The real reason I lost the “100 words or less” challenge. (Embarrassing, but true.) – SCN Encourager

I thought I had it made!

And to think…

Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 4.12.49 PMI was only seconds away from my big Eureka moment in the “100 words or less” challenge.

While Cindy didn’t think I could write five brief and effective Encouragers in a row last week.

I confidently (AKA foolishly) thought I could.

And I was certain Saturday’s tallies would prove me right.

I was so excited I could hardly sleep Friday evening.

As Cindy slept soundly (and smugly, I might add) about two feet away, I could tell she already had her game plan worked out.

The little sneak.

Since Saturday’s weather early Saturday morning here in Holland (MI) could best be described as  “a downpour,” I used the time indoors to double-check my math.

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 8.55.42 PMYep.
In all five Encouragers I was well under the 100 word limit.

Now, of course, I didn’t count dumb words like “dang” or “speed-kwik.”

Somehow they keep popping up in my writing and I can’t explain why.

So I only counted words that a person of above-average intelligence (like you!) would typically use a blog post.

By only counting words that had meaning and made sense, I was able to drive down my “qualifiable” word count by nearly 70%!

“Hey, Loser! Ready to go for breakfast?” I yelled from the den. “You’re buying, remember? And you thought I’d flop.”

“What?” she answered back while walking toward me from the hallway. “Pull up those Encouragers. I’m going to count the words myself. Did you think I’d just let you proclaim you won? No way.”


Now I had a problem.

And I also must fill you in on the truth.

You see, although Cindy and I talk (a lot!) about what I do as a school communicator, and the kinds of situations we all find ourselves in, and the topics I eventually choose to write about, Cindy has never read one of my Encouragers.

Not even one.

My theory is this.

Because she is the billings and insurance supervisor for a large medical practice in town, she takes privacy to the extreme.

For example, I have friends and extended family members who are patients at this practice, and if they bump into Cindy during an appointment at her office, she’ll never say anything to me about this at all.

Screen Shot 2016-08-28 at 8.31.20 PMIt’s against the law.

HIPAA standards make our FERPA rules seem like nothing and she’s a momma bear about HIPAA.

Cindy probably feels that if she read my Encouragers, it’d be like peeking into my secret files or something.

Oh sure, once and awhile, Cindy will sometimes ask, “Okay, tell me the truth. How ⊗itchy do you make me look in your blog? Your jokes make me nervous sometimes.”

I always respond by telling her not to worry. All’s good.

“I reference you hardly at all,” I spin. “I’m sure there are no more than a handful of readers who even know I’m married.”

Amazingly, this masterful dodge has kept the lid tightly on my blog activity for more than 4 years and 1100 Encouragers.

Up until Saturday, that is.

It never occurred to me that Cindy would not trust my word count and demand to read what I wrote last week for herself in order to make her own calculations.

Whoa, that could make my life way too interesting!

So you can see why I immediately reversed course; conceded defeat, paid for breakfast at her favorite place, and stopped any further crowing about the “100 words or less” challenge.

Did this make be feel like I wimped out over the weekend?

Yes, it did.

But at least the Encourager survived – and I have a special surprise to tell you about tomorrow.

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The chart’s complete. The “100 words or less” challenge is over. – SCN Encourager

TGIF definitely has new meaning for me.

This week was rough.

Attempting to compose five consecutive Encouragers that are both brief and effective in under 100 words was stressful.

Even my (now copyrighted) School PR 101 chart could only get me so far.

And boy, a few of you weren’t much help at all –

By giving your ideas about what to include on my chart.

Sharing “must-haves” like:
•  authenticity
•  visually appealing
•  conversational

Because your suggestions were way better than what I came up with for today, they added to my stress.

Thanks a lot!

You’ll see what I mean.
Screen Shot 2016-08-25 at 4.12.49 PM








My word “Improve-able” seems wimpy compared to three alternatives, doesn’t it? 

Cindy asked me why I just didn’t swap my word for one of the others and call it good.

But I couldn’t, I explained.

School communicators if anything must be committed the continuous improvement of their skills so that the precarious times we live in will never be able to drown out the positive messages about the good work of our schools.

That’s why I came up with “Improve-able.”

“Oh, I see,” she said. “You believe it’s important for school communicators to be hopeful.”


Now I’m really glad this challenge is over.

Even Cindy’s word is better than mine!

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Thanks, mom. You made Day 4 of my “100 words or less” challenge a snap! – SCN Encourager

I’ll never forget many of my mom’s choice phrases.

Neither will my three younger brothers.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 7.51.08 PMWe heard a lot of choice phrases from both of our parents while growing up.

My mom was a natural master communicator now that I think about it.

Especially when she was holding her wooden spoon.

She was brief.

She was effective.

And that was that.

Not only did mom make her point, she also made it memorable.

I wish I’d taken better notes.

But one of mom’s favorite phrases is the inspiration for today’s addition to my School PR 101 chart.

And the word is USEFUL.

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 7.40.32 PM









Now the word “relevant” may be a fine option, but you can’t do better than USEFUL for what your audiences crave in your school communications.

And even a knucklehead like me knows exactly what useful means.

Lord knows I heard my mom say it enough.

“Go make yourself useful… or I will.”

She didn’t know it at the time.

But that was pretty good advice to give a future school communicator.

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Just cruising along on my “100 words or less” challenge (Day 3) – SCN Encourager

I’m totally on auto-pilot thanks to my trusty “School PR 101” chart.

It’s almost official.

Start preparing to tell your friends you’ve now seen everything.

Much like Cindy, you too probably doubted my ability to compose a brief and effective email message in 100 words or less for five consecutive days.

Oh, ye of little faith…

Well, watch and marvel… as yet again by adding one simple word to my School PR chart I can remain comfortably positioned in victory lane.

Yesterday’s word was “share-able.”

It followed the much acclaimed “emphathetic”

Both are must-do’s.

And today’s word is no less brilliant (if I do say so myself).
Speedy-Kwik at 7.46.38 PM








“Speedy-kwik” is the word for today.

While, of course, it’s essential to create empathetic messages and stories that are easily share-able, you might was well forget about it if you’re going to be arriving late to the conversation party.

Being “speedy-kwik” is more important than ever.
It’s the fast responder who wins often than not today.

Cindy has a different perspective, though.

She wonders what I even know about “arriving late” to parties.

She’s demanding to see proof that I’ve ever been invited to any.

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Day #2 of Cindy’s “100 words or less” School PR challenge – SCN Encourager

Yep, I’m nailing it!

Cindy didn’t think I could do it.

Be both BRIEF and EFFECTIVE through Friday, that is.

But my nifty graphic is doing the trick.

By referencing a list of 5 traditional School PR cornerstones on the left, all I have to do is add one new cornerstone on the right everyday… and tah-dah!

How can I lose when a graphic only counts as one word?

Yesterday I featured the word “empathetic.”

Here’s today’s addition.

Share-able at 6.51.17 PM










You’ll see I added the word “share-able.”

Audience building is where the action’s at today – and you won’t be able to succeed at this at all unless your stories, images, and highlights are easily share-able.

And remember, the more empathetic your stories, images, and highlights are, the better.

So here’s the big takeaway.

One way to ensure something gets shared like crazy is to tell just one person that your piece of news is top secret and must remain hush-hush.

That’s it.

Soon the entire planet will soon be all over it!

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I knew I made a mistake immediately after clicking “send.” – SCN Encourager

So let’s pretend last Friday never happened.

Forget I ever encouraged school communicators to –

Be brief


Be effective.

Because now –
Cindy has challenged me to try doing this myself for a week!


She doesn’t think I’m capable of writing a daily Encourager of 100 words or less for 5 straight days.

Well, I accepted her dare…
and I look forward to a big victory celebration on Friday!

My chart of 5 traditional school PR cornerstones make this easy.

Do these 5 match up with yours?
School PR 101 A











Unfortunately we now have double the number school PR cornerstones.

Here’s my #1 for 2016.
Whatcha’ think? 

School PR 101 C (png











School PR today is nothing without EMPATHY.

And if you think I’m cheating by using two graphics in place of word and sentences…, C’mon, where’s your empathy?

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Do you like to “think big?” If you do, you’re probably a bully. – SCN Encourager

Hey! I’m just pointing out the label psychologists are already sticking on you.

Bully at 12.46.15 PMThey’re performing the research.

Not me.

I’m on your side, remember?

I’m just passing along my speedy-kwik summary of their intriguing conclusions to you because… I care.

I’ve chopped up my summary into five distinct phases.

Here goes.

Phase 1  – What it means for you to be a big thinker
You’re a visionary. You think big picture and you think long-term. No one will ever mistake you as a defender of the status quo. You’ve got imagination and you want to see grand things done.

Phase 2 – Big thinkers love big goals
As a big picture visionary, you consistently set big goals. This only makes sense. Your big goals, though, will require NEW habits, attitudes, processes, and teamwork. But every big vision comes with a hefty price, right? You’ve known this forever.

Phase 3 – A big problem comes with those big goals
As a big goal-setter, you have the tendency (like nearly everyone else on the planet) to drastically overestimate how easy it’ll be to successfully bring your NEW habits, attitudes, processes, and teamwork on board. Even with a super-dooper vision and clear goals, it never takes the real-world very long to gum up the works. Soon your journey – the one born out of your big thinking – will be sprinkled with assorted struggles and obstacles all along the way. There’s no getting around it.

Phase 4 – A big bully will tap you on the shoulder whenever you’re struggling

Breaking news.. life happens and it’s not fair. Because of this, you’ll inevitably find yourself in the midst of unanticipated struggles and obstacles. That’s just the way it is. The bigger your thinking… the more unanticipated surprises there will be. Whether you call these unanticipated surprises opportunities or challenges is up to you. But the fact remains, it is exactly when you are in the midst of a serious situation, a big bad bully will show up. And beware. This big bad bully is always prepped and ready to beat you up (again!).

Phase 5 – You can’t flee from this big bully

Unfortunately, this big bully knows from past experience how to tear into your deepest fears and doubts. It’s also unfortunate the big bully who is doing this just happens to be YOU. This shouldn’t be shocking. Big thoughts are always tied to high expectations, and those high expectations are never immune from the ebb and flow of daily life. You’ll have your good moments. You’ll have your bad moments. And then, whenever you’re in a low point, the odds are good you’ll start BULLYING YOURSELF with inner putdowns like –
“I never should’ve taken this path.”
“Who did I think I was to even try this?”
“Why did I poke this tiger in the first place?”
“Now people will think I’m a fool.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 9.15.46 PMSo what more can I say?

Isn’t it obvious?
Big thinkers are often their own worst bullies.

The remedy seems simple enough, though:
If someone is exactly your size and kinda looks like you, be extra kind.

That someone is probably YOU.

Now, this advice doesn’t apply to me.

I’m not a big thinker.

I’m more along the lines of a non-thinker.

This means my inner bully is practically as goofy as I am.

We’re evenly matched.

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Yep, I’m as classy as the next guy. Let’s go to a museum. – SCN Encourager

You never know what a-ha moments await!

You’ll find stories.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 8.55.55 PMSights.





Maybe even my favorite – a concession stand.

And if you’re really fortunate, you’ll be able to snag a do-able idea or two to try out in your school district.

Now I won’t go overboard and take up a bunch of your time.

We’re all crazy busy working through assorted checklists and “must do’s” in our countdown to the first day of classes.

But there’s an online museum I just discovered – and you won’t believe the ideas you’ll come up with if you click over for a tour sometime.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 8.45.32 PMIt’s called the Cheetos Museum.

It’s quirky.




And totally carried off with an attitude befitting the brand.

You’ll easily see how a school team, department, club, program, or one of your entire schools could be spotlighted in a similar fashion.

And unlike most one and done experiences, the Cheetos Museum is sustainable, in that, people from all over are continually sending entries in.

They all want to have fun taking Cheetos so seriously.

Obviously, there’s a better chance of being featured as one of Chester’s masterpieces than most other “15 minutes of fame.”

You’ve got to love this one.

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 8.36.27 PM






If you jump to the museum itself, you’ll get a kick out of the rotating pedestal and the short video that goes with it.

I was impressed.

And one more thing.

If you take the tour, don’t overlook the How It Works section in the upper right.

How the Cheetos Museum sparks sharing and engagement is so simple!

(Which is probably why I never thought of it.)

But nevertheless, the Cheetos Museum excites me by its potential.

It proves to the world once and for all that YOU CAN blend artful museum methods with an orange-colored junk snack.

And to think my wife and daughters always said it couldn’t be done.

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Whew boy, do the Olympics stir up old memories – SCN Encourager

No, I wasn’t a gold medal winner.

Far from it.

But that doesn’t mean I didn’t win my fair share of medals on the spirited fields of competition.

Now you may scoff.

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 9.56.07 PMBut I’ve got a near-perfect cigar box that used to be my dad’s in my dresser drawer just jam-packed with proof.

Included in the mix of my most prized worldly trinkets is the “bronze” medal I won back in 5th grade in the 50 yard dash during our school field day.

Since I had won the silver the previous year, I wasn’t prepared for the set-back.

It was awful.

I still remember the names of the two 5th grade girls who finished 1 -2 ahead of me.


When the heck did the girls in my school become so fast?
Did I miss something?

When my mom asked me how my school field day went, I hauled my bronze medal out of my jean pocket and showed it to her.

“Mom,” I wondered. “It’s unfair. The girls are taller and faster. I don’t get it.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 10.01.48 PMOnce again, I never should’ve said anything.

Because the next night my dad swooped me out for a “father & son” dinner in downtown Flint, eventually leading up to an eye-opening film strip presentation with a bunch of other boys and dads at the nearby YMCA about you-know-what.

I’ll be honest, what I learned at the Y that night scared me half to death.

(And still does in a way..)

Anyway, I’ve regretted losing that 50 yard dash ever since.

I guess the only bright spot in all of this is the fact my suffering took place totally PRE-social media (even PRE-8 track tapes, for that matter) so my three younger brothers couldn’t go on Twitter and Snapchat to magnify my humiliation any further.

What was done stayed done in the good ol’ days.

I would’ve loved being a better athlete, you know.

But that’s life.

Olympians on SocialStill, it doesn’t mean I can’t be impressed by how today’s Olympians use social media to ramp up their following and personal brands.

So I want to pass along this recent article about how 12 superstar Olympians are garnering rave reviews for their rock star social media tactics.

You’ll enjoy clicking through the slideshow.

I did.

Its lessons are insightful and in tune to what we do.

Plus, they’re way less scary than what I learned at the YMCA years ago.

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1 diagram. 5 totally different ways of problem-solving. – SCN Encourager

I’m proud we promote entrepreneurial mindsets in our schools.

Oh, you didn’t know you did?

Well, if you’re expanding ways to anchor instruction in –
project-based learning, 
solution pursuing, 
creative thinking,
risk taking,

team collaborating,
and communicating, 
you’re building entrepreneurial mindsets.

Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 8.13.50 PMBobby Umar is a Toronto-based personal branding and “heart connection” leadership expert.

I appreciate his insights about marketing… especially since he is the father of two young children who are early on in their school years.

When a keen marketer like Bobby is also actively engaged in the community, school, and parent domains, I believe there’s a 3X factor in what I can learn.

Bobby and I follow each other on Twitter.

Which isn’t as great as it seems (for him anyway), because if the two of us were ever alone in an elevator, we’d ride it together as complete strangers.

Bobby tweeted out this diagram and it cleverly spotlights 5 different ways of problem-solving.

Since it also loosely dovetails with my blurb yesterday on the 8D Method, I thought I’d badger you again on the topic of problem-solving.

Check out Bobby’s 5.

Bobby Umar at 7.36.46 AM

Like I said, I’m proud we’re touching on these 5 ways to problem-solve with our students.

Of course, if this diagram were mine, I’d add two more ways to solve a problem.

My #6 would have the guy in the graphic lying down on a line near the caption “Go to bed. Sleep on it.”

My next option would have the guy pushing a lawnmower near the caption “Cut the grass. Forget about it.”

Bobby probably didn’t intend to overlook these two.

No one – no matter how smart – can think of everything.

Maybe someday Bobby will be trapped in an elevator with me and I can present a few more of my diagram worthy suggestions to him.

I just hope this remote possibility doesn’t scare him into using the stairs from now on.


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