Ready for a little experiment? C’mon, give it a go! – SCN Encourager

I’ve tagged this experiment “Dial in to level up.”

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 8.33.20 PMIt’s not that hard.

Just unorthodox.

And if you believe in lifelong learning (just as you believe in air), you know that lifelong learning should be accompanied by lifelong acting (just like breathing).

What good is snagging new knowledge over the years if you’re not willing to discern, compare, reject or embrace, and ultimately apply it?

Cindy says that I don’t actually discern and compare; that I’m more prone to mull and stew.

But however YOU “level up” your new learning is up to you, as long as you’ve connected your learning to an intentional and appropriate action later, even if the action comes much much later and your resulting course of action is the deliberate decision to stay with the status quo.

That’s okay.

You’ve initiated some walk to go along with all of that previous talk.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 8.45.18 PMBecause taking action is so important to lifelong learning and personal growth, I’m going to make a suggestion in this Encourager, one that I’ve never done before.

I’d like to invite you to listen to a six minute audio clip I swiped from one of my favorite podcasts.

As a connoisseur of podcasts (Cindy uses the word “crazed”), I hear many short rifs and commentaries that really perk up my thinking.

I think it’ll be fun to share these with you from time to time.

Screen Shot 2015-07-30 at 8.17.42 PM

This clip – our experiment #1 – comes from the “” podcast.

It’s a podcast hosted by the New York-based husband and wife marketing team of Carol Lynn and Ralph Rivera.

Their podcast on iTunes and Stitcher radio consistently tosses out gems to rake in: that is, once I get past imagining Cindy and me attempting to go on the air together ourselves.

Boy, wouldn’t that be something?

Now as fate would have it, I listened to Ralph and Carol Lynn interview marketer and author Ryan Hanley while driving back to Holland from Petoskey in late June, after attending MSPRA’s daylong summer conference.

You might remember that I wrote about Dr. Nancy Colflesh’s presentation on cross-generational communication at the time.

It was because this topic was fresh on my mind (being more aware of demographic segments, generational differences, etc.) that I was fascinated by what Ryan Hanley had to say when Carol Lynn Rivera broached the same topic with him.

Ryan Hanley's BookNow Ryan’s a young guy.

But he’s been a longtime marketing director and trainer in the insurance industry and over the last couple of years, he’s chronicled his personal “learnings” in his own podcast, on YouTube, a blog, and Google+.

He’s also written a best selling book.

I enjoy him immensely, too.

More interesting perhaps (to me, anyway), has been Ryan’s evolution as a passionate and energetic marketing expert since he and his wife had their first child last year.

Ryan’s still fun to listen to and read, of course, but I can tell becoming a dad has made him become more thoughtful and long-term oriented.

His 6 minute clip is good stuff!

I hope you’ll also enjoy listening to Ryan’s brief re-framing of what Dr. Colflesh had to say about communication to cross-generations.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Here’s the clip. You can listen to it anytime, on any device. Your way.

Cindy’s cautioned me about not getting my hopes up that you’ll like listening to a podcast clip.

But I thought, what the heck?

All I can do is toss it your way and you can let me know what you think about it later.

(And in your response, please be kind. You know I’ve put myself into a possible “lose-lose” situation here at home. You might tell me you don’t like listening to podcast excerpts (a lose) and then Cindy would be proven right (an even bigger lose!).







PR pros beware. Don’t let this list of banned words trip you up. – SCN Encourager

The famed Econsultancy sure hasn’t done me any favors.

out of businessDang ’em.

Their list might put me out of business.

They can bemoan “PRspeak and jargon” all they want – but I will go to my grave defending our constitutional right to express “mumbo-jumbo.”

Gratefully, the list below doesn’t include any of the words we real-world school communicators frequently use on the job.


Well anyway, Econsultancy’s editors warn that if you want to stay below the “BS Radar” of most people, you must avoid the following words:

• Verbage

• Robust

• Paradigm shift

• Cradle-to-grave

•  24/7

•  Come to the party

•  Synergies

•  Incentivise

•  Leverage

•  Touch base

•  Learnings

•  Over-arching

•  Deliverables

•  Actionable

•  Value-added

•  Mission critical

•  Blue sky thinking

Econsultancy attempts to show some sensitivity and heart by recommending that you can convey the same concepts by just “choosing” to use different words.

Really now.

Isn’t this like telling a person who’s broke to just go out and “choose” to get some money?

Besides, I’ve never even heard “blue sky thinking” before!

So, how in the world can I come up with an alternative for that?

And, uh oh…

here’s a stinging punch to the gut.

“Come to the party” is another one on the list I’m not all that familiar with, either!




Marketing to millennials? This simple chart pretty well sums it up. – SCN Encourager

I hope you weren’t hoping for something more complex!

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 4.15.40 PMBut it’s too hot outside.

Yeah, I know I should be bringing you a more impressive and intricate marketing matrix, but I just couldn’t get in the mood to write about one.

Especially right after mowing the lawn.

I had even found the perfect marketing graphic to bedazzle you with!

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 4.09.49 PMHow could any school communicator not want to know more about this one?

It’s just begging for one of my round-a-bout explanations.

Writing about this colorful marketing hydra was a tempting challenge, I’ll grant you that.

But it’s too dang hot.

I’ll re-file this one for February.

Luckily, I came across a recent marketing presentation by Amrita Chandra and pulled out this single slide.

Amrita is a Canadian based marketing expert who has also managed campaigns in the U.S. and Europe.

Her comfort zone when it comes to demographics is… like 40% of our planet!

The left column shows the values and attributes that use to be the most important years ago, the column on the right shows what is coveted now by millennials, our parents!

Whatcha’ think?

Screen Shot 2015-07-28 at 3.57.27 PM

In looking this over, I feel bad that what I’ve cared about since the days of Herbert Hoover has been crossed out!

Now I’m still hot … AND feeling very very old as well!

This is somewhat distressing.

I knew I should’ve written about that marketing hydra instead.

I just knew it!

Over 600 words or so, I could’ve spun that thing any which way I wanted.

But Amrita’s simple chart didn’t leave me the “wiggle room” I usually require.





Okay, I’ll admit it. Here’s one of the secrets I must hide from Cindy. – SCN Encourager

I refuse to ever let her see me reading an article with the headline “how to be more awesome.”

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 8.42.27 PMThe inevitable teasing would be brutal.

But her skepticism alone wouldn’t mean the article lacked merit.

It just means that Cindy hasn’t bought in… yet.

I used the word “yet” because there’s hope Cindy might actually support this article about the value of keystone habits without comment.

For sure, she’d believe YOU could become “more awesome.”

That goes without saying.

I’m probably considered more of a lost cause, though.

But I thought the article about keystone habits had something to say directly to every school communicator.

I wouldn’t have read it in secret using a flashlight, otherwise.

It made me wonder about my own keystone habit.

What is my immediate “go to” mindset and behavior (the habit) that I grab whenever a quick flare-up situation pops up at work?

Do I have one?
Do I even know what it is?
Do you have one?
Do you know what it is?

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 9.21.13 PMThe most powerful keystone habit for me over the years has been to “always put on my parent cap.”

Although I’m not as nimble in scrambling up to this vantage point as I used to be, I can’t think of a time when approaching a situation at school with “my parent’s cap” on didn’t serve me well.

No doubt about it, it’s important to be mindful of the needs of your students and staff, but when the heat is on, you’ve got to start some place.

Empathetically accelerating what a parent needs to know (and by whom and how) is a consistent winner.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 4.09.48 PMI’m guessing your “parent cap” isn’t too far from your reach, either.

You may not have “Ferrari” on the back of yours – I don’t – but it isn’t for the lack of trying.

I figured that if I was going to struggle at “becoming awesome,” I should at least have a magnificent motivational word on the back of my cap.

You know; Ferrari, Ace, or NSPRA2016.

I asked Cindy for her opinion.

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 4.11.11 PM“What word of inspiration do you think would be the best one to have on the back of my parent cap?” I asked.

She didn’t answer right away.

Instead she went to her computer and printed out this photo.

“Why not buy a cap with ear flaps?” she smirked. “I think you’d look cute.”

So, now do you see why I must keep a few secrets at home?

Keeping secrets now and then is usually a whole lot easier than “securing buy-in.”





Three memorable takeaways from NSPRA 2015

by Ron Koehler, Assistant Superintendent - Kent Intermediate School District (MI)

They’re do-able and won’t break your budget.

Ron KoehlerLet’s go!

When SCN asked me for a few beneficial takeaways from NSPRA 2015 in Nashville, I jumped at the chance. As a former past president of both NSPRA and MSPRA, my heart is with you and every in-the-trenches school communicator. I appreciate the positive contribution you make in your school district.

The first two are from the presentation made by Brian Woodland of the Peel District Board of Education in Mississauga, Ontario.

#1 — your logo conveys more than your district brand

It conveys emotion, or lack thereof.

The Peel Board of Education serves more than 100,000 students in a wide swath of bedroom communities outside of Toronto.  They compete with publicly funded private schools and charter schools.  And their target is students and the young adults who are their parents.

What does their logo convey? In a word – FUN!

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 6.45.33 PMThey want families to feel as this is a place where learning is enjoyable.  So they change their logo with the seasons, even put a pirate hat on their logo for Talk Like a Pirate Day.

I realize that there’s not much I can do with this immediately except to remember that we don’t need to be so doggone stuffy about everything.

Public schools are already perceived as a huge bureaucracy and we shouldn’t reinforce that with an image that says “we’re ancient, we’ve been here since the beginning of time and we’ll be here long after you’re gone. If you come here you’ll do it our way or not at all.”

#2 Another takeaway from Brian

I’m sure you’ve heard this advice before, but it’s still essential.

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 6.43.51 PMPR professionals need to be intentional about reinforcing their professionalism and experience in conversations and planning with others in their organization.

All opinions are not equal.  Nobody in the curriculum department would accept our opinions on how to teach math and we shouldn’t blindly accept their opinion on communications and marketing.

Brian also reminded us the public relations professional is the keeper of the vision with the Superintendent and should use district communication strategies to reinforce district goals – sometimes as a reminder to other professionals within their own district.

#3 From keynote speaker and author of “Influencer”

Screen Shot 2015-07-26 at 6.37.53 PMFinally, the keynote speaker Joseph Grenny, author of “Influencer,” reminded us that communications professionals are expected to do more than sway public opinion – we change behavior.

Do you like bacon and eggs for breakfast?  So do millions of Americans.  But these weren’t even breakfast favorites until Edward Bernays took on the pork producers association as a major client.

Before that, pork products were not a staple at the breakfast table. That’s behavioral change, and it’s an outcome of excellent public relations.

Bernays, known as the father of public relations, died 20 years ago in Cambridge, Mass. He began his career as a press agent but distinguished himself from others in the profession by using sociology and the skills of his uncle, psychologist Sigmond Freud, to create behavioral change on behalf of his clients.

So, there are my takeaways.

Hope you found them helpful!

What you can learn from Mark Cuban’s courtship of an NBA superstar – SCN Encourager

Let’s start this lesson by imagining you have a billion dollars in the bank.

moneyFeels pretty good, doesn’t it?

But imagining it is about as close as I’ll ever get.

I’ve got higher hopes for you, though.

You might get there someday – and just remember that it was me – your buddy-ol’ pal Tom who encouraged you all along the way.

Not that I’d ever come scrounging around later hoping for some help with my daughters’ weddings or anything.

It’s probably because of this fear that Cuban has blocked all of my calls.

But luckily, I still have my trusty radio, and I can “listen and learn” when people like Cuban vent over the air.

Mark CubanAs many of you know, Mark Cuban is the proud owner (very very proud owner) of the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks.

Just a couple of weeks ago, he thought he had secured the commitment of free agent superstar DeAndre Jordan to come to his team.

Jordan even tweeted out that he had decided to leave the L.A. Clippers and go to Dallas.

This made Mr. Shark Tank happy. (very very happy)

It was only a matter of hours before several teammates on the L.A. Clippers and Jordan’s family began lobbying DeAndre to call off the deal with Cuban and stay in L.A.


Mark Cuban got angry. (very very angry)

And there was a lot of back-and-forth in social media about this.

TwitterYesterday, a much calmer Cuban commented on the radio how he “should have” set in stone DeAndre Jordan’s commitment to come to Dallas.

His answer surprised me.

I was expected some kind of billionaire fueled full-court-press.

“If I had it to do over again,” Cuban said, “once DeAndre told me he wanted to be a Maverick, I should’ve immediately worked with him to change his social media profile. That would’ve effectively established his commitment to come here.”


A change in one’s social media profile is NOW the signal that a big decision has been made and a move is underway?


At least I won’t have to worry about my superintendent strolling into my office with a pink slip anymore.

As long as he’s not demanding that I change my social media profile, I’ll be just fine.

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Don’t you wish you could start your day with a blank canvas? – SCN Encourager

Unfortunately, we all have long “to do” lists that get in the way.

But think about it.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wake up and choose a fresh clean start to your day?

When was the last time you were able to sit back…

… and ponder “Hmmm. What now?”

Blank canvas


Wouldn’t that be a treat?

But we’re school leaders and communicators.

More often than not, we’re kept from leaning back in our chairs and pondering our pensive “Hmmm. What now?”

For in the world of our schools we’re routinely interrupted by events or situations that force our minds to leap into the “Now what?!?”

And sometimes it seems like our next “Now what?!?” descends down upon us even before we’ve gotten a handle on the one we’re juggling.

But everyday is different for us, isn’t it?

We’re blessed to be part of a noble mission.

And we can take heart in always knowing WHY we keep going to battle with our never-ending “Now whats?!?

How cool is that?

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Why do we do this to ourselves? And why do we do this all of the time? – SCN Encourager

It almost makes you want to cry out!

thief Stop thief!

But it’s true.

Despite the silly comments of a few GOP presidential contenders lately, I think an outspoken Republican from our past nailed it.

It was Teddy Roosevelt who said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

And most of us – from school communicators and everyone else who blinks and breathes – have our own life experiences to share where we’ve proven this to be the case.

Whether it’s a neighboring district’s test scores or it’s undefeated football team… or whether it’s that other district’s 16% fund balance… usually it doesn’t take all that much to force the wind out of our sails.

And we bring it on ourselves!

Sometimes it’s just takes one of our parents to come into my office with a colorful brochure she received in the mail from another school district or virtual online academy to spoil my mood.

(I wish that was my piece!)

aloneSure, I recently joked about having NO DOUGH to fight my FOMO and GoTo NSPRA, but really, only about 89% was joking around.

The other 11% was me feeling bad about missing out.

Roosevelt’s observation about comparisons with others carried a certain punch when so many of my peers were in Nashville.

Here’s a short, but encouraging article that tackles our proclivity for self-defeating comparisons head on.

I lifted “Don’t compare your hustle to their highlight reel” off of the amazing website 99u.

I had written something for you yesterday on this very theme myself.

But then I read this article.

And well, you can just guess what happened next!





Dang IT. I just don’t get IT. What is IT about IT, anyway? – SCN Encourager

School communicators: Let’s unite and beat IT at IT’s own game!

Beginning with –

second fiddleLet’s stop playing second fiddle to IT.

Sure, our Information Technology departments are critical to 21st century learning and to our work as well.

Who said they weren’t?

But we’re important, too.

Especially – as noted in yesterday’s Encourager – we’re now under the burden to create effective and engaging public messaging that is consistently relevant, entertaining, and oh-so brief.


And forget the fact that we often have to do IT on the speedy-kwik to boot.

We have every reason to be proud of what we do.

And I think we should counter the two well-known, now infamous IT syllables with something pithy of our own.

I’m proposing we adopt: AT (aka A.T.)

I’m proposing AT instead of the more obvious choice PR because it’s totally new; it’s ours to define.

So, from now on, whenever you’re asked what you do, tell the person you are responsible for influencing and guiding AT in your disrict.

You’re a whirling dervish one-person AT department!

So what if our toolboxes don't look like this?!?

So what if our toolboxes don’t look like this?!?

When you tell someone you are in AT your personal brand will soar through the roof.

Not only does responding in this way evoke comparisons with our colleagues in IT (smart, cutting edge, can actually fix stuff with tiny tools), the person you’re talking to will inevitably get around to asking you what AT means.

And here’s where you’ll shine.

You’ll be able to confidently state that in today’s cluttered and cynical communications environment, you help your schools gain greater Attention and Trust.

And these are the two most prized assets needed by organizations today:

These are our babies!
Attention and Trust.
These are what we nurture and grow.
(Well, on most days…)

We’re always there AT the eleventh hour–even AT the drop of the hat!

So, IT’s not even debatable.

In every school district, AT is at least as important as IT.

Don’tcha think?

I sure hope so, because I really need you to stand with me on this.

I need every other reader of the Encourager, too!

It will take all of us to raise the banner for Attention and Trust.

Because I may be AT the end of my rope with some people.

Cindy is usually AT wit’s end with me at home.

And no doubt the IT technicians down the hall from my office will be “unsubscribing” in unison AT exactly 8:14 am.











Even the classic “Here’s the wind-up and the pitch” is different nowadays – SCN Encourager

Oh, how I’d love to hear a baseball game called by Ernie Harwell again.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 7.43.20 PMBut that particular joy is “long gone.”

I thought of Ernie Harwell as I was looking over my notes from MSPRA’s summer conference in Petoskey.

He was so much a part of my generation.

Dr. Nancy Colflesh’s presentation at MSPRA about better understanding cross-generational communications was an eye-opener, and it’s a topic I hope we can cover with her in a future Encourager.

So many of our cultural icons and attitudes—from heroes to singular defining moments—are uniquely attached to their own generation, and Dr. Colflesh made this point so powerfully that I’m unable to forget it.

Wish I could!

I can’t even watch a baseball game on TV in the same way now, dang it.

During a game last week, the commentators were discussing a veteran starting pitcher.

Screen Shot 2015-07-19 at 7.31.07 PM

As the pitcher was going into his wind-up, one of the commentators remarked, “Boy, is that old school pitching. You won’t see a pitcher use that traditional rock-back-and-forth wind-up anymore. The game has changed and pitchers are now coached to get rid of the ball much more quickly.”

And this is when I recalled the keystone premises of Dr. Colflesh.

Every generation does things in its own way.

As school communicators in 2015, we no longer have the luxury of composing a long traditional wind-up to whatever “pitch” we hope to make, either.

Today’s texting and tweeting parents (generally speaking) want us to just skip the big build-up and get to the point.

Time is too precious.

And this holds true for most of the school communications we direct at our parents.

So there you have it.

We’ve got to perfect a speedy-kwik delivery just like a professional baseball pitcher.

Only without the benefit of a $4.5 million annual salary.

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