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, 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!