My list of 10 trends in school communications is depressing me – SCN Encourager

I’m discovering I need to improve in every area!

same old thinking at 6.54.40 AMOne of these days…

I’m going to brag about one of my personal mastery skills.

Just because the list of my 10 school PR learnings clearly represents items I need to work on, doesn’t mean I don’t have a set of unique talents already fully developed.

This diagram even reminded me about one of them.

I had totally forgotten about my God-given ability to routinely try out BRAND NEW THINKING and still be able to churn out the SAME OLD RESULTS.

Not everyone has that particular gift, let me tell you!

Now before I present trends #5 and #6, how ’bout a speedy-kwik recap?

Here’s a tweetable review of  Trends #1-4: 

#1  Act FAST. Example: 10 minutes or less to launch a school crisis response.

#2  Be CONCISE. Don’t add weight to the pile of communications clutter.

#3  Begin your slow dance with CUSTOMER SERVICE. It’s the new marketing.

#4  Choose your own METRICS THAT MATTER. The others are secondary.

And, of course, this week’s invitation still awaits you:

brain powerI’d like your ideas about how you’re dealing with these four trends.

You may not know it, but I’m already receiving some excellent ones back.

With all of that extra “brain power” from school communicators coming in, next week’s Encouragers should be super rock-solid.

For once, I’ll have more than just Cindy’s opinion to keep me afloat.

(But don’t tell her I wrote that.)

Okay, it’s time to knock out Learnings #5 & #6:

Who would argue that social media is not where the action’s at, communications-wise?

Social media now provides the platforms where many of us are increasingly telling the stories of our schools.

Being an effective and engaging social media storyteller is a tremendous skill to have.

BUT it’s not the only internet skill we need to nurture.

#5  We must now be the protectors of our brand’s online reputation 

When you hear cybersphere referred to as something akin to the old “wild west,” don’t scoff.

It’s true.

We can teach (and preach) internet etiquette until the very day our Legislature fully funds our schools, but not much will change.

superheroThere’s simply no online sheriff out there to stop calamity before it “rides into our town.”

It’s nightmare-ish when it happens.

How online reputations can be severely tarnished in no time at all.

So, it’s up to us to be more knowledgeable about both active and re-active reputation management strategies.

I’ll go over some of these strategies in a few days.

I’m busy now working on a killer design for our “Online Brand Protector” t-shirts!

They’ll be a big help.

Anyway, Learning #6 is also related to how we react to the information we see posted online.

Here ’tis.

#6  What WE say online about us is not as important as what THEY say online about us

All of those Peer-to-Peer reviews posted online – and typically by people we don’t even know – have incredible influence.

people talkingSomehow we’ve elevated the countless throngs of online “peer reviewers” as the new omnipresent purveyors of truth.

Especially when it come to either recommending products and services OR un-recommending them, for that matter.

And this shift in the balance of “trust” doesn’t help us any.

Peers are the most effective persuaders around today.

For a superintendent or school communicator to join in the online conversation taking place between parents and their peers (or a gaggle of community cranks and their peers) is problematic.

While monitoring online conversations about our schools is relatively easy to do, actually entering into a school related discussion taking place online in real-time carries the risk of getting tagged as an interrupting “buttinski.”

But it’s a risk worth taking.

And I should know.

That’s another one of my unique personal mastery skills!

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No joke. We’ve got to be masters of both zippity-zip and brevity. Here’s Part 2. – SCN Encourager

The Speedy-Kwik Back-to-School PSD for school communicators is on a roll!

momentumLook out below!

Yesterday I introduced 10 new school communication “learnings” I believe are big time trending.

With the Tigers struggling and the NFL and college football season yet to begin, compiling my list of 10 is actually the most fun I’ve had recently!

But despite my pitiful definition of “fun,” pursuing ways to grow our skills in these areas is the best investment advice I can offer.

A tweetable review:

#1  Act FAST. 10 minutes or less for launching your crisis response.

#2  Be CONCISE. Don’t add weight to the pile of communications clutter.

An invitation repeated:

"More ideas, please."

“More ideas, please.”

Your tips and ideas about how you are coping with these trends are invited.

I’ll beg if I have to.

I’d like to include a range of real-world strategies in the Encourager next week.

So, if you have a new favorite tactic or resource, please add it to the mix!

Learnings #3 & #4:

I’ll confess.

Both of these kind of snuck up an me.

While I’m not sure traditional marketers or veteran business professors would agree with these two choices, I think the trend is quite clear.

#3  Customer service is the new marketing. 

Consistently memorable experiences with self-selected brands (like our schools!) trumps robust websites, snail mail newsletters, pithy tweets, and a matter-of-fact parent/teacher conferences.

That’s what consumer and “chooser” surveys say.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 10.02.50 PMA bright electronic sign near the curb may get noticed.

But positive experiences are what impact the decisions of school-choosing parents.

This doesn’t diminish the importance of first impressions, of course.

But dang, it’s now those “last impressions” that make or break us.

And yep, they happen every single day!

#4  Metrics that Matter are what matters 

I wish I could report that the State Legislature was all over this one, so we could relax.

But I can’t.

Screen Shot 2015-08-31 at 10.02.50 PMCall me a cynic.

It’d be true.

In fact, I’m so cynical I repeated the visual image I used for #3.

For sure, the State’s perpetual push for standardized tests and other calculable comparisons stands in stark contrast to what most of the successful firms and organizations are now routinely measuring: customer satisfaction, resilience, creativity, teamwork, meaningful growth (aka results in context), sustainability, and market share.

If I wasn’t a school communicator, I’d give up hope.

But I know that you and school leaders in many districts have been evaluating and redesigning the benchmarks and evaluations we use for quite awhile.

So, all is not lost.

It’s just too bad we have to work on both sides of the street, though; doing our best to respond to Metrics that Rarely Matter while also developing those that really do.

No wonder we’re tired!

We have to play both offense and defense at the same time!

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A speedy-kwik back-to-school PSD for every school communicator – SCN

As we launch a new school year in our districts, the spotlight is rightfully on all things “teaching and learning.”


Don’t forget us!

New thinking and new approaches need to be carried into school communications, too.

And that requires us to keep up with a wide range of new “learnings” and trends.

I hadn’t really thought about this all that much (who has the time!) until I made a slip of the tongue yesterday.

“Wow, Cindy,” I began. “Did you know that I’ve now written more than 700 Encouragers?”

You have?!?” she quizzed.

Deputy Fife and I are often easily surprised.

Deputy Fife and I are often easily surprised.


I thought her next question would be something like, “Do you know how repair projects we could’ve tackled around here if you weren’t so busy blogging?!?”

But she surprised me. (The pistol!)

She said, “That’s a lot. So, what have you learned?”

One of those never-started repair projects would be easier to undertake.

Since I didn’t have any immediate answers right away, I retreated to the safety (relative) of my office in the basement to try and come up with some.

So what actually have I learned?

Upon agonizing self-reflection I arrived at 10 new learnings in school communications that are looming bigger than ever and are requiring me to up my game.

Don’t worry.

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 4.32.13 PMI won’t dwell on these 10 new learnings now.

My plan is to focus on two of them everyday in bite-sized morsels, now through Friday.

If you’re already on top of all of these, good going!

I’m happy for you!

Just send me a few of your tips and resources to get me up to speed, buddy ol’ pal.

And whatever you do, don’t send your résumé to my superintendent.

With two of my daughters looking forward to 2016 weddings, this wouldn’t be a good time (for me!) to have him tempted to make an administrative change.

Here’s My School Communications Back to School Learnings List

1No one can quibble about  my #1.

We’re now living in the age of FAST.

We’ve all now got to be speedy-kwik school communicators.

Or else!

Consider our district crisis response plans.

Given the impact of social media and citizen journalists (aka anyone who breathes), many experts recommend that the communications component in a crisis response must be up and running within the first 10 minutes to be effective.

Yikes! I can barely locate my emergency notebook, charge my phone, swing by the bathroom, and recall what passwords to use in less than 7 minutes.

So, in the weeks ahead, I’m going to share a few ways schools can set-up a 10 minute crisis response plan.
(In other words, please send in your ideas so I can pass them along and take the credit!) 

Screen Shot 2015-08-30 at 4.57.22 PM#2 is connected to #1.

Along with having to operate FAST, my learning #2 recognizes the challenge we face with the ever-exploding communications clutter.

And there’s no end in sight to the thousands of daily messages interrupting the lives of our parents, community members, and each other!

Our messages are getting lost in the shuffle… and when they aren’t getting lost, they’re getting ignored.

No doubt about it, our schools will have to communicate clearly and concisely like never before.

And second chances and re-do’s are drying up, too.

Communications clutter has also squashed our capability to send out clarifications and explanations later.

No one has the time to see or read those, either.

I’ve got some suggestions for you on how to deal with communications clutter.

And I’ll share those in the future, too.

Here’s one I can give you now, though.

If you want to get a particular school message out to your public, just accidentally release a draft version of it.

You know, the version I mean – the one that includes typos and perhaps even the wrong date and location.

Without fail, this is the message the whole world will see.

Trust me.

Somehow whenever we can be embarrassed by typos and the wrong information, communications clutter never seems to be an issue.

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Are your very own “life-sucking” words holding you back? – SCN Encourager

How often is your unclimbable mountain actually one of your own making?

I can’t be the only one who plays this weird inner mind game.

defeatedI hope you know the game I mean.

We might even agree to call it Self-Esteem Solitaire.

But that wouldn’t quite be true.

You don’t play this game alone.

You always have a nagging tag team partner lurking about inside of you ready to leap in and take over at the worst possible moment.

"Oh no...YOU CAN'T!"

“Oh no…YOU CAN’T!”

And that puts the kibosh on any of the forward progress you were making.

At least I take comfort in the fact that my inner tag team partner has a pretty cool name – The Doubting Dynamo!

He’s also very good at what he does.

He’s always persuading me that HE knows what people are truly thinking of me and that I should reconsider… slow down… or maybe just give up altogether.

Do YOU have an inner tag team partner like this? 
(You do? Can we work out a trade?!?)

Mike KimMike Kim is a much sought-out marketing expert, a five-star copywriter, and has one of the best personal branding podcasts on the planet.

He’s also a man of character with a wonderful sense of humor who somehow succeeds at providing insights of relevance and value to a highly diverse audience from all walks of life, faiths, and professions.

Once I heard him joke about how he needs his wife to help him choose what to wear and from then on I was hooked.

That’s about all the relevance and value I needed!

Mike wrote something last month that I still can’t get out of my mind.

Its title was The Two Most Life-Sucking Words I Tell Myself.

You might be surprised what his two words were.

I was. ← and no, these are not the two words.

Mike’s two words were eye-opening.

Had the words been wrapped into a long sentence, I would’ve totally forgotten them, to be honest.

But nope, his two words jammed their way into my musty old memory bank weeks ago and then have refused to leave.

Screen Shot 2015-08-27 at 6.10.46 PMAt first, I didn’t think I’d have to read Mike’s blog.

I thought I could predict what his two words would be.

After all, I’ve been listening religiously to his weekly podcast.

(And you know how I take good notes on scraps of paper!)

How difficult could it really be to come up with a few zippy “life-sucking” phrases?

I’m a professional school communicator.

So I didn’t even call on my inner tag team partner for help in concocting my own list of “two-word” human spirit demoralizers.

•  No way
•  Forget it
•  You can’t.
•  Who cares?
•  You lose
•  Too late
•  Too old
•  Why now?
•  Detroit Tigers

But Mike had his own ideas.

His two words were a far cry from any of the ones on my list.

I think you’ll enjoy how he used them to craft an encouraging message for all of us if you click on over to his blog.

I know you probably just wanted me to tell you what Mike’s two words were.

But what’s the fun in that?

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Tragic events, your inbox, and communications clutter – SCN Encourager

Do you ever feel overwhelmed and don’t know why?

Especially right about now?

Digitally generated My brain has too many tabs openThe start of a new school year ranks as one of the Top Three Most Stressful Time Periods in the life a school leader and communicator.

The other two time periods are –
•  the middle of a school year,
•  and the end of a school year.

Granted, the research supporting this conclusion came from a DIY scientific survey sample of just one.

I wanted to conduct a more extensive survey.

Really I did.

But then I remembered that MSPRA Executive Director Gerri Allen, who’s crazy big on the value of research, once said that a high quality survey could cost more than $10,000.

That’s about $10,500 more than SCN has on its balance sheet, so I couldn’t afford to conduct a survey beyond one real-life school communicator.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 8.29.36 PMFortunately, the one I interviewed was right under my own roof, reasonably cheap, and quickly gave me the answers I wanted to hear.

Now, David Allen, the author of Getting Things Done, also backs good research, even though he’s not related to Gerri Allen at all.

He has a unique take on why school folks like us are prone to frequent battles with information overload.

He believes it’s not the TOTALITY of 3,000-4,000 ads, visuals, and messages that besiege us every single day that’s the problem.

He believes it’s our innate desire to seek and understand the actual MEANING of things and events that is the true thief of our contentment and joy.

Even on our busiest days, it’s not the “doing of things” that ties us up in knots, it’s the “wondering about things” that does.

Do you have a long list of unread emails in your inbox?

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 9.35.29 PMAllen’s convinced you can’t help wondering about “what’s important in there” even if you choose to ignore them

And whether it involves hearing about a heart-breaking local or national tragedy, it doesn’t matter.

We’ll typically dwell on trying to “figure it all out” until we have some kind of an answer, even if so little of it makes sense and facts are few.

So I guess the most encouraging greeting I can offer you today is this –

“Keep feeling overwhelmed!”

This demonstrates you’re a thinking, breathing, and caring human being.

Way to go!

Just don’t count on my scientific survey sample of one to be able to prove this in court.

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What’s the most important subject in school? – SCN Encourager

What do you think it should it be?

Don’t worry.

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 7.24.13 PMI didn’t try to answer this question.

So you’ll be treated to something more than the sophomoric contribution of “lunch or recess.”

Here are seven assorted “thoughtful souls” who offered their own personal perspectives for a recent series in The Economist Intelligent Life.

Although Cindy couldn’t, I hope you can look past the oxy-moron-ishness of my deep dive into an online magazine containing the words “intelligent life.”

Screen Shot 2015-08-25 at 7.52.37 PMTrust me, I won’t do this all that often.

I think I bonked my head in the process.

But the seven answers – and the reflections supporting them – were quite touching, each their own way.

No surprise here.

You can usually count on this to happen whenever people are given the opportunity to recall their own experiences in school.

If you take the time to click through the brief and well-written rationales, you won’t be disappointed.

You’ll see that all seven intelligent lifers cast new light on their choice of subject in ways that’ll make you proud you’re a part of our profession.

Nothing wrong with that!

And what exactly did these folks choose?

•  Music

•  Emotional Intelligence

•  Cultural Literacy

•  History (but presented backwards)

•  Basic Geography

•  Physics

•  Open Air Dawdling

It’s an interesting list, don’tcha think?

I kinda like that last one.


After all of these years, along comes a subject I can ACE!




Your incoming kindergartners. Uncut diamonds? Little acorns? Or just nobodies? – SCN Encourager

Thanks to this book – “nobodies” has my vote.

Here’s why.

Guy at 7.51.27 PMGuy Kawasaki is a former top executive at Apple.

He is now the top dog at Canva, maker of the simple graphic design software that 98% of the planet is raving about. (for good reason)

Awhile back, I wrote about Kawasaki’s TEDx talk in which he highlighted the 12 lessons he learned by working alongside Steve Jobs.

For school leaders and communicators, it’s a classic. (Uh, the talk, that is…)

So, it’s not a bad idea to check-in with Kawasaki every now and then, especially if your brain needs a fresh jolt of stimulation.

I definitely prefer Kawasaki to some alternative, like an ice cold shower in the morning.

His book Enchantment is full of targeted mental pokes, which is not surprising since its tagline is “The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions.”

I highly recommend this book… but if you’re not inclined to read it, there’s not much I can do about it.

Svengali, the-can't-say-no-to-him school communicator!

Svengali, the-can’t-say-no-to-him school communicator!

I just finished Enchantment last week, so I still haven’t mastered the whole “changing minds” process.

But once I do – watch out!

I’m going to change the name plate outside of my office door to Svengali. 

Anyway, Kawasaki tosses out plenty of brain rattling nuggets.

Wrestle with this particular one from page 113.

“Remember, nobodies are the new somebodies in a world of wide-open communications.”

At first I missed this statement’s significance.

But then I woke up to the incredible relevance it has for us and the good things happening in our schools.

We partner with parents to help their little nobodies become our society’s future somebodies.


What could be more exciting and worthwhile than this?

And this gives each one of us an inspiring speedy-kwik elevator speech, too.

“I help little nobodies grow into future somebodies.”

Just be careful about where and when you say this, though.

While I may think this phrase is pretty cool, Cindy and our wedding bound daughters have already put me on notice.

They never want to hear me call any of our future grandchildren “little nobodies.”

Fair enough.

But inwardly I can’t wondering how Svengali would’ve handled this in his home.




I hope you don’t have this kind of Monday! – SCN Encourager

Where one of your new ideas or initiatives boomerangs back with unintended consequences.

I don’t know why I was so amused by this tweet.
(It’s probably just my knucklehead-itis kicking in!)

But I thought of school communicators as soon as I saw it.


How often we’ll try to flex our creative wings and then get surprised by some of the responses.

So, with this in mind,

and with the Back-to-School busy-ness swirling around us,

here’s what I wish for you today –

An extra boost of nimbleness!

Thanks for raising your school district’s banner high.

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How the St. Louis County Police Department upped its Twitter presence – SCN Encourager

Making the decision to join – not ignore – the ongoing conversation in Ferguson, Missouri

twitter in st louisHere’s an intriguing feature article from Yahoo news.

As a school communicator, there’s lots of learning to be pulled out of this narrative, that’s for sure.

So, sorry to put a squeeze your weekend schedule.

But better now than Monday, right?

I wish I had a humorous communications angle or tidbit for you today, but that’s not possible when national events like the Ferguson, Mo., shooting and the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing are the subjects.

Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 7.37.50 PMInstead I hope you find these insights into how the St. Louis County PD and the Boston PD expanded their tactical initiatives into the social media domain as valuable as I did.

I never would’ve guessed that a simple hashtag could play a role in reducing illegal guns on the streets.

I also found it amazing that for the longest time all of the public communications in Ferguson, Mo.. was handled out of a “one person” office.

Sound familiar?

It was only as the crisis and controversy grew in St. Louis did the local decision makers and budget gatekeepers send our hard pressed PR colleague some help.

And it’s always interesting to see what happens once the communications cavalry arrives!

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