Communication, innovation, Social Media

5 tips for a successful student takeover – give your students a voice and your social media channels a new flavor!

Late last year I learned of the concept of a social media “student takeover” and immediately wanted to try it with Brenham ISD! I passed the idea by my BHS student communications intern who was all in to give it a go. We decided to use Instagram Stories, an area I was not fully utilizing, in hopes of branching out and growing our Instagram following. I shared a Google Doc with my intern and we planned some ideas for posts throughout the day. He did a WONDERFUL job and I loved showcasing a student voice on our Instagram channel to add a new flavor to our posts!

Entering into the new school year, I was eager to jump in and try another student takeover. A local welding contest presented a perfect opportunity for a behind-the-scenes look at our students at work. I reached out to our FFA president to see if she’d like to give a sneak peek of our CTE students at the competition and she was excited to participate. This time I used some specific guidelines to help guide the posts throughout the day and it was a HUGE success! 

A week later, I contacted our district’s head athletic trainer to see if she had a student athletic trainer that might be interested in participating in a student takeover day. I was thrilled when the offer was accepted and we were able to highlight the work of our SATs from the sidelines of a Friday night game. One of my favorite parts of that takeover was a time-lapse of a pre-game taping session with our student-athletes. It was so unique and an idea I never would have thought of!

If you’re considering a student takeover, I SAY JUST DO IT! It has been such a rewarding experience for me and for our students. It’s also a great opportunity to give historically underrepresented student groups a voice, or showcase learning that goes on outside of the regular school day!

Here are a few tips to help ensure a successful student takeover:

  • CHOOSE WISELY! With this wonderful opportunity comes great responsibility for your students. Do your homework and choose students who will represent your brand well and who understand the power of their posts.
  • Set clear expectations. Check out the Brenham ISD Guidelines for Instagram Stories Student Takeover for ideas. Don’t make your students guess what it is you want from them.
  • Let your students post in their own voice. As school PR pros, we do a great job of posting information that adults are interested in. Let your students add their own unique flavor to engage your younger student audience!
  • Use all the bells and whistles. Encourage your students to use all of the Instagram Stories features like Boomerang, Superzoom, gifs, stickers, etc. Even if you’re not comfortable with those features, your students likely are!
  • As Elsa says, LET IT GOOOO! You’ll enjoy your student takeover more if you let go of technical expectations and hopes for perfection. It’s ok if you notice a slight error (or a less formal tone) in a student post!
Communication, podcasting, Social Media, Tools

Our Cub Nation Station podcast is up and running and it couldn’t have been easier!

(After I composed this post, I realized it became fairly lengthy. EEK! I tried to include lots of HOPEFULLY helpful planning details, but be looking for some follow-up posts with specific info about Anchor, SoundCloud, and Headliner!)

Each week my district hosts two radio shows featuring staff and students talking about the great things happening in Brenham ISD. Last year, I started hosting one of these shows, which provided a perfect opportunity for me to expand our content to a podcast this year. The station manager graciously allows me to bring in my own recorder to grab those weekly interviews for our new Cub Nation station podcast. It has been SO EASY to take the content we are already producing and put it into a podcast format to reach a greater audience. Below are the steps I take and the tools I use to produce the weekly episodes. If you’re thinking about starting a podcast, I say DO IT! There’s nothing to fear!

Step 1: Schedule the interview

  • I send a Google Sheet to all of our campus and district administrators at the beginning of each year so they can easily sign up for an interview date/time slot.
  • I encourage them to choose a date that is MEANINGFUL (ex: coincides with a special event, celebration or time of year).
  • They write 5 questions (with short answers … I’ll tell you why later!) and share them with me in a Google Doc.
  • Once all admins have had a chance to sign up, I reach out to student group sponsors and special programs staff to get a variety of voices on the show.

Step 2: Record the interview

  • This year I bought a Zoom H1n Handy Recorder for recording the podcast episodes. It’s super easy to use and has great sound quality.
  • I just set it up on the table in between my guest and me and press the little red record button to start and stop.
  • It came with a micro-SD card and an adapter so I can easily transfer the audio file to my computer.

Step 3: Publish the podcast episode

  • I am using Anchor to publish our district podcast and I highly recommend this for starters! It’s FREE and it’s EASY! Plus, it automatically pushes my podcast to 6 different platforms each time I publish a new episode.
  • The high-level steps in Anchor look like this … 
    • Import my podcast intro from my library (previously recorded)
    • Insert the “slide” transition clip from the Anchor library (personal preference)
    • Upload the episode from my Zoom micro-SD card
    • Split the audio to trim the ends of the episode (gets rid of our chatting before and after)
    • Insert the “slide” transition clip from the Anchor library again at the end
    • Save episode
    • I then use the questions and answers from the Google Doc the guest shared with me for the episode notes and also for a “5 questions with” newsletter on our district website. (work smarter, not harder!)

Step 4: Advertise the new episode

  • My podcasting pals Justin Dearing and Erin McCann shared this AMAZING tool with me called Headliner. It does A LOT of stuff, but I use it to record teasers for my latest episodes. (This tool will likely require a more detailed future blog post!)
  • The high-level steps for Headliner look like this …
    • I use Canva to create a square image with the title and topic of my episode and a picture of the guest. 
    • Then, I drop the file from my Zoom recorder into Soundtrap to trim it into a 15-30 second teaser.
    • Headliner then helps me turn the audio teaser into a cool animated waveform on top of the Canva image that I can share on social media with a link back to the full episode.
  • You can see an example of the headliner teaser here.

I fully accept that there is probably an easier (and more sophisticated) way to do all of this, but it’s working for me now and it’s all FREE! 🙂

“Not-so-pro” tips: 

  • There are NO ambushes on my shows. The guests know exactly what I am going to ask because they wrote the questions! This is why they keep coming back – I don’t scare them away with questions they’re not ready to answer!
  • I use a canned response in Gmail to send guests a reminder the week of their shows. You can turn on canned responses or “templates” in your Gmail settings.
  • I use the RSS feed from Anchor to push episodes to a page on our district website so all of my social media posts lead back to our district site. 🙂

Do you have a podcast? What are your favorite tools, tips, and tricks? I’d love to learn from you!

Communication

Have you been through the school bond process? Then I need your help!

Hello school PR friends! I am working on research for the completion of a master’s degree in strategic communication and innovation from Texas Tech University and I need your help! My final project will be a content analysis of visuals used for school bond elections. The idea is to analyze 100 samples and look for systematic patterns that may have enhanced information processing. 

Here’s where you come in. 🙂

If you been through the bond process and would be willing to send me your flyers, posters, postcards, etc., please fill out the short form here. In return for your help, I will send you the results of my research in hopes that it might help you with future bond elections.

Thank you in advance! I am always amazed at the willingness of the school PR community to share, and I am really jazzed to investigate your samples and hopefully provide some meaningful feedback for future bond efforts!

Communication, innovation, Leadership

11 books about strategic communication and innovation that challenged my approach to school PR

I am a nerd. I love to learn and I love to go to school. I have a Master of Education in Instructional Leadership from Sam Houston State University and I just started my last semester to complete a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Innovation from Texas Tech University. My husband {lovingly} calls me a nerd and I wear that label proudly (although I have promised him that I will NOT get another degree!).

I also love books. I love to read and make connections between what the authors are proposing and how I live my life or do my job. Being relatively new to school PR, I challenged myself 14 months ago to earn this degree to become a better, more informed resource for my district. The books below are all of the texts I have read as part of the TTU MCOM master’s program. Some made me scratch my head and others made my head spin, but they all challenged my way of thinking about school PR. 

  1. Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal
  2. Integrated Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing Communications by Kenneth E. Clow and Donald E. Baack
  3. Introduction to Neuromarketing & Consumer Neuroscience by Dr. Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy
  4. Mass Media Research: An Introduction by Roger D. Wimmer 
  5. Media Effects: Advances in Theory and Research by Jennings Bryant
  6. Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship by Michelle Ferrier and Elizabeth Mays 
  7. Neuromarketing For Dummies by Stephen Genco, Andrew Pohlmann, and Peter Steidl
  8. Organizational Communication: Approaches and Processes by Katherine Miller
  9. Personal Relationships: The Effect on Employee Attitudes, Behavior, and Well-being by Lillian Turner de Tormes Eby and Tammy D. Allen
  10. Pitch, Tweet, or Engage on the Street by Kara Alaimo
  11. Social Media Marketing by Tracy L. Tuten and Michael R. Solomon

What are your favorite communications and public relations books?

Also, be sure to check out my new favorite podcast, School PR Happy Hour! Big high five to my school PR pals Justin Dearing and Erin McCann for this new project, and thank you for letting me be a part of it!

Branding, Communication

LOVE this idea for personalized back-to-school signs – here’s a Canva template you can use!

Last week I saw the BEST idea from Derby Public Schools on Twitter and couldn’t wait to create back-to-school signs using this year’s Brenham ISD theme “Great Things Happen Here.” Canva is my absolute favorite quick and easy design tool, so it was perfect for this project. It only took a few minutes to search for some ideas on Google, find the right elements in Canva and download in both PDF and PNG format. I can’t wait to see these signs and big smiles on social media on the first day of school!

Canva template – single digit

Canva template – double digit

Canva template – PK, K, PPCD

Here’s a Canva bonus! I saw a flyer like this from another school (wish I could remember which one for credit!) and recreated it in Canva. It’s a fun, simple back-to-school flyer with wonderful information for parents.

Canva template – back-to-school flyer

Communication, Google, Marketing, Social Media

Use these “Top 10 back to school tips” to get your parents ready for the new school year

A couple of weeks ago my new NSPRA pal Sabrina Kapp shared a GREAT idea for a back to school “Top 10” for parents to prepare for the new year. Admittedly, hers were a lot cuter than mine, but in a pinch (and to make them shareable for you!) Google Drawings worked just fine. Feel free to File > Make a Copy to create your own versions!

Click here for the Google Folder with all of the files you need!

2019-2020 Brenham ISD Top 10 Back-to-School Parent Tips (posted on social media in reverse order!)

  1. Remember that students quickly learn and adapt to their new settings, and we have wonderful staff to help them every step of the way! Don’t worry – they’re in good hands! #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  2. The first day of classes is Wednesday, August 14! Every minute counts, even in the first days of school, so please plan ahead and make sure you’re on time. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  3. Pick-up and drop-off always takes a little longer the first few days of school. Please be patient with staff, students and other parents. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  4. Routines matter! Start adjusting sleep schedules now, a few minutes at a time, for an easy transition back to those early mornings. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  5. Our cafeterias serve healthy breakfast and lunch choices daily. Don’t forget to add money to your child’s lunch account here: brenham.healtheliving.net. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  6. Download our mobile app for all of the latest news and information. Look for Brenham Public Schools in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  7. Mark your calendars for our campus open house events! New student orientation for parents of all kindergarten through fourth-grade students will be held on Thursday, August 1 from 6-7pm at all elementary campuses. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  8. Make sure your child clearly understands your family’s system for transportation to and from school. You can sign up for bus transportation here: http://www.brenhamisd.net/page/trans.busreg. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  9. Need after school care for your K-6th grader? Brenham ISD has a BRAND NEW after school program, Club Zenith. Register today at http://www.zenithlearning.org. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  10. Find everything you need for back-to-school, including school supplies, on our district website under Parent Resources. Have questions? Give us a call at 979-277-3700! #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
Communication, Culture, Leadership

Three communication/leadership/PR presentations (you’re welcome to steal!) from day 1 of our back-to-school PD conference, Brenham U

Today was THE BEST day! Today all of my Brenham ISD “frens” came back! Although I love the summer for strategic planning and catching up, it’s just too quiet. I always feel like a little kid on the first day of school when convocation rolls around. 🙂 It’s like a family reunion!

Our theme this year is Great Things Happen Here!

We had an OUTSTANDING speaker who I highly recommend if you’re looking for someone engaging and funny with a CRYSTAL clear message that this is more than a job, it’s more than a paycheck, it’s a calling. He is a wonderful mix of magic and illusions with stories that will hit you right in the heart. And he’s from Austin, Texas, so he’s right in our backyard! Click here to learn more about Billy Riggs.

After lunch I presented the 3 sessions below (click the links to access the Google presos, File > Make a Copy to create your own version!). I am so grateful to each of you who attended and added to the conversations. You filled up my bucket today and I can’t wait for day 2 tomorrow!

Are you BrandED?

Each of us has a brand, whether we consciously shape it or allow others to do it for us. You may not be intentionally building your brand, but every post you make and hand you shake conveys your identity and communicates the value you offer. Come explore some easy steps to define, build and manage your brand. It’s time to get brandED!

Hard at work on their leadership brand statements!

Find Your Mojo with a Year of Yes

Shonda Rhimes, creator of popular TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, committed to a “year of yes” to get out of her comfort zone and find a balance between career and family. Come hear her Ted Talk story and join in a discussion about how you can say yes more often to stay energized and satisfied at work and at home.

After watching Shonda’s Ted Talk we did a “Chalk Talk” activity and discussed the trends.

Confident Communication – Come find your voice!

Effective communication is one of your most powerful tools. In an educational environment it is important to get it right – both externally with students and parents and internally with colleagues. Come learn how to engage in the two-way communication process, build effective listening skills, and break down barriers to effective communication.

I love the Chalk Talk activity. It gives everyone, event reluctant sharers, a chance to have a voice.
We had SO MANY good conversations surrounding these questions!