10 ways to conquer your video envy – SCN Encourager

Are you embarrassed by your own video creations?

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 10.38.21 PMDoes it seem like everyone else on the planet is able to produce a whiz bang school video in less time than it takes for you to charge your camera?

Well, since this is my sad state of affairs, I have decided to do something about it.

After a bit of research, I ran across an article that presented 10 ideas to help get new video projects off to a good start.

Along with good lighting and good sound, the author (with ties to YouTube) wrote that the most popular videos all share one characteristic; they’re connected to themes that resonate with audiences.


There’s got to be an idea listed here that’ll boost my standing in the “video space.”

And feel free to snap one up for yourself, too.

The article offered these 10 sure-fire winners.

1. Make a DICTIONARY VIDEO. Every video has its own acronyms. Show people the acronyms commonly used in your field. What?!? Is he kidding? We’re in education! Creating this kind of video could take years!

2. Make a new video of one of your OLD PRESENTATIONS.  Uh, oh. I still haven’t finished several “old presentations” that my former superintendent requested back in 1998.

3. Make a TIME-LAPSE or FAST SPEED VIDEO. Set your camera on your desk. Record for 8 hours. Capture what happens throughout your workday and share it later in superfast motion. This idea is way to risky. If my superintendent saw a video of my office in superfast playback, he’d compare it to a still photo of my office, and then he’d demand to know why he didn’t see any difference in motion between the two. (Not good.)

4. Make a FOOD VIDEO. Record what you eat for breakfast for 30 days. Sorry. There’s nothing I can write that is funnier than this recommendation itself.

5. Make a PRANK VIDEO. Inspire the pranksters in your workplace. People always enjoy sharing videos like this. And no doubt they all have new found free time. They all probably got fired!  So, this one’s not for me. I’ve got my daughters’ weddings ahead, remember? I need to work for 14 more years!

6. Make a VIDEO of a LIST. Everyone likes to read lists. The fact that you’re reading this list only  proves how popular lists are. No, it doesn’t. It only proves how unpopular I am! Popular people don’t have the time to read lists like this.

7. Make a “Q & A” VIDEO. People LIKE them. Then make an “A & Q” VIDEO. People LOVE Jeopardy. OK. Fine! But what do I do with the “&QA” video I made last Tuesday!

8. Make a “HOW TO” VIDEO. They’re always rank high. Make a video of something YOU know how to do. Yikes! Talk about a mountain too high to climb!

9. Make a “TOUGH STAND” VIDEO. Controversy always stirs up interest. Give voice to an extreme position by stating something like “Recycling should be outlawed.” There seems to be a rugged research component associated with this one. When did recycling actually become legal in the first place?

And  here’s my personal favorite –

10. Make a “BEHIND THE CURTAIN” VIDEO. People crave to see what’s happening behind-the- scenes. Now this one has potential. Hope you have the stomach for what may be coming!

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When people see your district’s icon, what pops into their minds?

Does your school district’s logo convey what makes you special?

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 9.57.38 PMCould people in your community identify it in a lineup as quickly as Nike’s checkmark, Starbucks’ siren and McDonald’s golden arches?

A highly recognizable logo is among a school district’s most powerful assets because it communicates so much in an instant.

If a logo no longer suggests the uniqueness and vibrancy of a school district, it may be time to consider re-branding.

Rebranding, done right.

Delaina McCormack

Delaina McCormack

Rebranding is an important discussion that requires input and sign-off from the superintendent, the school board and the school district’s communications department, according to Delaina McCormack.

Delaina, a graphic designer, is a public relations specialist with the Alexandria City Public School District in Virginia. Her 14,500-student district is nestled between much larger school systems in Fairfax County and Washington D.C. She can see the Capitol from her sixth-floor office.

She has been a presenter at the National School Public Relations Association annual seminar and blogs to create a forum of information that can help school communicators at socialschoolpr.wordpress.com.

“Inside the Beltway, the pace of life is unbelievably fast,” Delaina said. “But you have to take your time with the district’s brand because it’s how people experience the district.”

Delaina offered four steps for successful re-branding

  • The superintendent, school board, and communications office must agree at the very  beginning that re-branding needs to happen
  • A consensus needs to be reached on your district’s most unique quality
  • This is the quality that must be reflected in a stylized logo design
  • And then you need a pre-agreed upon process for approving the new logo

Delaina says she learned about the need to “define process” the hard way.

Whoa! This company’s brand manager has it way too easy. – SCN Encourager

This would be a great gig for a school communicator!

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 9.36.07 PMAt least it would seem so from my outside-looking-in vantage point.

And making sure to look up while I’m outside-looking-in.

All seven stories up.

This is the Longaberger Basket Corporate Office Building in Newark, Ohio.

It’s a $30 million mega-replica of the popular Longaberger medium sized go-to-market basket.

Wouldn’t you just love to have a bedrock visual that similarly resonates with one of your hallmark programs or initiatives?

The Longaberger marketing manager sure is one lucky duck.

You can buy photos like this online for a buck.

You can buy photos like this online for a buck.

He or she probably doesn’t have to sit around scrolling through hundreds of photos of kids working on their computers, kids sitting on the floor reading a book, kids getting off the school bus, or some kid playing the trombone.

He or she doesn’t have to make the tough judgement calls we must make in our quest to secure the right visuals.

There’s no “one visual” that could possibly represent the full range of what our schools do.

Culling through a school communicator’s photo files takes time.

A lot of it.

It’s probably not this way at Longaberger.

When the branding manager there needs a stunning visual image to pop onto their website or on a postcard, there’s the grand choice of one.

It must be nice.

For him or her, it’s one and done.

And then go home.

It’s almost tempts me into falling into a bout of communicator envy.

But you can’t beat the variety of moments, people, and events that we enjoy in our schools every day.

So, as appealing as it looks, I don’t think I’d want to work for an employer so closely tied to a singular over-sized and over-the-top visual.

Nope, it’s not for me.

No way.

Well, okay… maybe I could work here!

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Here’s an easy way to recognize and highlight Black History Month.

February is Black History Month.
Would you like to publicly recognize it in an easy, yet meaningful way?

This SCN resource was designed to help you do this. 

As busy school leaders and communicators, it’s way too easy for significant dates and special celebrations to slip right by us. Often we are swamped with our “real-time” school projects and deadlines and we simply don’t have the time to communicate much more than the sports scores, classroom visits, a link to pending legislation, or our own school events on our various social media channels.

We’d all like to do better – but how?

The 12 month calendar is jam-packed with worthwhile moments in history, acknowledgements of inspirational heroes, and highlights of memorable leaders and courageous circumstances.

But who has the time to research, compose, and then shout them out?

This is why we created a brand new Twitter resource called Tweetables.

This package of Tweetables is geared for school leaders and communicators who’d like to include an enhanced recognition of Black History Month as part of their normal “tweet stream” throughout the month of February.

Here’s the story behind SCN’s Black History Month Tweetables:

After much discussion within our SCN team, Erin Luckhardt, a young mom and middle school social studies teacher in Boyne City Schools, agreed to experiment with ways we could provide you with “easy peasy” cut and paste Tweetables for you to use as your own.

I’m excited about what she came up with. Even someone with novice level tech skills can do it. (Believe me, I made sure of this!)

What are “Tweetables?”

GoAnimate is worth a second look.

Sometimes your first introduction isn’t enough.

Screen Shot 2015-01-26 at 7.48.38 PMYou know there’s more to discover if you can only connect again.

That’s how I felt about last week’s Tech Tip Tuesday, partly because I wanted to know more about GoAnimate myself!

GoAnimate is really fun, so I looked for another school-related example to share with you.

I also kept thinking back to the original video that got me interested in GoAnimate in the first place.

It was shown to me by my district’s Director of Technology who created it as a part of her application for the Google Teacher Academy last summer.

She got in! 

So, I asked her to tell me why she liked it, and then I added in a few new features for you to check out.

I think you’ll see how they can make your videos seem more natural and provide more interest for your intended audience. more to your audience.

Here is an embedded version of the video my fellow worker made as part of her application for the Google Teacher Academy last summer:

As always, let us know what you think and share any videos you’ve created! You can reach me at
[email protected]

The Doublemint Twins & a Big Announcement – SCN Encourager

Remember the slogan “Double Your Pleasure. Double Your Fun?”

Screen Shot 2015-01-25 at 5.00.16 PMHoly cow!

I hope I’m not the only one.

I still remember those TV ads featuring the Doublemint Twins like they were yesterday.

Mind you, the smiling blondes were neither here nor there with me.

I just enjoyed chewing gum once in a while and was cursed by a designer’s sharp eye for bright green color combinations.

I’m referencing the Doublemint Twins because today’s Encourager is kind of a “twofer” as well.

First of all -

Thanks for checking in with the Encourager when you can. As an in-the-trenches school communicator myself, the Encourager is my way of letting you know that I’m proud of the work we do together to promote our schools.

You’re not alone.

So, every Monday-Friday I’ll keep emailing the Encourager your way.

I’m always touched by the responses I receive:
“Thanks, Tom. This is just what I needed today!”
“Thanks, Tom. You’ve proved that my own family isn’t so dysfunctional after all!”
“Thanks, Tom. And if you’re ever thinking about moving into my neighborhood, I respectfully request 90 days notice. The judge’s ruling is attached.”

I’ve written more than 600 Encouragers in 2 1/2 years and your responses have honestly been what’s kept me going,

Secondly – here’s the big announcement!

Sometimes you just gotta throw in the towel – SCN Encourager

And just give it up.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 8.34.11 PMSometimes it’s best to just accept the sad reality of a situation.

But before you get your hopes up, I’m not talking about me.

I’m talking about the contingent of readers who keep sending me tips on how to improve my writing.

They tell me that the vast majority of school communicators will never take the Encourager seriously unless I ratchet up my skill level a notch (or three). 

They have a point.

So it’s too bad I have to disappoint them.

But I tried.

I brought home flyers from local writing workshops to show Cindy.

One even billed itself a “bootcamp.”

That one sounded like such a blast, I almost sent in the deposit.

But then I discovered this article.

And shazam!

A sudden micro-burst of enlightenment cast out its bright beacon of truth.

For all these years, it had never occurred to me that what probably infects my writing style is an untreatable inner malady totally beyond my control.

Apparently, I have a rare wordsmithing affliction that will forever rage unabated within me.

No lie.

Can I help it if the way I write is just “too sexy” to be taken seriously?.

Screen Shot 2015-01-22 at 10.20.40 PMToo sexy?!?


Who even thought such a logical and reasonable explanation like this one was possible?

I know I didn’t.

But my DNA is what it is.

And all we can do now is accept it.

So, have a great weekend!

I know I will.

That bootcamp is no longer on my “to do” list!

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You can knock the block off bullying by teaching empathy

But first you must be willing to wrestle with a tough topic

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 8.23.05 PMAfter the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, new workshops popped up to help education reporters better understand how teasing and bullying can escalate into violence.

I, for one, needed a primer. My own K-12 education was pleasant. I was never in the popular crowd, but didn’t feel ostracized to an out-group, either. I was oblivious to the fact, for some, teasing and bullying make school a living hell.

I reported on a few instances of alleged bullying during my career with a regional daily newspaper, but the one I remember most involved a girl-group attack of a female classmate in the hallway of a rural high school.

The victim, who had superficial injuries, said she was targeted because of her homosexual orientation. Video of the fight recorded by a student with a cell phone was uploaded to YouTube minutes after dismissal.

Teachers and the school administrator handling communications refused to issue statements until they knew facts. And their focus was getting the video removed from the Internet.

Of course, a newspaper reporter’s job is to post a story that’s as complete as possible before the local TV station’s nightly news. That afternoon I phoned as many students at home as I could to ask if they had witnessed the fight, or knew first hand what caused it.

When the story is neither clear nor simple

A common thread wove through the responses, and it astonished me.

Does the fear of failure sometimes hold you back? – SCN Encourager

I’m pleading the fifth on this question.

OOPS! SignI refuse to answer it on the grounds that I’ll probably get it wrong.

But I heard something Tuesday that offers good counsel to anyone contemplating the launch of a new program or initiating a fresh approach to marketing and student recruitment.

And in some organizational cultures, implementing even the simplest change ignites more anxiety and drama than it should – so this counsel applies here as well.

The podcast hosts were talking about Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 7.11.56 PMThey described the business plan Smith created as part of an economics class assignment when he was at Yale.

The year was 1965 and the business plan he turned into his professor essentially outlined the framework and logistical overview for what we now know as FedEx.


I remember that many of my college assignments somehow turned into “absolutely, positively have to be completed overnight” deadline beaters – but I never ever came close to dreaming up a potential gazillion-dollar venture to hand in.

I imagine Smith was proud of his work.