Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and Communications Trend #6 (2015) – SCN Encourager

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 6.54.17 PMOkay.

I confess.

I believe.

And it wasn’t the 1947 holiday classic “Miracle on 34th Street” starring Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O’Hara, and John Payne that nudged me across the line separating the real from the imaginary.

I was a believer long before I made it a tradition to watch this movie every year.

I can’t imagine the Christmas season without re-acquainting myself with the enchantment and optimism contained in this film.

While my various movie snacks and beverages may have “matured” over the years – I haven’t.

Despite the evidence to the contrary (my January credit card bill, for example) I still believe.

And I hope this doesn’t set me up as a willing patsy for Communications Trend #6.

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 7.28.51 PMBecause Communications Trend #6 involves coming to grips with “what’s real and what’s not” as well.

In looking ahead to 2015, many social commentators and organizational leaders are advocating that we need to let go of our “illusions of privacy.”

Even though we have clear laws, regulations, and policies out the wazoo, everyone’s right to privacy will continue to evaporate day-by-day.

As school leaders and communicators, we take our FERPA, HIPAA, and legal requirements seriously.

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 7.25.05 PMWe do this in spite of Communications Trend #6’s warning that any notion of future privacy is likely to be as illusionary as the one in Santa.

We need to guard against overselling our ability to keep things confidential, top secret, and under wraps. (Except when they’re in a stocking or under the tree, of course.)

Most of the future promises we make regarding privacy will be difficult to keep.

With all of the big data collected, the big cameras mounted high, and the little cameras held low, it’s wise to assume we’ll see more and more of our best-intentioned confidentialities and secrets pop up on social media long before our scheduled official release date of the information.

So. whatcha’ think?

Communications Trend #6 makes me feel kind of sad.

Oh well.

It’s one of the reasons why I’ll always believe in Santa.


carFRI 111914


Is increasing parental involvement a goal? Seek ways to expand their tech awareness.

The typical action center in every school

The typical action center in every school

Duty called.

As a sixth-grader, my elementary principal asked me to give up my after-lunch recess to “cover” the school office so his secretary could join teachers in the lounge for lunch.

Back then, I thought: I’m glad the principal realizes I’m mature enough to handle whatever comes up.

Now, I think, the principal must have been crazy to imagine I was mature enough to command the hub of school communications for 30 minutes a day.

The only instructions I remember getting were:

  • Knock on door of the teachers lounge if I saw any blood
  • Inform any visitors that the principal and secretary would return to the office at 1 p.m.

Mostly I took phone messages for teachers on pink memo pads, sliding each sheet into individual mail slots that teachers would stop by the office to check after escorting students to buses at dismissal.

Expectations for school communications have changed – radically.

Gifts from your “Secret Santa” and Communications Trend #7 – SCN Encourager

Santa possesses more than a generous heart.

Screen Shot 2014-12-17 at 7.53.41 PMHe’s also a grand master at employing two traditional gift-giving maneuvers – the secret and the surprise.

During this time of year both maneuvers are extremely effective when carried out at just the right moment.

I should know.

I’ve done the exact opposite often enough.

Even when I wrap up presents in “fooler boxes” and stash them away in the trunk of my car for weeks, Cindy and the girls are usually able to surprise me by discovering the very secrets I had hoped to later surprise them with.

Santa’s got the keep-a-secret, give-a-surprise business down pat.

I don’t.

No wonder he’s the jolly one.

He doesn’t have to hide Christmas gifts for his family every year in his next door neighbor’s garage.

Cutting back on the holiday cookies & communications trend #8 – SCN Encourager

Some “trending” trends are more fun than others.

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 8.50.24 PMSorry.

#8 just isn’t of them.

This one will require new levels of self-discipline and awareness.

It’s probably fitting for us to now have a toughie.

Santa would want it this way.

So, as we continue counting down the remaining shopping days until December 25 in conjunction with my unfootnoted rundown of future communication-related trends, a speedy-kwik review might be helpful.

Even if only for me.

Future Trend #10 highlighted the growing importance of understanding”cycles.”

Nearly everything – an initiative, a program, or the latest tech tool – has a life cycle or “stages” that impacts it.

The best project planners in 2015 will be those who acknowledge and account for the role that “cycles” or “stages” play.

They’ll be the ones who will effectively move their projects forward past the entry level community awareness stage all the way to the optimal community trust stage.

Tuesday Tech Tip: It’s the “VS” that brings OPO to life!


Long Live OPO!

If you watched my previous video on the birth of OPO (#onepersonoffice) you may have noticed the format: whiteboard with hands darting in and out with drawings and nudges. The software used is VideoScribe, which provides a refreshing change from PowerPoint slides.

I’ve had pretty good luck with VideoScribe, other than some hair pulling over morphing images.  You can download it for $29 a month. Then, if you wish, cancel the subscription until the next time you want to create a whiteboard presentation.

One caveat:  use VideoScribe sparingly. Otherwise your audience may start groaning when your presentation ISN’T a PowerPoint.

Next week, while we wait to see what Fiverr is doing to promote our OPO character, I will delve into morphing with VideoScribe, the quirky function that nearly left me hairless. Do you have questions or ideas? Reviews of OPO? Contact me at: [email protected]

Going “Mobile” is old hat. But it’s still Communications Trend #9. – SCN Encourager

The countdown until December 25 and countdown of major trends in communications continues.

It all began yesterday.

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 8.14.32 PMAnd today I sit in stunned wonderment.

I just can’t get over the fact that for a number of years – spanning nearly three decades – somehow my mom guided everyone in our family (whether we were in our teens, were college students, or even young marrieds…and heck! even old marrieds!) to get where we needed to be at holiday events and family festivities.

It’s incredible when I think about it.

She made sure we all got from here-to-there-and-then-over-there without any tech support at all.

No Google Calendar.
No Weather Channel.

I have no answer for how she did it.

Mom made sure we attended Uncle Pete’s annual holiday open house, sat through our cousin’s annual dance recital downtown, and were always “on call” to carry in the suitcases of any family members who came in from Indiana or Illinois for an annual holiday visit to Flint.

Big Time Trends and the Shopping Days remaining until Christmas – SCN Encourager

Note today’s date. The magic number is down to 10.

Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 8.12.52 PMThat’s how many pressure-packed days we have left to buy presents for any of our gift-giving needs on the 25th.

It’s also the number of communication related TRENDS I’m going to count down for you day-by-day.

Of course, Cindy thinks I’m a knucklehead for even attempting to link together shopping days and the holidays with my research on the Top 1o Trends we’ll see in communications in 2015.

But unbeknownst to her, I actually like my chances of successfully pulling this one off.

After all, I’ve made myself immune from all manner of complaints and criticism.

If someone writes me and states that the trend I emphasized in a particular Encourager was dumb, I will reply, “Dear So-and-So: You missed the whole point. The Encourager you’re quibbling with was about shopping days, commercialism, and holiday stress. Sorry you got hung up on the trend thing.”

If someone writes me all upset about the holiday anecdote I used in a particular Encourager, I will reply, “Dear So-and-So:  You missed the whole point. The Encourager you’re quibbling with was about growing in what you know and taking stock of emerging trends in communications. Sorry you got hung up on the holiday thing.”

So, you wouldn’t believe the confidence I possess as I roll out these 10 trends for you over the next few days – happily knowing that I already have two autoresponder messages on standby to zip right back to every dissenter and detractor. (except Cindy)

I just can’t wait to get started.

It’s December. Hang the holly and start wordsmithing. – SCN Encourager

Every school communicator knows what I’m talking about!

Screen Shot 2014-12-11 at 5.52.41 PMIt’s that time of year when it’s incredibly difficult to come up with non-cliché, non-overused, and non-exclusive holiday greetings to use in our various school communications.

Okay, I’ll admit that non-cliché and non-overused words and phrases also trip me up during the other 11 months as well, but hear me out.

December always presents special challenges for us.

Trying to come up with unique ways to extend “sincere” holiday greetings to our general school audiences is dang near impossible.

As school communicators, we’re all about “target markets,” not broad, loosely defined ones.

This is why I like to shop in card stores.

If you know your “target,” it’s easy to find your spot-on message.

No one has to waffle, doubt, or risk offending someone.

Holiday cards are grouped by category and clearly labeled:
Cards with thin slots for gift cards and money,
and Cards that inform the recipient to not even bother looking for a gift.

There are no gray areas.

It’s this or that.

But our school universe is not so simple.

Many school communicators when charged with crafting a holiday message for their general community would find less anguish in walking on hot coals.

But we do our best.

Somehow we’re convinced that the right holiday message is out there somewhere waiting for us to reel it in if we just keep fiddling with various word combinations long enough.

IMG_0955So we continue to make the valiant attempt.

And valiant it is!

The attempt means we’re still willing to dig deep and mine for additional ways to convey the magic and wonderment of the holiday season.

But not everyone is.

Whoever wrote the message for this bag obviously took the easy way out.

It’s understandable, of course.

Maybe even a little sad.

But it’s not our way.

And this makes our annual December “wording” struggles a good thing in my mind.

It’s proof that the spirit of the season still matters to us – even if it is getting harder and harder to express.

Good job!









No quick fix . . . but there is a fix

Schools and businesses people share many goals – including being exasperated with each other at times.

Jamie VollmerThe way to produce more high school graduates who are college-ready is to hold teachers’ feet to the fire and run schools more like a business, business leaders say. It’s not that easy, educators say.

No national speaker frames this debate better than Jamie Vollmer.

Vollmer is a super cool businessman. (No kidding. He ran the ice cream company once voted best in America by People Magazine.)

Vollmer was a founding member and executive director of Iowa Business and Education Roundtable, which sought to improve schools by injecting business practices – until an English teacher pointed out why a manufacturing approach is the wrong model . . .

Vollmer still believes schools need to change, but not because of sub-par teaching. It’s our system of education that’s obsolete, he said. It was designed for an industrial America that no longer exists.

When I interviewed Vollmer in 2012, he chuckled as he recalled that many of the buddies he graduated from high school with in the 1960s never aspired to college, even though they would have been considered “college material” today.

“They didn’t need college,” Vollmer said. Seventy-seven percent of jobs required no post-secondary academic training.

“That economy’s gone,” Vollmer said. “Today, only 13 percent of jobs that pay a decent wage are unskilled labor. And, if you listen to what’s being told to us, soon it’ll be just 6 percent. Clearly, the nation cannot afford a dropout rate. This economy has almost no place for them.”

Sorry, there’s no quick fix for changing schools

“It’s impossible to impact student achievement without changing the culture of a community, and that’s why it’s so darn hard,” Vollmer said. “Focusing on things like instruction, assessment, and the school calendar, in and of themselves, won’t get at the root of the problem.”

He says he’s witnessed educators’ valiant efforts to improve everything in a school district’s domain. In the end, the only thing that ultimately changes is the nameplate on the superintendent’s office.

“As long as a community’s response to change is, ‘That’s not the way we do it here,’ making progress doesn’t have a prayer,” Vollmer said.

Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 6.52.20 PMHis book, Schools Cannot Do It Alone, is a primer for subtle but effective ways to build the community support for schools that will make real and lasting change possible.

Expectations multiply but school calendars can’t keep up

It’s time communities get a wake-up call, Vollmer says. Expectations of schools have multiplied, but the school day and school calendar haven’t expanded.

As the median age in America climbs, the percentage of households in a community with school-aged children shrinks. Vollmer counts himself among the Baby Boomers who, based on his own experiences, held an antiquated view of what school is like.

Reaching those people requires pulling together a cadre of school staff (teachers to bus drivers) to “map” places in the community where people congregate. Schools then need to strategically send volunteers to these places with well-crafted talking points.

“Do-it-for-the-kids” won’t move everyone.

“Self interest doesn’t always beat altruism, but that’s the way to bet,” Vollmer said. “Do-it-for-the-kids won’t move everyone. They have to see the connection between their quality of life and the quality of their local schools.”

In a perfect world, community members would flock to school to get school information, but that’s not how it happens, Vollmer said.

Board meetings are sparsely attended. The only way to attract a crowd is propose a tax increase, threaten to eliminate a popular program or service, or feed people for free. And school leaders cannot rely on traditional media to get their message out because of the “if it bleeds, it leads” nature of the commercial press.

Instead, Vollmer says school communicators must begin by creating a team of allies who will help them identify positive things already happening in schools. They need to talk about those things in the community.

Touting the streak of days a district has safely transported students to school, the number of insulin injections the school nurse gives weekly, or the combined weight of vegetables served annually in cafeterias may not seem like headline news, but it builds community trust ­– a prerequisite for change.

He offers school advocates the following quick-start tips, 5 S’s to begin building public trust:

• Shift your attention to the positive.

• Stop badmouthing schools and colleagues in public. (How often are we our own worst enemies?)

• Share something positive within your network of family, friends, neighbors and coworkers.

• Start now.

• Sustain the effort. (Where school communicators can really kick it in!)

“If everybody in the district did just those five things, the ripple effect would be felt across the community,” Vollmer said. “That’s the way you counteract negativity and begin to forge inroads that can result in real change.”


Go ahead. Rip and tear your way to clearer priorities in 2015. – SCN Encourager

My three-way partnership with Warren Buffet and Bill Gates continues to pay dividends.

Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are strong advocates for the power of FOCUS.

You might recall that I recently wrote about my unique partnership with them.

Warren and Bill patiently wait for our club meeting to start while I was outside  trying to find a place to park.

Warren and Bill patiently wait for our club meeting to start while I was outside trying to find a place to park.

I don’t want to come off as a snob, but I’m proud of this arrangement, “virtual” as it is.

It’s also destined to remain forever hush-hush – as Warren and Bill have indicated they’ll forever pretend they don’t know who I am.

Oh well, that’s how small exclusive clubs operate, I guess.

When two-thirds of a club’s members are billionaires, it’s understandable that there’d be a number of strange rules and protocols.

If Warren and Bill weren’t sworn to total secrecy about me, I’m sure they’d tell you that I more than live up to my end of the club’s membership obligations, which are primarily demographic.

Beyond sharing an appreciation for the socio-economic segment I represent, they frequently share hearty chuckles whenever I complain about my daughters’ upcoming wedding expenses or the cost of my monthly cell phone bill.

Boy, those guys like to kid around!