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!).

Communication, Culture, Google

Help your staff stay informed and communicate better with this customizable planning document

Each summer I share this document with our campus and district administrators in an effort to keep them informed and help them communicate better with me and with the media. Although many of these tips and guidelines may seem like common knowledge to us, staff members outside of the school PR world need these reminders each year.

Click here to access the Google Docs version of this document. Simply go to File > Make a Copy to create your own version to use with your staff!

What publications do you use to foster an open line of communication with campus and district staff?

Communication, Culture, Productivity

I tried to remove this word from my vocabulary 4 years ago and it’s been slowly creeping back in

Raise your hand if you’re guilty of saying phrases like…

“I’m up to my eyeballs.”

“I’m in the weeds.”

“I’m running around like a chicken with my head cut off.”

“Just trying to keep my head above water.”

On May 17, 2015 I blogged about the “culture of busy” and how I was going to try and remove the word “busy” from my vocabulary, but lately it’s been creeping back in. This time busy has been more covert, sneaking into my conversations in the form of “Oh, I’m good, just busy” or “You know, it’s a busy time of year.”

My friend once shared that she thinks we say these things because we’re afraid if we don’t TALK about how busy we are, people around us will think we’re not working hard. I think she’s right, but I also think it’s just our culture. ESPECIALLY in school PR where there’s always something to keep us occupied.

Dang. I just did it again. It’s easy to make the assumption that your own position or industry or department is the only position or industry or department that is spread too thin, understaffed, over capacity, etc. Can we all just agree that we’re ALL BUSY … the baseline is BUSY … it’s a given that we’re BUSY … so there’s really no need to state it.

How many of you have really paid attention to how often you say you’re busy?

When I started really paying attention to how often I tell someone I am busy, I WAS EMBARRASSED! Not only do I TELL people, I include it in my EMAILS! NO ONE NEEDS TO KNOW HOW BUSY I AM! It’s obnoxious! EVERYONE is busy! I’m not the only one!

So, I am trying to hit the busy reset button. I am in busy therapy. I am again working to replace emails like “I am so sorry I have taken so long to respond. It’s a busy time. Let me check my calendar to see when we can get together” with responses like “Good morning! I am happy to help you solve that problem. When is a good time to meet?”

So…who’s with me?!! Let’s help each other remove the “culture of busy” statements from our interactions and instead focus on strengthening our “culture of caring” vocabulary. Let’s refocus on WHO we serve instead of trying to out-serve each other.

Communication, Culture, Productivity, Time Management

5 practical time management tips from a great roundtable discussion at last week’s CASPRA meeting

Last week I attended the monthly CASPRA (Central Area region of TSPRA) meeting in the Austin area. If you are in school PR and you are not a member of NSPRA and your state chapter, DO IT! The folks in these organizations are my LIFESAVERS! In fact, I drive an hour and a half there and back each month just to attend the monthly regional meetings. It’s worth every second, especially when the discussions turn out some great tips like the ones below.

Marco Alvaredo, Director of Communications & Community Relations for Lake Travis ISD, led one of the CASPRA round table discussions on time management and below are 5 tips, tricks, and tools I took away from the talks. In school PR, time management is a tough one, especially if you’re an office of one, but these practical ideas might help!

1. Use Google Keep for prioritizing daily tasks.

I recently shared how I use Google Keep for prioritizing my daily tasks. I still contend that my “Fab Five” list is the one trick that keeps me on track to complete the most important tasks before moving on to less pressing issues. If you’re not familiar with Google Keep, check out the getting started post here.

2. Group related emails into folders, then check by topic to keep from having to switch gears multiple times.

I thought this was a really interesting idea. I strive for zero inbox, and I usually start from the top of my inbox and work my way down. I archive anything that I have already attended to and keep everything that needs my attention in my inbox. I do sometimes struggle with having to switch mental gears from one email to the next as the topic changes. By first sorting emails into folders, you can keep your momentum on one topic before moving on to the next. Do you check emails this way? I would be curious to know how it works for you!

3. Tackle your biggest projects first.

Jennifer Bailey, Director of Human Resources & Communication in Jarrell ISD, recommended completing the most daunting tasks first before moving on to tasks that require less time and effort. There have been many times when I have slid a project from one day to the next on my calendar because I just don’t want to deal with it. I like this idea, though, to just dive in and get it done! Eat the elephant one bite at a time!

4. Use Boomerang for Gmail to streamline email checking.

I have been using Boomerang for years and I love it! Boomerang allows you to schedule emails to send later, temporarily archive emails and have them pop back up in your inbox at a certain time, and “Boomerang” an email back to your inbox to remind you to follow up if you haven’t gotten a response from the sender.

5. Recognize capacity and strategically abandon, if needed.

Jennifer Bailey of Jarrell ISD also introduced a very thought-provoking term during our CASPRA time management discussions … strategic abandonment. She shared how her team at a previous district was reduced and the skeleton crew finally had to strategically abandon some initiatives to operate within their capacity. School PR departments can can become the dumping ground for every project and idea and initiative in every campus and department. We have to consider, however, if we’d rather go far and wide with shallow projects or deep dive into initiatives for maximum quality.

Two more tidbits…

I recently heard about Redbooth, a project management tool. I haven’t checked it out yet, but it’s on my list. Anyone out there using it? I would love to know how you like it!

The book Sense of Urgency by John Kotter was also shared at the CASPRA meeting. It’s currently on the way from Amazon to my door. Have you read it? What did you take away?

Branding, Communication, Culture, TSPRA

Guiding staff to build a better brand and engaging a diverse community – discussions and presentations from TSPRA19

Last week I attended the 2019 Texas School Public Relations Association conference, an amazing experience full of learning and leading together with my Texas school PR family! I had the pleasure of facilitating 4 roundtable sessions about branding, and presented a full session on culture and community. I took lots of notes during the discussions at the roundtable sessions and created a quick Google Docs flyer to share with you. I am also sharing the culture and community presentation in case you are looking for some new ideas. The presentation has links to all of our planning documents and materials for each initiative.

Are your teachers and staff brandED?

A strong brand can increase effectiveness, improve engagement, and positively impact climate. How can you guide staff to build a better brand and deliver results?

Click here for the Google Docs file. Go to File > Make a Copy to create your own version.

C4 Yourself! Cultivate Community, Communication & Culture

Come hear how one rural district is igniting systematic change and engaging a diverse community. Get simple strategies that break down barriers, change public perception, and build a community of public school supporters. No budget? No worries! Most of these strategies can be achieved with even the smallest departments and budgets. Leave this session with ideas you can implement immediately to maximize your resources and get a big return on your investment!

Branding, Culture, Marketing

Thank you, TCWSE, for a wonderful “Are you brandED?” session!

Many thanks to the Texas Council of Women School Executives for a wonderful session at this year’s annual conference! Below are the materials used in today’s “Are you brandED?” session. Please feel free to make a copy to use with your own staff. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversations and hope these materials might help you continue the discussions in your own organizations!

Are you brandED? Google Slides presentation

Leadership brand statement foldable inside / outside

Branding, Culture

3 presentations you can use with students, teachers and leaders for building better brands

How many of your students, teachers, and campus/district leaders truly think of your school or district as a brand?

Although school PR officials understand this, our students and staff members rarely think in terms of branding when it comes to K-12 education. When we say “branding” – they see McDonald’s, Starbucks and Nike. The reality is – we are all working together to build our school and district brands, but we’re also building our personal and leadership brands in the process.

Below are three presentations I developed to use with students in our communications classes and with staff members at our annual district professional development conference to help start those branding conversations. (Please feel free to make a copy to use for yourself!) Here are a few points I like to make during these presentations…

  • Many of us were taught not to “toot our own horn” … that it’s rude to brag, but if we don’t tell our story, no one will!
  • Your NAME is your brand. What do parents think when they see your name on their child’s schedule? Do they fist pump or cringe?
  • If you are unsatisfied with your personal or leadership brand … take this opportunity to RE-BRAND! Companies do it all the time – you can, too!
  • Invest time in your teacher website. If you want to be taken seriously as a professional, then write a professional bio! This is often the first thing that stakeholders will read about you.
  • Understand that PR is EVERYONE’S job – not just mine. Each of you can impact our district brand, your campus brand, and each other’s brands. Use that power wisely!