your clarity when you’re talking to someone (AKA networking).

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 7.58.28 PMKoenigs recommends using this basic formula whenever someone asks you want you do.

He believes you should always be ready to impress.

Plus, it’ll promote additional positive discussion.

So, your response to a questioner should be along this line.

“I help “X” with “Y” even if “Z.”

For example, “I help kindergartners with their preparation for future success even if the future of learning and work is unpredictable and undefined.

There’s no doubt what the letters represent.

X = who you serve
Y = what you do, what you deliver (a benefit)
Z = the real-world problem or obstacle you help overcome

Koenigs is a cancer survivor so I’m glad he’s now making a very good living presenting this formula to leaders from all fields and professions.

It’s teachable and instantly do-able.

That’s definitely part of its appeal.

Some organizations now require every employee to have their own “XYZ” statement, whatever their level or department – all in the interest of improved clarity and better connecting what everyone does with others (AKA networking).

Works for me.

“I help school leaders and communicators with encouragement and school PR tips every now and then… even if I’m the one who needs the most improvement.”

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Fight for your 15 minutes of … (and nope, it’s not fame!) – SCN Encourager

Contentment experts recommend snagging YOUR OWN 15 minutes – whatever it is.

Just as long as it’s YOURS.

clockYou battle a lot every day.




There’s nothing easy on this list.

I didn’t dream up this list of “overwhelmers,” either.
(The fact that it’s so simple and clear should prove that much.)

Author and marketing leader Jack Trout said we’re going to be dealing with these three for a long, long time.

But our problem is a big one.

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 8.04.09 PMWhile the three terrible topics will be with us seemingly forever, our time is finite and short.

We never enough time to do all that we’d like.

Hence… the overwhelm often rises up in attempt to pull us down.

A much-repeated cliché posits that if you don’t manage your time, your time will manage you.

Makes sense, I guess.

But a straight-out tip would probably be more helpful.

So try this one out.
(All research-based, of course.)

Contentment experts say one of their most effective tips is to carve out “your own 15 minutes” everyday.

Go for the little win.

You know you’re going to worry and work practically around the clock, so why not schedule and give yourself 15 minutes of unplugged just-for-you time.

Most people on most days don’t even get this much.

If you’d like to move the needle up on your contentment gauge,

Take 15 minutes:
to walk,
to call,
to serve,
to send,
to apologize, 
to invite,
to ask,
to pray,
to thank,

to congratulate…

you get the idea.

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 8.05.58 PMIt’s your 15 minutes.

Just choose something…
just for you…
and do it just for 15 minutes.

You don’t have to let competition, change, and crisis consume more time out of your day than they should.

And this includes fretting over unfunded mandates, too.

Fight for your 15 minutes.

You know, I really like the feel of this tip.

It doesn’t cost a thing – and it could actually work!

Who knows?

I might even try to become a “contentment expert” someday as a sideline.

It could be quite lucrative.

I was going to try and become a “marriage advisor”… but Cindy took that one off the table 18 years ago.

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Feeling overwhelmed? Uh, hate to say it. But you better get used to it – SCN Encourager

Jack Trout’s excellent book “Repositioning” gives 3 reasons for our stress.

Screen Shot 2015-10-13 at 8.59.23 PMAnd he builds his entire book
around 3 words:




Bet you’re not shocked.

Our schools wrestle with these all of the time.

Trout believes it’s these realities that make it nearly impossible for us to get our intended messages seen and heard.

In his book, he has offers some suggestions for overcoming this, and I pointed out one of them back in mid-October.

It’s totally do-able in case you missed it.

Here ’tis.

I didn’t miss it.

I just forgot about it.

It was only yesterday that I actually noticed the book’s tagline, however:

Marketing in an era of competition, change, and crisis

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 7.46.14 PMI found Trout’s choice of the word “era” intriguing.

Why not use –
Marketing in a season of c, c, and c?
Marketing in an environment of c, c, and c?

Did Trout really have to use the word “era?” 

What’s an era, anyway?

Of course, the world of art has clear eras.

But do we?

Well, most dictionary definitions indicate that an era lasts at least as long as a generation.

Sometimes even longer.


This isn’t good news.

But if you’re a school communicator who’s growing in the ways you respond to competition, change, and crisis – perhaps it is!

There aren’t too many job skills out there nowadays that’ll last you at least as long as a generation.

The calculus skills I picked up during my freshman year in college didn’t even make it to the next semester!

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This piece of good news is a real game-changer in school PR! – SCN Encourager

I came back from Virginia with some great ideas.

What a brain cleansing trip!

amyWalking around a quiet farm for a couple of days will sure clear your mind.

(I suspect that’s why Cindy and middle daughter Amy conspired weeks ago to make this happen…)

In the distance I could look up and take in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains, while right down in front of me on the pathway to the barn, I had to be aware of scattered little piles of “stuff” that wouldn’t have been much fun at all to step in.

I was struck by the contrast.

And the little piles reminded me about the “great ideas” I had scribbled into a little notebook.

Uh, oh.

Maybe the scribbles in my pocket were more like those “little piles” in reality, and less like farm-fresh inspirations I had imagined them to be.

So, rather than springing them on you now upon my return home, I’m going to work them out a bit more, so hopefully you won’t feel the need hold your nose and step around and over them when I share them with you later.

lie detectorFor one thing, I wouldn’t be able to bamboozle you with some crappy scheme I just thought up while under the influence of non-city air, anyway.

You’d see through it.

Experts have proven that people are walking and talking “B.S. detectors” and can ascertain body language and other communication cues in mere micro-seconds.

I’ll admit that this fact depressed me for most my drive back home.

How could I risk sharing new ideas and thoughts with walking and talking B.S. detectors?

But then I heard a podcast featuring another research study and it restored my hope.

Consider these words by author Donald Miller:

“People get stuck, thinking they are one kind of person, but they aren’t … The human body essentially recreates itself every six months. Nearly every cell of hair and skin and bone dies and another is directed to its former place. You are not who you were in February.”

What wonderful news!

Now I might be able to slip my crazy down-from-the-farm ideas past you after all!

… if I just bide my time, that is.

Think about it.

It’s totally possible that the person you become in six months will be much less discerning.

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How would you like a 500% increase the positive perception of your district?

It’s an investment you may want to consider making

Positive news associated with Arlington (VA) Public Schools has soared 500 percent in the two years since Jen Harris became communications director, but she says lots of people have contributed to the transformation.

Screen Shot 2015-11-16 at 8.39.33 PMArchitect of the successful communications program is Assistant Superintendent for School and Community Relations Linda Erdos. Before Harris was hired, Erdos persuaded Superintendent Dr. Pat Murphy to add a $50,000 expenditure to equip and compensate “public relations liaisons” in each of the district’s 37 schools and programs.

Here’s how it works: Principals pick one school employee annually to serve as a liaison to Harris’s communications staff. The liaison is responsible for echoing weekly talking points generated by Harris’s team in communications in their building.

Liaisons also capture and post video and images of happenings in their school and post it to the the building’s social media accounts. Harris’s communications team boosts the best content to the district’s home page, electronic newsletters, and social media communications channels.

Qualities principals look for when appointing a PR liaison:

  • Understands the importance of social media in reaching young parents
  • Is comfortable using communications technologies
  • Likes being “out-and-about” in the school community

Liaisons are loaned an iPad Mini, which is all they need  to capture video and still images, record audio, write text, and upload content to the Internet.

For the extra duty of playing Lois Lane through an academic year, liaisons are paid a stipend of $1,000 if they work in an elementary school, $1,500 if they work in a middle school, and $2,000 if they work in a high school.

“Without PR liaisons, it would not be possible for us to cover every school every day,” Harris said. “The stipend program is a more efficient approach than adding another position to our communications staff — and at about half the cost.”

Training liaisons

In some schools, the PR liaison is a teacher. In others it may be a librarian or computer technician. In one school, it’s the testing coordinator.

But not one, so far, has had experience as a reporter.

Training people who care make it happen

Training people who care make it happen

“We hold quarterly meetings for our liaisons,” Harris said. “We need to give them training, mentoring and guidance.”

Much of Harris’s advice could be boiled down to the idiom “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Analytics show that people are most likely to read and react to content that is accompanied by an image. If that image is video, engagement increases significantly.

Historians may hate her for it one day, but Harris doesn’t require — or even want — students in pictures to be identified by name.

“We want to show what’s happening in our buildings, but we don’t have to say who’s doing it,” Harris said. “For example, posts from Walk and Bike to School Day showed families arriving at school without cars. It’s not necessary to identify that smiling kid in the bike seat.”

Most stories are short enough to be categorized as captions.

Training parents — and staff

Arlington schools are in the second year of rolling out a phased implementation of a one-to-one tablet program, and iPad devices come loaded with the district’s mobile app.

Parents are also encouraged to download the app to their mobile phones. At formal and informal school gatherings, parents are shown how to search on designated hashtags to find out what’s happening at school.

Email and the district’s website still remain the most effective way to reach parents, Harris said.

Jen Harris and Arlington Public Schools’ Twitter team

Jen & the district Twitter team.

Nevertheless, the importance of social media in the district’s overall communications strategy is growing. “Here’s what’s happening at school” posts enhance the district’s public image.

Sometimes school staff is reluctant to jump on the social media bandwagon.

For example, members of Arlington’s Transportation Department weren’t interested in having a Twitter account. If they got any comments at all, drivers believed it would be complaints about late buses.

Attitudes softened when a “Cocoa With Your Crossing Guard” event was held in conjunction with the school crossing guards’ hashtag.  Curbside selfies posted online of students toasting their crossing guards with cups of hot chocolate made the guard kings and queens for a day.

“When they see social media’s value, they come to us and ask to be trained,” Harris said. “I would never make anybody do it. They have to want to.”

Transportation was surprised when more than 100 people clicked to follow within 24 hours of their hashtag’s debut, Harris said. And followers — to drivers’ delight! — have more on their minds than late buses.



Chalk one up for Snowmageddon!

School PR pro says 2010 storm showed her the power of social media

Snowmageddon was a whirlwind of winter storms that buried the Mid-Atlantic states under record snowfalls in February 2010.

Arlington (VA) Public Schools Director of Communications Jen Harris says Snowmageddon was also the event that showed her community building powers of social media hash tags.

Jen Harris

Jen Harris

When Snowmageddon struck, Jen was doing communications for the city of Alexandria, Virg. (Like Arlington, Alexandria is just outside Washington, D.C.)

For the first time, residents en masse were communicating concerns about impassable streets, malfunctioning traffic signals, and interrupted utilities to city government through Facebook posts and Twitter tweets.

Jen and staff monitored the social media buzz through hashtags, responding to each comment within 24 hours.

Never before had city government handled social media posts with the same urgency as phone calls, snail-mailed letters or email messages direct to the Mayor’s office.

Social media savvy citizens “became our eyes and ears on the ground,”  Jen said. The result: Snowmageddon didn’t bury Alexandria for long.

“I knew then that I was seeing the communications platform of the future,” Harris said. “Social media is a space where the public and its institutions can interact effectively.”

Bringing social media to a school setting

Alexandria’s Twitter following had swelled to than 6,000 people by 2013, when Arlington Public Schools hired her as its communications director.

There was plenty of room to grow a social media presence. Arlington Public Schools — which enrolls more than 25,500 students in 37 schools and programs — had only 800 Twitter and 1,300 Facebook followers.

Jen was gung ho for using social media to brand and build a stronger community, as she had in Alexandria and in a previous position with the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

However, she found school leaders to be more cautious about social media than government workers. With children in the audience,  complex discussions of  what would be appropriate and not appropriate were essential. School employees needed to be clear about who they were seeking to engage, and why.

Arlington Public Schools is active on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Periscope. Jen hopes to expand to Vine and SnapChat in 2016, following talks with a student advisory group to hammer out parameters for student use.

Hashtags are used across social media platforms. This allows people who do an electronic search on a hashtag to zip together conversations.

Commonly used hashtags are publicized through the district’s electronic newsletters, appear on the district’s website and marketing materials, and are printed on the flyers that students carry home in their backpacks.

Jen Harris’s Top 5 reasons why using hashtags is sweet


Hashtags and tweetie bird cookies? No way!











1. Consistency in messaging

2. Collective public relations campaign to be repackaged into apps that showcase hashtag use

3. Pulls together community in dialogue

4. Schools can create their own hashtag “brand”

5. We can track not just our tweet reach, but trends (through hashtag data)

A collaborative communications strategy

Monday morning meetings with her five-person communications team (which includes a videographer) are Ground Zero for delivering well-coordinated messaging, Jen said.

In a big district with a lot going on, the communications staff must collectively decide what will make for the best content, and then decide how to share it, she said.

Jen Harris meets weekly with her communications team.

Jen Harris meets weekly with her communications team.

“We decide weekly on a few key messages that pertain to the entire school district and encourage lots of voices to share it,” Jen said. “Schools are free to do their own thing, too, but we start from the same playbook.”

Team members are assigned to monitor the district’s weekly Twitter chat and “Twitter Town Halls” are held periodically. There’s a schedule detailing who’s responsible for responding to comments about the district posted to social media.

Each communications staffer is responsible for developing content in special areas, including “Motivational Mondays,” “Terrific Tuesdays” and “Throwback Thursdays.”

The team uses online analytics to identify each week’s highest performing content, then is tasked to develop more like it.

Not all school communicators are former journalists or teacher wannabes 

If this seems like a highly systematic approach to communication, Jen laughs that she can probably blame her training. She’s a Cornell-trained engineer with a master’s degree in public administration from George Mason University.

She admits she didn’t know a lot about public relations when the U.S. Conference of Mayors hired her to promote a new recycling initiative.

She found success in being able to explain scientific concepts in words that the general public understands — and with sufficient enthusiasm to inspire change.

Under her leadership, positive news about Arlington Public Schools has skyrocketed 500 percent over the last two years.

But Jen is quick to point out that others deserve credit for the epic increase.

To find out what makes Arlington Public Schools’ communications program is so successful, come back right here tomorrow.


Storytelling is hot, hot, hot. Which is fine as long as some stories are about someone else. – SCN Encourager

Hooray! This customer service story took place in a hospital in Ohio.

Not at a school.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 11.17.27 PMI always get nervous when I read books on top drawer communication practices, building customer loyalty, and exceeding user expectations.

It never bothers me at all when authors illustrate how leaders in other industries or professions occasionally mess up.

I just don’t like to see well-intentioned school people somehow turned into “the object lesson” for something that’s gone wrong.

Here’s an example.

This anecdote came from a book on improving customer service.

And I’m elated that it singled out the leadership team at a struggling hospital in Ohio, not any of us.

The hospital was on the brink of financial ruin.

It was getting clobbered in a fiercely competitive “healthcare choice” environment and was steadily losing market share.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 11.41.17 PMHospital management thought it was time to survey patients and other potential users to see if they (the patients) had any worthwhile ideas and suggestions about what could be done to turn things around.

So the surveys went out and the feedback came in.

The hospital’s leadership team then huddled to wrestle with the results.

It was a frustrating meeting for all in attendance.

But after a few hours, the CEO and his team drew up a long list of the ideas and suggestions which were submitted, and tagged most of them as too impractical, too costly, too out-of-touch with real-world hospital operations, too outrageous, too ignorant of the regulatory burden on healthcare providers, and basically too pie-in-the-sky.

The CEO was inwardly panicked.

What kind of survey did people think they were taking, anyway?

Did they somehow think they were giving feedback for a five-star all-inclusive Caribbean resort?

He felt sick.

Screen Shot 2015-11-12 at 11.43.28 PMBut then, whether it was out of anger or a clear awareness that shutting down the entire hospital was only 12-16 months away, the CEO taped the “ridiculous list” of ideas and suggestions up on the conference room wall for further review.

After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, he assigned every leadership team member to a specific project on the list and conceded, “Let’s see if we can make these happen. We’ll be out of business soon anyway.”

So, the hospital team began to simply”work the list” that was up on the wall, and 16 months later the hospital never had to consider closing its doors.

Why would it?

The hospital was now the new healthcare leader in its community.

A cool story.

Don’tcha think?

And didn’t you find it interesting how those survey results were initially treated?

I can’t believe those hospital folks almost blew it completely.

None of us would’ve done this.

I know I wouldn’t have.

At least not since last March.

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