Well, stop banging your head against a brick wall.
pass the pressure of being the primary messenger onto someone else.
Recent studies show that people will often believe a message delivered by a peer to be much more trustworthy than the exact same message coming from the leader of an organization or its paid communications specialist.
Now, I know you may think this is all nuts.
(But I don’t – I’m accustomed to people not listening to me.)
Peer reviews count big time today… so it’s time to lean into the wind and accept the fact you might need to develop a “testimonial strategy” for your district, something beyond the occasional words of praise you receive via an email, phone call, or note.
An effective “testimonial strategy” is a blend of Art and Science.
Because I’m lousy at both, I’ve typically relied on capturing and promoting random acts of niceness as they’ve popped up.
Just like bending over to pick every coin you find on the sidewalk is a horrible way to build your retirement nest egg (at least so far!), waiting for positive testimonials from parents and others to magically appear before you is an incredibly low bar approach.
Not that I have anything against low bar approaches, you understand.
Low bar approaches and I work well together.
But we CAN do better.
Here’s a 7-Step Process for crafting a “testimonial strategy”
#1 Commit to a defined strategy (for a change)
ex. We will consistently inform the community about the good things we are doing (covering the present) and how our work supports the future success of our students (impacting the future).
#2 Create a simple “where – by when – how many” tactical frame
ex. By the end of every month, we will post 3 new video testimonials on our website. Our testimonial videos will not be TV quality, over-blown productions. Our videos will feature parents, community members, and older students (ones who can offer perspective). Each video will have an authentic and friendly peer-to-peer message, good sound, good lighting, and not run longer than 90 seconds. The ideal tools are a smartphone and lavalier microphone, nothing expensive or whiz bang.
#3 Establish a steady pipeline of recommended prospects
ex. Every principal and administrator will be assigned specific months to contribute their personal recommendations for video testimonials. They will submit the name and contact information for one parent, one community member, and one student. They will include one or two sentences about each person they are recommending (the “why”).
#4 Use an effective storytelling format
ex. In order to enhance the personal connection power of every video testimonial, we will use the “Feel – Felt – Found” storytelling format. This will also ensure consistency. We will not tell the person on camera what to say (as he or she may not even use the words “feel, felt, and found”) but we’ll have a pre-video discussion to go over the format. Ideally, the person would say something along the lines of: “I can understand why parents have a difficult time choosing a kindergarten program. All of the choices are overwhelming. I felt the same way almost one year ago. But I found out the teachers here are awesome… and work hard to make this school caring and accepting… and academically challenging.”
Steps 5, 6, and 7 are obvious:
• Review & edit your video
• Post it on your website where people can see and share it
• Archive old videos in a dedicated website section as new videos come in
There was an 8th step in this process.
But I had to cut it out.
My original plans called for ending every video testimonial with the person gushing about the amazing skill and talents of the district’s school communications director.
But this step (so critical in my mind) got the speedy-kwik ax.
My superintendent didn’t feel this step was acceptable.
He felt this was blatant personal grand-standing on my part.
And he found there were plenty of other school communicators looking for work if I disagreed.
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