Branding, Communication, Community Relations, Culture

Ignite systematic change and engage a diverse community! C4 Yourself: Cultivate Community, Communication & Culture

Happy New Year, all! I hope you enjoyed a restful break with loved ones and have returned with a renewed energy and passion for serving in your district or organization. As we say here in Brenham ISD, today is a GREAT DAY to be a Cub! 🙂

While I was walking the stage in Lubbock last month, the Brenham ISD Community Services team was presenting at the 2019 Statewide Parental Involvement Conference in San Marcos, Texas. This team consists of Karem Chandler, F.A.M.E. Parent Liaison; Georgiane Gessner, Community Services Associate; Shawn Mays, Social Emotional Coordinator; and Rebecca Wachsler, Social Emotional Coordinator.

These ladies did an OUTSTANDING job of sharing how our fairly rural district is igniting systematic change and engaging a diverse community. They shared simple strategies that break down barriers, change public perception, and build a community of public school supporters. No budget? No worries! Most of the strategies they shared can be achieved with even the smallest departments and budgets (I know … from experience!). We invite you to check out the presentation below to get ideas you can implement immediately to maximize your resources and get a big return on your investment.

We’d love to hear from you if you have questions, ideas or feedback!

Communication, innovation, Leadership

20 years (- 4 days) later, I walked the Texas Tech University stage again!

On Friday, twenty years minus four days after graduating from Texas Tech University with a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, I walked that stage again to earn a Master of Arts in Strategic Communication and Innovation. It was a joyous night with my whole family in attendance and I am sure my parents are glad they didn’t foot the bill this time! A special thanks to my sister who helped with my school bond election research and to my husband for allowing me to cut into our family time (and funds!) to do this thing … again.

The Rambo Family, Texas Tech University, 1999

The most special family members in attendance were my children. They were really too young to understand the gravity of what I was doing when I earned my first master’s degree, but they were fully engaged in the process this time. They saw me work hard, they supported me when I had to do homework (sometimes bringing me drinks and snacks and hugs), and they were patient and understanding when I was largely unavailable during the evenings and on weekends. I walked the stage for them, so they could experience the celebration of completing a postgraduate degree and reaching a goal. I hope I get to see them do the same one day.

The Johnston Family, Texas Tech University, 2019

I cannot say enough good things about this program. Each course offered me new insight into how to approach strategic communications. Each discussion board was rich with diversity, as I was one of the only school PR pros in the cohort (we can learn A LOT from our industry friends, and vice versa!). Each professor provided relevant and thoughtful content, timely feedback, and meaningful projects. The work was challenging and sometimes frustrating, but oh so rewarding!

I must admit, I am a big ol’ NERD and I love to learn. There was a time when I thought I’d pursue a doctorate and the hooding of the doctoral graduates Friday night made my heart pitter-patter; however, I solemnly swear I will not go back to school ever again. 🙂 My next goal is to earn my APR. Until then, I am excited to be continuing my work TTU professor of public relations Dr. Paul Bolls. Dr. Bolls taught the first course I took for this program, Neuromarketing for Professionals, and was also my final project advisor. He completely hooked me with his course on neuromarketing and brain science and then coached me through an exciting content analysis of school bond election materials. Dr. Bolls directs Media Mind Insights, an academic Neuromarketing research group at TTU, and we feel like there is more work to be done in the area of brain science and school bond elections. 

Dr. Bolls and Me

If you’re considering a graduate program in communications, I HIGHLY recommend the online master’s program in strategic communication & innovation from Texas Tech University. I did a lot of research when I was thinking about earning a degree in communications and the coursework for this program was just fascinating. I can tell you with absolute certainty that I got my money’s worth! Feel free to reach out if you want additional thoughts or have questions. Happy to share!

Wishing you all a safe, restful and UNEVENTFUL school PR holiday season! Wreck ‘em!

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