What happens when Michigan weather & Murphy’s Law collide? – SCN Encourager

It makes for an anxious day, I’ll tell you that!

Saturday’s event was grand.

screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-8-25-50-pmWe honored Dwayne “Tiger” Teusink (now 80) who served as a teacher and Hall of Fame tennis coach at our high school before retiring in 1989.

After weeks of planning, which included minor construction and the installation of a new archway bearing Tiger’s name, the athletic director, facilities director, board trustee co-chair, and I were excited to unveil the archway and host an outside reception for our community.

Our committee knew Saturday’s crowd would be huge.

Tiger guided our state’s primary youth tennis organization for many years and he still stands as one of its most successful tennis team coaches.

He is adored and admired by legions of former student athletes.

Along with media and publicity duties, I was placed in charge of securing the sound system, refreshments, and chairs.

Because weather reports earlier in the week weren’t promising (calling for “non-stop drizzle”), I rented a big canopy for $400.

I even had the canopy put up on Friday so we wouldn’t feel rushed for our noontime “unveiling” event on Saturday.tiger-collage

Perfect planning, don’tcha think?

Well, dang it.

Within seconds of the canopy going up, out came the sun and away went the gray clouds.

Somehow the predicted drizzle had morphed into a stunning blue sky.

But that would make things even better, right?

So with the archway covered in a blue tarp, I began to line up 150 folding chairs under the tent.

Now here’s where Murphy’s Law kicked me in the rear.

After setting up a few chairs under the tent, I sat down in one of them to see how things looked.

And yikes!

I quickly discovered that due to the sight line, the curb step, and other stuff having to do with physics (AKA basic common sense), every guest sitting in a chair wouldn’t be able to see the archway at all!

In fact, they’d only be able to see the torsos of the people at the podium and not their heads!

Uh, oh.

I almost felt sick.

Instead of the canopy being a welcome addition, it was now a gigantic obstacle, anchored by 250 pound white barrels.

I couldn’t believe it.

I planned for the forecasted rain.
It was now clear.

I brought in a canopy.
And now it blocked everyone’s view.

tiger-cFortunately, once the event got underway, no one noticed the logistics or the intended set-up.

It was all about wonderful stories about Tiger and hearing the affirmations about why he is loved by so many.

So the event actually turned out quite well despite Michigan’s weather and Murphy’s Law conspiring to give my stomach flip-flops.

And I’m going to ask crisis response expert Rick Kaufman if he’s experienced anything like this, too, at tomorrow’s Lunchinar.

I hope you’ll join us. 

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The shocking personal hygiene dynamic in crisis communications – SCN Encourager

I’m going to ask expert Rick Kaufman about it.

Hope he’s ready.

rick-kaufman-at-4-01-13-pmThe timing of Wednesday’s Lunchinar couldn’t be better.

So be sure to sign up.

I wonder if Rick’s ever experienced anything like this.

I still can’t believe it happened to me.

Here’s what occurred.

Last Tuesday morning I had a 20 minute dentist appointment.

To travel to my dentist from the district admin. building (which is actually a wing of our high school) and back takes about 8 minutes each way… so I was only going to duck out for 36 minutes max.

36 minutes.

As I was pulling out of the staff parking lot, I saw three police cars with sirens a-blazing skid to a stop near the large commercial enterprise across the street from our high school.

I called our school safety director to see if he was aware of what was going down.

He was.

Our community police liaison had just informed him that a despondent man had been pulled over in his car after driving around town for awhile.

The police were proceeding slowly because, while ex-spouse said the troubled man was not the violent type, she warned them to be aware of an unloaded handgun he typically kept in the car.

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-8-52-03-am“Don’t worry,” our safety director said. “We’re good. This doesn’t involve us and the cops have it under control.”

So I proceeded to the dentist.

After 20-25 minutes there I returned to the admin. building.

When I walked in everyone was working away like normal.

I even starting getting back up to speed on the project two colleagues and I were discussing before I cut out for the dentist.

All was the way it always is.

Within a minute or two, though, my cell and office phone both starting ringing.

The media had heard on their police scanners that Holland High was in a hard lockdown and they wanted to know what was going on.

I told them they didn’t have the story quite right.

Yes, there was police action (now resolved safely) across the street from our high school and that nothing took place which involved our students or staff.

After setting the record straight, I hustled back to the “catch up” meeting with my two co-workers.

“Dang,” I said, chuckling. “Can’t believe the media thought we were in the midst of a lockdown…”

“We were!” they both gushed.

“What?!?” I said.

“Yeah, we went into a lockdown,” they said. “Our liaison officer thought it would be a good idea to go into lockddown while the police were transferring the man from one car to another… just as a safety precaution. The whole lockdown must’ve lasted only three minutes.”

“Uh, oh…” I said. “Excuse me again. I’ve got some return calls to make. I can’t believe all this happened while I was gone and everything here reset back to normal so quickly.”

screen-shot-2016-09-25-at-5-34-04-pmI then started getting messages from fellow administrators.

They all inquired (more or less) about the same thing.

“Why’d you tell the media there was no lockdown? The newspaper article online says you’re denying there was a lockdown.”

“Uh, oh…” I said again, now hastening the pace of my media apology tour.

I guess the only saving grace was that the next newspaper account quoted school district spokesperson “Tom Gage.”

That sure was a lucky break.

Because you know what they say about “perception being reality.”

This “Gage” character was now the public knucklehead, not me.

But lucky break or not, I’m still going to ask Rick Kaufman how he builds time for personal hygiene into his crisis communications planning.

Because it probably won’t be too long before the community figures out Tom Gage doesn’t exist and I should be ready.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.”

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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. 

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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!)

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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.

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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!

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