The hype, hoopla, and the hope (for us!) of Super Bowl 50 – SCN Encourager

The Super Bowl is not really about “the game,” is it?


Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 11.38.20 AMThere’s something else about it that reels us in.

And no, I’m not talking about the ads, either.

(Oh sure, we could talk about the ads… at $5 million per 30 second spot… there’d be plenty to riff about.)

But I’m talking about something else.

(And no, I’m not talking about how to creatively event-jack the Super Bowl and cross-promote your school district on Twitter.  Here’s a great marketing article that spells this out better than I ever could!)

What I’m talking about – and this is a positive thing actually – is our inner desire to be included at the grand party.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 3.55.11 PMAnd I think the Super Bowl every year serves as a big time reminder that we also have “super stuff” occurring in our school every day worthy receiving their share of the accolades.

Very few of us missed rallying under the Super Bowl banner Sunday night, not only because it’s fun, but also because it’s inescapable.

The Super Bowl has been crammed into our national and individual traditions.

As in my case, where my brother keeps reminding me non-stop (he’d say just “twice”) in the 20 hours leading up to the game to be sure to bring over the beer for the cooler and the wings for the grill.

(Sheesh! You forget just once and he…)

Wouldn’t it be amazing if all of our own little Super Bowl moments at school were proportionally hyped up with the same “it’s who we are, it’s what we do” fervor?

No one misses out on the Super Bowl (unless someone intentionally chooses otherwise) while paradoxically most of our Super Bowl moments at school go totally unnoticed (unless someone intentionally chooses otherwise).

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 4.09.11 PMAs school leaders and communicators we are blessed with the privilege of hyping up our Super Bowl moments in the best way we can.

We just have to intentionally choose to do so.

We have so many “little wins” taking place all around us.

They deserve the spotlight, too.

Of course, those of us who are Lions fans at this time of year have to get past our annual depression and our utter lack of experience in recognizing anything that looks like a win, big or little.

But at least gathering together to celebrate our schools doesn’t depend on me remembering to bring the beer and the wings.

That’s good.

I’m counting that as a blessing, too.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –




At least now I know why I’m psycho (and why you probably are, too) – SCN Encourager

Take a look at this chart and then tell me I’m wrong

Have you ever wondered why promoting our schools is so exhausting?

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 8.18.16 PMThis simple infographic will show you 42 reasons why.

It even calls them “proofs.”

Case closed.

You’ll be amazed to see the wide range of considerations we all should think about in creating our various school marketing and PR campaigns.

Right-brained school communicators need to consider the decision-making touchpoints of the left-brained.

And left-brained school communicators need to do the exact opposite.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 9.15.42 PMOr just smile politely and proceed to fake it.

Here’s the link to the pdf of the chart so you can see it more clearly and print it out.

This resource will definitely inspire a new idea or two as well as give you an A-Z framework for evaluating the extent of your district’s marketing messages.

I hope I didn’t overhype its value by saying “You’ll be amazed…”

I probably worded it this way out of fear.

Afraid that my superintendent would write down the 42 proofs on a legal pad and call me into his office to praise me for how I connect with 7 of them… and then demand to know why he hasn’t seen any evidence that I’ve attempted to use the other 35.

I hate situations like this.

What good answer can I give?

Explain that I’m lazy?

Or admit that I’m ignorant?


An experienced school communicator should be able to come up with a better reply than this.

I think I’ll blame “budget.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –






School Communicator or User Experience Architect? Which one are you? – SCN Encourager

Since I didn’t know what “UX” meant until last week, I guess I’m a school communicator.

But UX is big, Big, BIG.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 8.51.25 PMIt’s the acronym for user experience.

And given the range of skills and talents typically demonstrated by many of the school superintendents and communicators I know, I’m convinced UX are two letters we should cozy up to.

With all that you do as well, you may be moving down the road to becoming a User Experience Architect faster than you’d imagine.

Just like I didn’t know what UX meant until days ago, I didn’t know User Experience Architect was a job title, either.

But dang, take a look at this guy’s bio.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 7.49.39 PM




Isn’t it fascinating?

It made me wonder what Kumedan’s approach would be if he were directing the school marketing strategies of a “competitor.”

He wrote an incredible article on marketing which offers a pretty good idea, though.

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 9.02.51 PMKumedan lists seven common mistakes marketers make and shares a bevy of practical ways to reverse course.

It’s one of the best overviews I’ve read.

And I read a ton of them.

Just ask Cindy. She’ll vouch for me. (I hope!)

The only obstacle to obtaining full access to the article is that the MarketingProfs require you to sign in.

But it’s worth the extra step for this dandy.

And it’s free.

To give you a taste, this is how Kumedan introduces “Mistake 4.”

Mistake 4: Designer-Centered Design, AKA Design by Community

This is something a group of people do, without being aware they’re doing it. In meetings, people design an experience while claiming to know the users well and speaking on the users’ behalf. In reality, however, uniform opinions, biases, personal motivations, and business goals quickly become the basis for design, and user needs are only half-heartedly accommodated.

When you start talking about the “user” or “the customer,” you have become a designer.

Design by community is usually the kiss of death for great customer experience.

After his rundown of mistake #4, as well as with the other six, Kumedan offers a minimum of three “more effective” strategies for each one.

It’s not often you see a list of mistakes come along with its own set of solutions.

I might try to write up a similar list sometime soon.

I’m pretty sure I can dream up a solution or two… ONCE I’m able to stop adding to my list of mistakes.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –









Pain, Suffering, and Sacrifice (and my usual bum luck!) – SCN Encourager

One of these days I’m going to learn to write in the dark

It may be the only way I can escape the clutches of Murphy’s Law.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 7.37.51 PMBecause it snagged me again.

And the result is always a bit unnerving.

It all stemmed from today’s headline – Pain, Suffering, and Sacrifice.

I had no sooner typed it out, when Cindy walked by and spotted it.

“Oh no, not again.” she said without stopping. “I hate it when you write about our lives.”

“Funny,” I replied.

And then I moved with my laptop to a different chair in the room, where a wall would make it impossible for any more busy-body snoops to just happen by and start offering their unsolicited commentary about what I was writing.

Interruptions like this totally wreck my train of thought.

They’re idea killers.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 7.49.33 PMUnless, of course, I’m in the midst of one of those other times (actually more frequent) when I don’t really have a train of thought at all, and then I’m grateful for whatever inspiration a busy-body snooping interrupter might provide.

It’s weird, but this circumstance pretty well sums up my personal battle with a rare version of Murphy’s Law.

Whenever I have a solid notion about what I want to write about, I get interrupted and get knocked off track. 

And whenever I don’t have a clue about what to write about, and any kind of interruption would be welcome, one never comes. 

What a curse to live with!

(And thanks for being a good sport and bearing it with me.)

So now that I’ve scanned the family room and calculated that Cindy won’t return any time soon, I’ll tell you why I included the words Pain, Suffering, and Sacrifice in the headline.

I was surprised recently to discover that the word “passion” comes from the Latin root (pati-) meaning suffering or sacrifice.


You can now guess where all of this is leading, I’ll bet.

Screen Shot 2016-01-31 at 8.11.22 PMIt means that if you are truly passionate about something (your family, a good cause, helping kids learn, or ranking Super Bowl ads) you will endure a measure of pain and suffering to pursue and develop it.

Having a passion for something doesn’t necessarily make it easier – it just means you’re “all in.”

And it also means that THE WALK that comes along with YOUR TALK about your passion may take longer and be more difficult than what you first imagined.

It’ll be interesting to hear Superintendent Kelly Middleton talk about his passion for improving customer service in our schools.

I hope you’ll be able to join us for Wednesday’s Free Lunchinar from 12:15 to 1 pm (EST).

It’ll be a fun and worthwhile 45 minutes.

But if you join us, just remember.

Any questions that pop up on your computer screen asking for marriage advice, didn’t come from me!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –



Dust off this ol’ standby when you want to power-pack your message – SCN Encourager

Don’t let those headline-jumping scanners and skimmers just rush past you without putting up a fight.

brakesPut the brakes on.

Build a speed bump.

Slow them down.

Research reveals 70% of all readers will never read past any headline.

(And I’m assuming this stat is bad, okay? Since 98% of my readers won’t even read my headlines, my experience with research like this is skewed.)

It’s now funny to read about the technique many experienced copywriters are using to get readers to pause and catch their breath.

It seems so old school.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 8.41.03 PMAlmost too perfect for someone like me…

As this technique involves going back to attaching a strategic “PS” at the end of your multi-point informational letters.

Mind you, that’s “PS” as in Post Scriptum.

Not “PS” as in Play Station.

Because scanners and skinners will typically jump down to the bottom of every letter quickly after reading the headline, attaching a “PS” accomplishes several things.

First of all, if you tease out a mystery in your “PS,” you might motivate readers to dig back into your letter to see what they missed.

Here are three sample mystery teasers for a “PS”:
1.  Thank you, community! We’re the first district in the midwest to cut energy costs by over 40%.
2.  Can you believe we’re giving away 50 tickets to the Super Bowl? Unbelievable!
3.  We’re giving our school communicator a 35% raise retroactive to 2013 – and also eliminating football – unless you carefully follow the steps outlined above.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 9.09.58 PMSecondly, believe it or not, many readers actually feel they’ve read the entire letter just by reading the opening greeting (the headline) and the closing “PS.”

As goofy as this sounds, these same readers tend to hold the writer of the letter in high regard.

Go figure!

But I’ll take it.

Good PR doesn’t get much easier than this.

And here’s another “PS” that’s a model of superb writing and a proven winner:

PS   Don’t forget to sign up for the FREE Lunchinar on Feb. 3.

(Ha! You knew I’d work this in somehow, didn’tcha?)

Have a great weekend!

– – – – – – – – – – –





On a tight school PR budget? Skip the costly ads and billboards. Invest in this instead.– SCN Encourager

Building up and nurturing your various school communities is worth every penny.

Especially now.

groupMaximize every “kumbaya moment” in your district and keep bringing your people together.

I wasn’t just promoting the upcoming Lunchinar on customer service when I included “LIVE EVENTS” in Tuesday’s list of 4 trending school PR strategies.

Bringing people together will pay off every time.

Of course, you must be sincere about it.

And that’s the hardest part to carry out with 100% fidelity.

Sometimes unrealistic people and/or unrealistic demands make it difficult.

But like comedian George Burns said more than 50 years ago,”Sincerity – if you can fake that, you’ve got it made!”

The meaning of community has expanded in 2016 and acquired greater importance.

PenquinsSchool community no longer means just being agreeable, yakking it up with booster group parents, and selling stuff to raise funds.

People can share school news without us.

Nearly everyone is going online in some manner to voice their opinions today.

So P2P is where the action’s at.

And here is where a targeted effort in school community-building strategies can the difference.

We all know that every individual possesses a strong inner desire for personal recognition; to feel known, to feel safe, to feel valued, and to feel a sense of belonging.

This is nothing new.

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 8.27.53 PMBut what is new is the rapid rise in trust people now have in their informal P2P (Peer-to-Peer) channels over any of the others.

For those of us who create school messages for a living, that’s a sad fact.

P2P communications are often perceived as more honest and reliable.

In contrast, O2P (Organization-to-Person) communications are often viewed as self-serving and unreliable.

SO… consistently nurturing your various school communities day-in and day-out is about the only way you can count on having a solid base of positive school ambassadors always ready to jump into those online “peer review” threads and the on-going ebb and flow of conversations in social media.

You can’t ignitet a school PR asset of this magnitude on the speedy-kwik.

It’s organic.

You need to invest the time and plant the seeds early on.

Now, I’ll confess, investing time and planting seeds (et al) all looks like a lot of extra work.

So, maybe I’ll first try to just create school communications that actually are self-serving and unreliable.

If that’s how P2P networks are going to perceive our work anyway, why not give it to them from the get-go?

I mean, how hard can it be to be “self-serving” and “unreliable?”

Oh wait, I already know.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –







Introducing my new mentor and mindset coach… Rip Van Winkle! – SCN Encourager

He models the joy that comes with embracing “wonder and curiosity” at regular intervals.

I don’t.

RipWhen someone asks, “what’s new?”

I think, “anything but me.”

It’s not good.

I need more Rip and less R.I.P.

No doubt about it.

But changing my ways won’t be easy.

I already have my favorite pat answer to most of the questions I receive… well, down pat.

What do you think of the new Peach app?
“Dunno. Wazzat?”

Have you been to the new micro-brew downtown?
“Dunno. Wherezat?”

Did you see the extra fee the wedding photographer tacked on her bill?
“Dunno. Whyzat?”

Coach Van Winkle says the only way I can come up with more intelligent answers than these is to intentionally lean into today’s creative landscape with unabashed wonder and curiosity.

Screen Shot 2016-01-26 at 8.41.53 PMI think he’s fully bought into the notion – now also trumpeted by many business and leadership gurus – that every effective quality initiative is rooted in a sense of curiosity, as sparked by the question “How can we do this better?”

He even has a tattoo which reads “No one should sleep forever.”

No wonder Coach VW is excited about the February 3 Lunchinar with Superintendent Kelly Middleton.

Like most of us, he’s curious to hear what Kelly has to say about stepping up customer service in our schools.

I am, too.

But right now, I’m wondering about something else.

I’d like to know how Rip was able to sleep that long without ever having to get up once or twice during the night and traipse off to the bathroom.




4 attention-getting strategies that are sizzling hot in today’s marketing world – SCN Encourager

And it wasn’t so long ago they were only lukewarm.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 7.44.39 PMThat’s why I could only guess one.

Customer service. 

Choosing it correctly signaled a gigantic improvement over my usual score.

For I never could’ve guessed the other three.

Not only are they a little long in the tooth (like you know who), these tactics are reminiscent of billionaire Warren Buffet’s well-known financial advice that higher-than-average investment opportunities are usually found on the road less traveled.

Thermometer - Mercury Rising Bursting - Heat RisingSo, in keeping with Buffet’s paradigm (where every vehicle has a better chance of standing out on a less busy highway), here are 4 attention-getting school marketing strategics that are rapidly proving themselves to be extremely effective in 2016.

1.  customer service

2.  email communications

3.  direct response print materials

4.  useful & engaging live events

You took note of #1, didn’t you?

Customer service.

And if you’re eager to ramp up your knowledge in this area, I invite you to join me at our next 45 minute Lunchinar.

It’s on Wednesday, Feb. 3, and all of the details are right here.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 8.39.32 PMThe topic is customer service in our schools and the Lunchinar guest is Superintendent Kelly Middleton of Newport Independent Schools in the Cincinnati suburb of Newport, Kentucky.

I heard him speak at last year’s MSPRA Seminar and he clearly walks his talk.

Kelly cares deeply about his students and staff, and by expanding the commitment to customer service in his district, he ‘s seen positive results pop up all across the board.

Plus, he’s a good guy with a wonderful sense of humor.

How’s that for a winning combination?

It definitely stands in a stark contrast to the longtime losing combination I’ve been using for my own investment portfolio.

I just found out about Warren Buffet’s road-less-traveled advice last week, dang it.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –



Join us for the February Lunchinar!

Wednesday, February 3 at 12:15 pm (EST)

You’re invited!

OWednesday, February 3, we’re sponsoring another one of our popular Lunchinars!

So, what’s a Lunchinar?

It’s a FREE live streaming school PR micro-event that runs from 12:15 – 1 pm.



Imagine a 45 minute topical and friendly lunchtime get-together with other school communicators who are all eager to “grow in what they know.”

They’re a blast.

SCN’s January Lunchinar attracted school PR pros from seven different states!

Every Lunchinar is hosted by our able and awesome host Holly McCaw, the communications director of Otsego Public Schools.

Kelly Middleton

Kelly Middleton

Holly’s lined up another incredible guest for February – Superintendent Kelly Middleton, Superintendent of Newport Independent Schools in the Cincinnati suburb of Newport, Kentucky.

You might recall our profile about Kelly a few months ago.

It was written by SCN feature writer Kym Reinstadler and it followed Kelly’s fantastic presentation at the MSPRA Spring Seminar on customer service.

You couldn’t ask for a more relevant topic, that’s for sure.

Many of today’s most insightful business and organizational leaders have proclaimed customer service to be the new marketing, and Kelly is a champion in this arena.

Please join us.

Wednesday, Feb. 3, from 12:15 – 1 pm.

Here are the steps:

1.  Check if you have room on your schedule for the Lunchinar.
2.  Click on the email link below and tell me to sign you up.
3.  Feel free to include a question you’d like Holly to ask Kelly.
4.  On Wednesday, a little bit before Noon, I will email you the Lunchinar link.
5.  Click on this link on Feb, 3 from your desktop, tablet, or smartphone.
6.  And bingo! We’ll all be able to have lunch and learn together at 12:15 pm.

The Zoom audio/visual live chat system works great.
You won’t need to download any software.
You won’t need to use meeting codes.
You won’t need to pay one cent.

Here is the link to email me to hold your spot.

The more, the merrier!

What trusty ol’ inner barometers guide your way? Here’s a critical one for school PR. – SCN Encourager

Do we really need all of those data summaries and pie charts?

Let’s say “NO.”

chartsEven if it’s just for today.

Each one of us has a unique set of inner barometers that helps us gauge what we need to know.

You have ’em.
I have ’em.

And if that’s not scary enough for you – consider that our inner barometers are often better, quicker, more accurate, and more trustworthy than many of the manufactured creations that come our way.

We’re able to immediately gauge the temperature in a room even before an important meeting begins.

We’re able to immediately gauge the tone and direction of a conversation from the very first words spoken by a person who has called us on the phone.

We’re able to immediately gauge the significance of a personal a-ha moment as soon as that invisible light bulb inside our brain flicks on.

And I, for one, can even immediately gauge my future (in the short-term, at least) by the look on my wife Cindy’s face.

In our work as school communicators, there’s something we should always be inwardly measuring when it comes to the marketing of our district, too.

And we’ve got to learn to trust it.

My inner gauge is crazy simple

My inner gauge is crazy simple

It has nothing to do with all of the various facts, figures, comparisons, and details we wallow in.

It has everything to do with our marketing momentum.

Nothing more. Nothing less.

Within each one of us, we have a gauge that tells us whether our school marketing efforts are presently chugging along on schedule, have stalled, or are rolling back in the wrong direction.

You know dang well what I’m talking about.

No doubt you feel your inner “school marketing” needle flittering up and down all of the time like I do.

The tough part is figuring out how and when to respond to what our gauge is telling us.

Do we simply ignore it?

Or we trust our instincts enough to confidently share about what we’re sensing to our team members?

I wish there was an easy answer.

But that’s what Mondays are for – we get the opportunity to use our inner barometers and start impacting the rest of our week.

So I hope for you five straight days of non-stop positive momentum.

Wouldn’t that be nice?

But I’ve got to go.

My growling “hungry stomach” gauge is now sending me a signal.

And I really like responding to this one.

Perhaps way too much for my own good!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –