Branding, Communication, Culture, innovation, Leadership

Unboxing of What’s Worth Doing: Cards for Your Next Step

Several years ago I happened upon a Kickstarter campaign for a company seeking support for what they called a “Brand Deck.” I supported the campaign, received my Brand Deck, and have used it several times – most recently with my team at the beginning of the year to help define our departmental identity and set goals.

A few months ago I came across another Kickstarter campaign for a company seeking support for their newest project, “What’s Worth Doing: Cards for Your Next Step.” It looked intriguing and sort of resonated with me, like the Brand Deck did, so I decided to pledge my support of the project and secure an advanced order.

My “What’s Worth Doing” cards came in last week and I was SO EXCITED to dive in. I took pictures as I opened the package and tried the sorting activity so I could share the experience, in some way, with you! They also have a nice video explanation on their Kickstarter page here. I think I could do this exercise a dozen times, and at different points in my life/career, and come up with new and different ideas to shake things up.

Many of us have had to pivot in these last few weeks to learn new ways to do our jobs, find creative solutions to problems, and innovate with others in a space we never dreamed we’d be in. I am excited to keep exploring how “What’s Worth Doing” might help me break out of my traditional boxes to find new and exciting ways to adapt to these changing, and challenging, times!

Communication, Culture, Leadership

Set up a “good news stand” on your campuses to capture the best stories and reconnect with your staff and students

One of the hardest parts of my school PR role is balancing administrative tasks with my role as chief people person and lead storyteller. It’s easy to get sucked into the “at my computer” and “in meetings” duties more than the “get out and see real, live kids and staff” responsibilities. Here’s the saddest part of that scenario, the longer you go without visiting campuses regularly, the more you feel like an imposter when you do visit. 

Now, I have worked on almost every campus in Brenham ISD over the last 18 years, so admittedly, I still feel very much at home when I visit most schools. BUT, staffing changes and the growing distance between me as “one of them” and me as “one of THEM” have created some challenges. The start of 2020 (+ our AMAZING #k12prbooks title Stories that Stick by Kindra Hall) renewed my desire to get out there, connect with my people and tell our district’s stories. To help facilitate that and take a more intentional approach, I decided to set up “good news stands” across our district. Here’s what I did…

Good News Stand Plan

{email to admins with idea}

Subject: I can’t wait to share your good news!

Good morning! I am so excited to office from your campus soon to spend an ENTIRE DAY spreading the good news about your students and staff! You don’t have to do anything special on this day, but I do need help selecting a date that will work for you and your campus. I also ask that you please allow me to use a space on your campus (empty classroom, conference room, library, closet, hallway, corner) that can be easily accessed by your staff on that day.

Please click here to select a date. {link to Google Form here}

On your preferred date, I will be asking your staff to stop by and “tell me something good” and/or invite me into their classrooms to see your students in action. All of my media posts that day will be about YOUR staff and students! 

THANK YOU for being our district’s best storytellers and for allowing me access to your campuses! Great things are happening all over Brenham ISD and I am so proud to be able to share your good news!

TECH TIP: Create a Google Form with your available dates in a dropdown question format. (Be sure to give admins plenty of choices!) Then, use “Choice Eliminator” in your form to remove options from the list when they have already been selected.

{email to campus conference}

Subject: Raise your hand if you want a jeans pass!

The start of a new year has renewed my focus on finding the good news on our campuses and sharing it with the world! Tomorrow I will be on your campus all day long and I’d love to hear some good news. Find me and tell me something good, any good news at all, and I will give you a jeans pass. EASY! 

OR, click here to book an appointment slot {link to your preferred appointment tool} and invite me into your classroom for a few minutes to see your good news in action. In return, I’ll give you a jeans pass AND enter your class into a drawing for a class pizza party. Mmmmm!

You see the good news on your campus and in your classroom each and every day. I need your help to make sure our community also sees the great things happening in Brenham public schools. THANK YOU for being your campus’ storytellers and for allowing me access to your classrooms! Great things are happening all over Brenham ISD and I am so proud to share your good news!

TECH TIP: Use Google Calendar appointment slots to add the classroom visit invitations to your calendar and the requestor’s.

My first good news stand was last week at one of our elementary campuses. I’ll be honest, I was nervous. I had NO idea how it would go (perhaps they’d think this was the dumbest idea ever?!). Nope – it.was.awesome. I hadn’t even been on the campus for 10 minutes and someone had already shared good news with me! (Jeans passes are VERY powerful!) I literally set up my laptop on a metal rolling cart in the hallway of the front office – it was the most perfect, visible place to be! At the end of the day, 17 staff members had shared a piece of good news and I had been invited into 5 classrooms! There were several times when I thought I might burst into tears – it was that good.

I have to give a shout-out to my pal Corey Ryan who is the chief communications officer in Leander ISD and the Central Area TSPRA VP. He did a great activity at a CASPRA meeting called a “school story takeover.” Check out his NSPRA Tip Sheet below for even more ideas!

I would love to know how you are engaging with your students and staff, being intentional about campus visits, and telling your best stories. Share your ideas in the comments below or email me to collaborate!

Communication, Community Relations, Culture, Google, Productivity, Time Management

Work smarter, not harder with Autocrat (to automatically generate printable recognition certificates!)

Earlier this week I presented a session at TASA Midwinter in Austin about how our district is engaging our community, parents, students and staff. After the session, I got a common question about how I’m using the Google Sheets Add-On, Autocrat, to automatically generate printable certificates for our district employee recognition program. Check out the short video below for the steps you can take to set up your own work smarter, not harder system using Google Forms, Google Docs and Google Sheets. Then, check out the presentation for 21 other ways we are engaging our district and community stakeholders. Let me know if you have some ideas to share! I’d love to collaborate with you!

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, 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!
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!