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.

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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?

Bill Jensen

Bill Jensen

BILL JENSEN – Motivational speaker and author of seven books on how to simplify work to make it easier to get the important stuff done.

Interesting feat – He learned how to hone things down to their essence in an art class on Bauhaus Design – a theory that also had a big effect on the late Steve Jobs, the inventor who co-founded Apple, Inc.

Key Quote: “At any level, if you’re getting resistance, it’s probably because you’re not looking at a task from the point of view of the person who has to do it. If you want people to create and innovate, you first have to address their time poverty.”

Here’s a link to the original story.

What surprised me: Something about serving in a school public relations capacity creates the notion that your top priority is promoting your superintendent’s vision. Not so, according to Bill. He says the most effective publicists aren’t necessarily good at “top down” but they “must be great at bottom up.” Ensuring “an on-going feedback loop” is the greatest value the position provides.

What if you could… develop your skill at distilling the essence of what people need to know and communicating that clearly, whether it’s from your boss or to your boss?

Gary Wohlfeill

Gary Wohlfeill

GARY WOHLFEILL – When we talked, Gary was creative director at Moosejaw Mountaineering, an bricks and mortar retailer that sells online, too at He’s since become the vice president of marketing at Crowdrise, a crowd-funding platform based in Chicago.

Interesting feat: Moosejaw is the master of customer engagement. This is a brand you want to hang out with, even if backcountry camping is not your thing. Most Moosejaw stunts are as wacky as the company name and have absolutely nothing to do with what Moosejaw sells, but engaging customers still builds brand loyalty.

Key Quote: “It has to be the same personality coming through each customer touch point or they’ll think you’re faking it. That’ll put cracks in your brand.”

Don’t pass up my original article on Moosejaw, especially if you’re not familiar with its Madness. You’ll get some ideas that could be adapted to your school or school system.

What surprised me: People never grow too old to enjoy playing. Upping the fun factor will endear people to your brand. Gary’s not afraid to be silly – or to push the envelope – to get noticed.

What if you could… embrace frivolity? Yes, K-12 education is important. But does it always have to be serious? Who better than school communicators to set the stage for some light-hearted fun that the public will associate with your school or district?

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