Communication, Culture, Leadership

SUPER fun back-to-school staff icebreaker … Never Have I Ever (campus/office edition!)

A while back I saw a clip of The Ellen DeGeneres Show where Ellen played Never Have I Ever with Johnny Depp, Gwyneth Paltrow and Paul Bettany. It was hilarious! (You can watch it here.) I thought – HEY, that would be a fun icebreaker to do with district leaders!

I can tell you now, from personal experience, that it is a MOST ENJOYABLE icebreaker to do with your staff or team! I can’t remember the last time we all laughed that hard! In fact, those paddles were held up long after the icebreaker was over in support or denial of statements throughout our leadership retreat, eliciting further chuckles.

I won’t tell you what question this was to protect the innocent! 😉

This is nothing groundbreaking or particularly creative, but I am sharing the questions I asked and a printable PDF of the I Have / I Have Never cards in case you need something fun to do with your staff to kick off the year. It is super easy – I just printed the cards on cardstock, then folded them over, cut them in half and glued a popsicle stick in the middle.

Never Have I Ever Questions

  1. Worn two different shoes to work
  2. Fallen asleep at my desk
  3. Laughed at a student’s inappropriate joke
  4. Taken work home that never made it out of the car
  5. Yelled at my computer screen
  6. Fallen in the hallway of my school or building
  7. Cleaned my desk by piling everything into one stack
  8. Dozed off during professional development
  9. Rolled down the hallway in my office chair
  10. Played on my phone while trying to look like I am doing something important

What is your favorite icebreaker to do with staff upon returning from summer break?

Communication, Culture, Leadership, NSPRA, TSPRA

Full bucket, grateful heart reflections from my first NSPRA Seminar

I started and stopped this post several times because I don’t really know how to do justice to my first NSPRA Seminar experience with mere words. How do I write a feeling? How do I adequately convey the true impact of building new relationships? My school PR bucket is full and I can’t wait to get back and start planning for the new school year! The day before I left for Washington, D.C. I cleared off the “Dreaming-Doing-Done” board in my office. It will no doubt be full of new ideas very soon!

I can easily move the sticky notes from dreaming to doing to done as the ideas come to life!

I am so grateful to each person I met over the last 5 days. I loved the New Professionals Pre-Seminar. It was comforting to be in a room with other new school PR practitioners, soaking up knowledge from two veteran PR pros (thank you Susan and Chris!). Although I am entering my fourth year in school PR, I walked away from that experience with a wealth of ideas and a renewed focus. My biggest takeaway was utilizing RACE / R-PIE in all communication efforts. One of my goals this year is to focus on the research step before diving into implementation.

To the AWESOME #k12prchat family, THANK YOU for welcoming me with open arms and thank you for the Chatty Award! I distinctly remember my mouth falling wide open when Cathy called my name. I did not see that coming AT ALL! I love my hashtag, #jumpin. You all have made it easy for me to jump into the chat and into the group. I am constantly learning from and with you and I am so grateful.

2019 #k12prchat Chatty Award Winners

Having presented at conferences in the past, I fully understand the preparation and hard work that are required to plan and deliver quality content. My sincere thanks to those of you who presented at the NSPRA Seminar. I took 10 pages of notes! Your willingness to share your vast expertise and experiences will make me a stronger resource for my district. I am better because of you!

For those of you who may be reading this but were unable to attend the NSPRA Seminar, please feel free to peruse my notes below. I have also included links to notes I have taken at past TSPRA conferences. I hope you are able to fill up your PR bucket with some new ideas, tips, or tricks. #sharingiscaring #bettertogether 🙂

Safe travels to all who are heading back home from Washington, D.C. and thank you, again, to the NSPRA scholarship committee for giving me an opportunity to learn from the best in the nation. I am hooked and I will find a way to see you all next year in St. Louis!

With my friend Heidi Otero who encouraged me to reach for the stars and apply for an NSPRA scholarship!
Communication, Leadership, NSPRA

My first day at the 2019 NSPRA Seminar did not disappoint! Follow along with me here!

First of all, I want to thank the NSPRA scholarship committee again for awarding me the Armistead New Professional Scholarship, making it possible for me to attend my first national school PR seminar! The scholarship provided my seminar registration, along with registration for NSPRA’s New Professionals Pre-Seminar Workshop, which started yesterday. By lunchtime yesterday, my bucket was already full! SO many great tips and ideas shared about research, strategic planning, and developing key messages. A big thanks to Susan Brott and Chris Tennill for hosting this awesome learning opportunity.

Every time I attend a conference, I share my live notes for others to follow along. I am a nerdy note taker, but I using Google Docs allows me to go back and search through all of my conference archives when I’m looking for “that” idea. 🙂

Click here for my 2019 NSPRA Seminar notes!

Branding, Leadership

Looking for summer reads? Here are my 10 favorite girl power, school PR and leadership books!

I – love – to – read! I love to read fiction, non fiction, mystery books, girlie books, biographies, self help and academic books whenever I get the chance. Now that my children are a little older, I am able to find a bit more time to read, which is awesome. I put this list in ABC order because it’s too hard to rank them by my favorite. They have all impacted my life and/or my career in some way and I hope you are able to find a new read for your summer list from these recommendations! 

Becoming by Michelle Obama

Hi reader, because I may not know you very well, I may have to ask that you put your political views aside for this recommendation. Or perhaps not. Either way, this book is full of girl power, beautifully written, inspiring and empowering. I loved learning more about Michelle Obama’s childhood, her upbringing and how she lived as the First Lady while trying not to lose herself. I also loved the feeling that I got to peek behind the curtain of the White House. (I am on a little First Lady kick right now and am currently reading Spoken from the Heart by Laura Bush!)

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

This book doesn’t have anything to do with school PR, but it is 100% about girl power, perseverance, family, love and survival. The author, a young journalist, began experiencing psychiatric symptoms that baffled doctors and specialists and landed her in a catatonic state. Thankfully, her family wouldn’t rest until a diagnosis was made and she was on the road to recovery. I found this story absolutely fascinating for the medical mystery factor, and also for the resilience of the author and her family.

BrandED: Tell Your Story, Build Relationships, and Empower Learning by Eric Sheninger and Trish Rubin

This is one I read in hard copy and I wore out my highlighter as I read it! There are many applicable real-world examples and case studies that you can apply to your own situation, plus an appendix with great worksheet-type resources. One of my favorite quotes is: “Do yourself a service: Create your own brand.” We hear about branding in the corporate world ALL the time, but I don’t think we talk about it enough in public education. This is a great book to get that conversation started!

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown

I like to listen to books on Audible when I am traveling or driving back and forth to conferences and meetings. This is one I listened to and I am SO GLAD I did! I loved hearing Brene’s own voice tell her stories and share her recipe for true belonging. The message is so good … we can truly belong without giving up who we really are. Who knew?! I bought this book for my entire team after I listened to it and will definitely be reading it again … next time in hard copy so I can highlight and take notes!

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

I – loved – this – book! It was so uplifting and inspiring! This is another one I listened to on Audible during my nightly walk in my neighborhood and it definitely put a pep in my step! Tony Hsieh is the creator of Zappos and in this book he shares everything he learned about company culture and customer service. One of my favorite culture builders was “The Face Game” but you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is!

How to Get Run Over by a Truck by Katie McKenna

The author LITERALLY got run over by a truck! In this memoir she takes the reader through her accident and her LONG journey to recovery. If you’re needing to fill your bucket and find the strength to overcome adversity, give this one a try!

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

I have no doubt that this book is the very reason I have the job I have today. I listened to this book at a pivotal time in my career. I was looking for a new challenge, but I was feeling sheepish about trying to pave my own way. I remember walking through my neighborhood one night listening to Sheryl on Audible and literally fist pumping as she talked about empowerment, asking for a seat at the table, and NOT apologizing for it. So, I did. And here I am.

Let’s Take the Long Way Home and New Life, No Instructions by Gail Caldwell

Grab your tissues for this duo! The first title is a beautiful story of unlikely friendship, unconditional love and loss. The second title is a sequel that chronicles Caldwell’s life, the loss of a friend, recovery from a hip replacement, and triumph in the face of adversity. These do not directly fall into any of the three categories of this post, but definitely have themes of girl power and leadership woven into each beautiful story.

Your School Rocks, So Tell People by Ryan McLane

This is an easy read that provides practical ways teachers and administrators can give parents a behind-the-scenes look at what’s really happening in school. There’s a large focus on social media with tips for videos, hashtags, blogging and more. I read this one digitally on Kindle and did quite a bit of click-and-drag highlighting throughout! Great for those just getting started with social media storytelling.

There are at least a dozen other titles that I could add to this list, but this is a good place to start. Maybe I’ll do a part 2 after I finish my summer reads. 🙂 I would love to know what you’re reading! Share your favorite girl power, school PR or leadership book in the comments below so I can add them to my list!

Branding, Communication, Google, Marketing, Productivity, Tools, TSPRA

Are you new to school PR or building a new school PR program? These 5 documents can help you get started!

I was recently contacted by a newly hired school PR professional who is building a brand new PR program in her district. Having done that very thing 3 years ago, I was happy to offer my input and share my resources. With the help of MANY veteran school PR pros (thank you CASPRA, TSPRA, and NSPRA!), I’ve filled my toolbox and developed some documents that anyone can use to get a school PR program off the ground. I’m so happy to share those documents with you!

Please feel free to make copies of any of these documents and use them to develop your school PR program or share them with someone who can benefit! They’re all in Google Doc format, so you just have to go to File > Make a Copy to create your own version. Sharing is caring! We’re better together! 🙂

  1. Communications and Community Relations Plan – having a road map to guide communications efforts is incredibly helpful in beginning a new program, keeping it on track, and evaluating it annually for effectiveness.
  2. Annual School PR Tasks Checklist – I find that having a sort of “dashboard” for my annual and monthly tasks is helpful for big picture planning, prioritizing and making sure nothing slips through the cracks.
  3. Branding and Style Guide – I looked at dozens of style guides, some simple and some very in depth, before developing this one for our district. I settled on a simple and straightforward version, leaving room for the addition of details in the future, if needed.
  4. Communications Scorecard – each month I send this communications scorecard to my superintendent and our board of trustees. This is a great way for me to analyze our content and locate trends, as well as illustrate our growth and top efforts.
  5. Stay Connected with our ISD – this is a great publication for parents and the community to see all of the many ways they can stay connected with your schools!

In addition to the documents above, I also want to offer two presentations that I shared at TSPRA last year that may also be of interest/help. One contains ways in which we have engaged various stakeholder groups and the other is a presentation I also use internally to start a dialogue about branding and public education.

C4 Yourself! Cultivate Community, Communication & Culture – bit.ly/bisdc4tspra
Are you BrandED? – bit.ly/tsprabranded

Advertising, Communication, Google, Marketing, Productivity, Social Media

Social media content planning made easy with this collaborative Google Sheets template (great for one man schoolPR shops!)

If you’re a one man schoolPR shop, you know how important it is to find ways to work smarter, not harder. One of the easiest ways to do that is to collaborate with key staff members who can help you develop great content. Share the love, right?!

Last summer I developed this Google Sheet and employed the help of our district content specialists, instructional specialists and instructional technology specialists to plan social media content for the summer using the themes below. (I try to update the themes regularly, so you’ll see different hashtags in the document linked above.) It was awesome to have a diverse range of posts and it really made my job a lot easier to have quality, targeted content ready to go.

Motivational Monday
Technology Tuesday
Wellness Wednesday
Thinking Thursday
Focus Friday
Safety Saturday
Stay in School Sunday

It’s no secret that I love all things Google, so a Google Sheet felt like the obvious choice for this task. Plus, it’s so easy to give access to staff who can help me and I know the document is always live and up-to-date. I even built in a little character counter to keep our posts “Twitter friendly.” It’s simple and basic, but it works!!

Do you have a social media content planner that is working for you? Share it in the comments below!

Communication, Culture, Google

Customizable Bitmoji postcards you can use for almost any situation (my superintendent LOVES these!)

I have an awesome superintendent who totally understands the power of a handwritten note and he LOVES Bitmoji! Seeing as I aspire to only communicate with Bitmojis, I have had a blast putting these postcards together for multiple occasions. Staff members and students LOVE to receive these, and they are so easy to make using Canva.

I love sharing documents on this blog that you can use, so I took this concept to Google Slides so you can make a copy and create your own customized 4×6 Bitmoji postcards. Click here for the slides (go to File > Make a Copy to create your own!).

And just for kicks, I’m also including an easy-to-use format for thank you cards that we love. Print these front-to-back and cut into thirds and they fit right into a standard envelope. These are great for students, parents, volunteers, donors, and everyone in between. You can switch out the stock pictures with pictures of your events, campuses, and programs. Click here to get the cards (go to File > Make a Copy to create your own!).