Want killer marketing advice? Just “take it easy.” – SCN Encourager

Or better said… MAKE it easy.

easy Shot 2013-08-04 at 3.02.05 PMChris Lema spoke at WordCamp-Grand Rapids last Saturday.

From his vantage point as a longtime San Diego based tech guru and business start-up specialist, he described several marketing and communication blunders he’s seen quality organizations make.

Had my superintendent been in the audience, he could’ve added a few of mine to Lema’s list.

But he wasn’t there… so I didn’t have to sweat it. (This time, anyway.)

Lema told us we should never take our customer base for granted or fail to connect with their hopes and dreams.

He chronicled his two decade’s worth of “behind the curtain” experiences with Adobe Flash and three other “we own the planet” software platforms.

While all four companies were rocking’ it and raking it in for a good bit of time, not one was able to reach its full potential once their customer bases began to decline.

Chris said there was one big reason for their self-inflicted peril.

They refused to innovate with their customers needs in mind.

Surveying the big picture – insights from a higher plateau

On the lookout for quick tips that’ll extend your reach?

Suricate - Meercat PhotoI am.

But we both know that tightly focused, numbered lists like “The Five Things You Must Do” or “The Three Things You Must Avoid” fail to convey the BIG picture of what it takes to become an effective communicator.

Following are three articles from the SCN archives that I wrote after interviewing communication pros who shared insights that caused me to step back and take in a wide-angle view.

Sometimes we have to observe and reflect on the big picture before we can understand what’s at stake and jot down bullet points about what to do next.

Hope you enjoy them.

Screen Shot 2014-03-20 at 4.52.12 PM

David Zach

DAVID ZACH – A futurist and speaker who’s given more than 1,400 keynote addresses. (Even an awesome one at NSPRA!)

Interesting feat: David says the best way to navigate a changing world starts at a young age by digging deep roots into the past. He advocates reading the classics and engaging in intellectual inquiry.

Key Quote: “In our grandparents’ time, people could focus on a single thing for about 20 minutes. Now, it’s about nine seconds, which is not much better than a goldfish. We’re heading the wrong way on the evolutionary scale.”

For more context, read my original story.

What surprised me: David believes schools get sidetracked with fads when they should be exploring time-honored topics like love and hate, war and peace, and other big questions of the human condition. He even recommends that students be required to memorize and recite the Gettysburg Address and other texts that contain core values.

What if you could… Focus your attention on what’s most important and empower others to do the same?

Take a timeout from your “Back to School” rush – SCN Encourager

Zach, Jensen, and Wohlfeill sounds like a law firm.

solicitorsBut it isn’t.

These are the last names of three amazing men who care deeply about our public schools and the roles we have as school leaders and communicators.

I’m sure there are lawyers out there who also care deeply about our public schools and the roles we have as school leaders and communicators.

But I doubt any of them could top these three.

Judge for yourself.

Take a brief trial run at SCN feature writer Kym Reinstadler’s latest version of “Insights that may surprise you.”

The nuggets she entered into evidence on our behalf deserve a positive verdict.

- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -

carTH 082114





Do the math. Do you know the value of your new school year? – SCN Encourager

Navy Seal Admiral William H. McRaven offers an intriguing formula.

Screen Shot 2014-08-19 at 7.52.38 PMA few months ago Admiral McRaven was the keynote speaker at the University of Texas at Austin 2014 Commencement ceremony. He used 10 everyday images (a song, a bell, … a shark!) to convey 10 mini-lessons for living a life of meaning and significance.

The Commencement audience of 8,000 found out rather quickly that the Admiral’s speech was intended for more than the new graduates.

He asked everyone present to consider their collective impact on the world.

Did they know that they possessed the power to touch nearly 800 million people over the next 125 years?

The Admiral used his own math formula, which was something like this:

Total # of people present TIMES # of people reached (20) TIMES five generations (grandparents, current, plus the next three = 125 years) TIMES 10 (factoring in 10 more lifetime interactions from everyone in the original total).

When I used this formula to calculate the collective impact on the world for the 2014-2015 school year based on my own school district’s numbers (Holland, MI), I couldn’t believe it.Complicated mathematical equation

The combined world influence and reach by just Holland’s teachers alone for the upcoming school year exceeds 7.8 MILLION persons.

Now my math may be off by a person or two – as Cindy refused to participate and put me on a three day spousal “do not call” list – but see for yourself.

250 teachers TIMES 25 students each TIMES 125 (the five generations) TIMES 10 = 7,812,500

Whether this is the big data version of the butterfly effect or the proverbial tossed pebble causing ripples in the pond, I can’t say.

Just doing the Admiral’s math wore me out.

Tech Tip Tuesday: How to use Canva to enhance school to home communications

Canva logoEver feel like the publication or email you’ve worked really hard on gets immediately deleted from someone’s inbox or quickly tossed into the recycling bin?

I’ll admit that as a busy mom, teacher, and grad school student I don’t always read through emails as carefully as I should…especially when they’re long-winded.  So, how can you quickly communicate important information in a format that people will read?

Canva to the rescue…again!

Check out this tutorial to learn how to quickly create a graphic that could share information with parents about conferences, bus routes, or a half-day schedule.  With an eye-catching image, parents, teachers and community members are less likely to click the delete button.

Stay tuned for next week’s tech tip as I will show you how to use Canva to update your school’s social media pages!

The big “so what” about Tech Tip Tuesday – SCN Encourager

A lesson from mingling with WordPress developers and designers

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 10.40.39 AMI attended WordCamp–Grand Rapids last Saturday.

It’s a conference geared for WordPress developers, website designers, and coders.

If you’re wondering why I signed up for this event – so did my wife.

I’m none of these things, obviously.

But with the Tigers mired in a slump, I figured what the heck?

It can’t hurt to keep learning new things and new ways.

But it did sting a little, I’ll tell you that.

When you’re one of the oldest people at a conference full of tech-savvy go-getters, you’ve really got to concentrate.


But the opening remarks from successful California entrepreneur and business start-up specialist Chris Lema made the pain involved with my attempt at lifelong learning worthwhile.

Imagine sitting in an auditorium with about 120 other people while a self-professed tech geek steps onto the stage and picks up the microphone.

I had to say it, but I had my doubts about Chris.

I was worried that he’d talk about a ton of stuff I wouldn’t understand… and if he talked about anything I actually understood, it would be boring.

Talk about lose-lose.

But Chris surprised me – and he came out swinging.

Your Back to School Blitz. Game on! – SCN Encourager

 Truth time.

Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 10.49.05 AMCould we be any busier?

I sure don’t see how.

Ping-ponging between assorted parent communications, monitoring student count and budgets, helping with registration, attending departmental and board meetings, reviewing emergency procedures, planning for open houses, and staying on top of 31 other “duties as assigned” makes our lives on our district teams, well… interesting to say the least.

But don’t you just love it?

There’s definitely something special about all that goes into our Back-to-School countdown.

The smiles and the unbounded spirit of our incoming students are contagious.

They inspire us to ramp up the effort for rolling out a proper welcome mat.

The wonderful feeling of anticipation within our schools on the first day of school is rare.

It’s uniquely ours.

Has the face of your competition changed? – SCN Encourager

How would you describe it?

Spedizione veloce_001Marketing experts have told us for years that the “real competition” affecting organizations comes from the expanded number of choices available to consumers.

For example, we want our parents to come to our school open house.

They are free to choose to attend… or stay home, go to work, go shopping, hang out at a sports bar, or choose from “it’s anybody’s guess.”

People with unlimited choices are our real competition.

The nearby charter school or a neighboring school district may be your visible and tangible competition, but your real competition is the multitude of available choices, including many not related to education at all.

Does this make sense?


It’s now old news.

Because the experts now say that the wide range of choices is no longer our real competition.

Our real competition is something else.

For sure, all of the “many choices” are still a significant competitive factors.

They’re still a burden on the back of every school communicator.

But the real competition we must beat today is TIME.modern city at night

In 2014, the kudos and high marks from consumers go in ever-increasing numbers to organizations that offer easy processes in speedy-kwik ways.

So what’s this mean?

It means we’ll be challenged to move fast, pivot quickly, and “launch” without the benefit of waiting around for the perfect plan to come in from the blue-ribbon committee that begin its work in 2011.

It means you have something to mull over while you enjoy your weekend with your family and friends.

I’m not sure how my mulling will go.

Cindy has a list on the kitchen counter of some things she’d like to see some “fast action” on.

But I don’t know.

I think this “move fast and pivot quickly” concept needs further study.

Speed shouldn’t be rushed.


carFRI 081514




Three communicators offer “insights that may surprise you.”

On the lookout for quick tips that’ll extend your reach?

Suricate - Meercat PhotoI am.

Duly noted: School communications is hard work. It’s also a big part of what makes a school — and a school district — successful. Fortunately, the building blocks of good communications are pretty simple.

Getting them all stacked straight and in order is another thing.

I was reminded of this as I looked through our SCN archives at features I’ve written over the last two years.

I hope you enjoy this presentation of three outstanding communicators. Their firm grasp on the “fundamentals” of public relations might spark an idea that you can use to increase your organizational success.

school professionalsMARY BETH HARRIS – Principal of Blanche E. Fuqua Elementary School, Terre Haute, Indiana

Interesting feat – She built successful school partnerships and enhanced parental involvement in her community by creating one-day events like “Principal for a Day.”

Key Quote: “You build a stronger community when people have been inside your building and know you.”

Here is the link to my original story about Mary Beth.

Insight That Surprised Me: Don’t underestimate the power of a one-day event to yield real and lasting support.

What if you could… Forge supportive relationships in your community among a range of people, from top executives to fast-food restaurants? What would your first step be? A new event?

Proof she knows what she’s talking about: Harris was selected by the Indiana Association of School Principals as Elementary Principal of the Year in 2012. A native of Terre Haute, Harris has served as principal at Fuqua Elementary since 1997. She was a teacher in the building for nine years before that. She believes that she and her school  are tightly woven into the fabric of the community.

school professionals

with the Colts mascot

DIANNA BOYCE – She headed up the communications effort for Super Bowl host committee when the professional football spectacle was played in Indianapolis in 2012.

Interesting feat – To set the tone for Hoosier Hospitality from the get-go, Dianna coordinated the effort charted out by the Colts host committee to have eighth graders – students who would be seniors when the 2012 Super Bowl would take place – to hand deliver Indy’s bid to all 32 NFL team owners. She was the one who devised a fair and fun way to execute this logistical Matterhorn in just 12 days!

Key Quote: “Our goal was for the students to hand-deliver bids on the Friday they were due and have the most fun possible doing it.”

Learn more about the strategy in my original feature.

Insight That Surprised Me: The 8th grade student ambassadors weren’t “retired” after the bids were delivered. Dianna said they returned periodically over the next few years to participate in various Super Bowl 2012 community service and charity events related to education.

What if you could… Cast students in the starring role of your high-profile event? Children, after all, are the reason for our schools. Could they help us promote our schools in an innovative ways?  In what areas could you coach them?

Proof she knows what she’s talking about: Since getting rave reviews for promoting the Super Bowl in Indianapolis, Boyce has moved on to serve as senior director of corporate communications for Finish Line, an athletic outfitter.

school professionalsBILL CAPODAGLI – Author (with wife Lynn Jackson) of the book “Innovate the Pixar Way – Business Lessons from the World’s Most Creative Corporate Playground.”

Interesting feat – He’s carefully dissected the various pieces involved in making movies by Pixar Animation Studios so memorable.

Key Quote: “Every business is show business. And it all begins with a story and beloved characters.”

My original story describes what Bill means by “show business.”

The Insight That Surprised Me: To foster creativity in its ranks, Pixar considers every employee, first and foremost, a storyteller. Everyone is encouraged to innovate!

What if you could… scout, encourage, and actually work to include the creative ideas from every employee, no matter where they serve in the organization? What if you and your co-workers felt totally free to let loose your childlike energy on occasion? What positive impacts could this have?

Proof he knows what he’s talking about: Bill Capodagli and his wife Lynn Jackson are the authors of four books about business. He is popular speaker about how to create an innovative workplace. He says it begins with establishing a culture where imagination is rewarded. It’s that simple. Imagination is what caused us to keep trying new things when we were young, and we shouldn’t diminish it as adults.

So, would these tips work for you?  You’re the school communicator who knows your district the best!

I invite your comments.

While you think it over, I’ll chase down some more “Insights That May Surprise You” to post here next week.


Living up to expectations takes time and practice. – SCN Encourager

But “underwhelming” I can do without any advance notice.

Speedometer - Exceeding Expectations of Your CustomersThe Canva project I had originally planned to create for you has been placed on hold.


Although I had studied Erin Luckhart’s excellent step-by-step Canva video tutorial  and thought I had pulled together the two essential pieces she recommended – a basic knowledge of Canva and a successful team or person to highlight – things didn’t turn out so well.

Obviously, the issue wasn’t with Erin’s tutorial.

I guess the problem was with my particular choice of success to highlight.

Maybe I shouldn’t have chosen ME.

This was a big mistake. (Ya think?)

But I really thought I had garnered a personal success worth touting.

Unfortunately, my success didn’t even last as long as Erin’s 11 minute video tutorial.

Best Teacher Crossword

Dang … and I came so close to being able to wow you.

No joke.

About three Saturdays ago I was typing away on my computer while sitting at my desk in our district admin office.

While I’d like to blame my boss for being such a taskmaster, no doubt I was still catching up on stuff I had hoped to start back in May.

All of a sudden I noticed an email with the subject line: Were you a 2nd grade teacher with the American School Foundation in Mexico City many years ago?

Yikes! I was.