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!
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?