Google

Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 choice board for my own children (or are the my pupils now?)

If you’re a parent and you’re in school PR, you may be like me … wondering how to keep your own children engaged in ANYTHING remotely instructional while you work from home to handle communications for your district.

Now, this choice board is nothing fancy. It’s not research-based, standards specific or even approved by my boys’ teachers. (Don’t tell!) BUT, it’s ready to go, easy to follow, easy to modify weekly, and easy to replicate, since it’s in a Google Docs format. (Go to File > Make a Copy to create your own.)

If you need something to fill in the gaps between what your district has provided and the countless other hours you have to fill … or if you just need something to get your kiddos started at all, I hope this might help!

GOOD LUCK to all of you! I continue to be eternally grateful for our school PR community and the leaders in districts across our state and nation who are working around the clock to serve our students. I see all that you are doing and I appreciate YOU!

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!

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, Google, Marketing, Social Media

Use these “Top 10 back to school tips” to get your parents ready for the new school year

A couple of weeks ago my new NSPRA pal Sabrina Kapp shared a GREAT idea for a back to school “Top 10” for parents to prepare for the new year. Admittedly, hers were a lot cuter than mine, but in a pinch (and to make them shareable for you!) Google Drawings worked just fine. Feel free to File > Make a Copy to create your own versions!

Click here for the Google Folder with all of the files you need!

2019-2020 Brenham ISD Top 10 Back-to-School Parent Tips (posted on social media in reverse order!)

  1. Remember that students quickly learn and adapt to their new settings, and we have wonderful staff to help them every step of the way! Don’t worry – they’re in good hands! #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  2. The first day of classes is Wednesday, August 14! Every minute counts, even in the first days of school, so please plan ahead and make sure you’re on time. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  3. Pick-up and drop-off always takes a little longer the first few days of school. Please be patient with staff, students and other parents. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  4. Routines matter! Start adjusting sleep schedules now, a few minutes at a time, for an easy transition back to those early mornings. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  5. Our cafeterias serve healthy breakfast and lunch choices daily. Don’t forget to add money to your child’s lunch account here: brenham.healtheliving.net. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  6. Download our mobile app for all of the latest news and information. Look for Brenham Public Schools in the Google Play Store and Apple App Store. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  7. Mark your calendars for our campus open house events! New student orientation for parents of all kindergarten through fourth-grade students will be held on Thursday, August 1 from 6-7pm at all elementary campuses. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  8. Make sure your child clearly understands your family’s system for transportation to and from school. You can sign up for bus transportation here: http://www.brenhamisd.net/page/trans.busreg. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  9. Need after school care for your K-6th grader? Brenham ISD has a BRAND NEW after school program, Club Zenith. Register today at http://www.zenithlearning.org. #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
  10. Find everything you need for back-to-school, including school supplies, on our district website under Parent Resources. Have questions? Give us a call at 979-277-3700! #IChooseBrenham #GreatThingsBrenham
Branding, Communication, Google, Marketing, Productivity, Tools, TSPRA

Are you new to school PR or building a new school PR program? These 5 documents can help you get started!

I was recently contacted by a newly hired school PR professional who is building a brand new PR program in her district. Having done that very thing 3 years ago, I was happy to offer my input and share my resources. With the help of MANY veteran school PR pros (thank you CASPRA, TSPRA, and NSPRA!), I’ve filled my toolbox and developed some documents that anyone can use to get a school PR program off the ground. I’m so happy to share those documents with you!

Please feel free to make copies of any of these documents and use them to develop your school PR program or share them with someone who can benefit! They’re all in Google Doc format, so you just have to go to File > Make a Copy to create your own version. Sharing is caring! We’re better together! 🙂

  1. Communications and Community Relations Plan – having a road map to guide communications efforts is incredibly helpful in beginning a new program, keeping it on track, and evaluating it annually for effectiveness.
  2. Annual School PR Tasks Checklist – I find that having a sort of “dashboard” for my annual and monthly tasks is helpful for big picture planning, prioritizing and making sure nothing slips through the cracks.
  3. Branding and Style Guide – I looked at dozens of style guides, some simple and some very in depth, before developing this one for our district. I settled on a simple and straightforward version, leaving room for the addition of details in the future, if needed.
  4. Communications Scorecard – each month I send this communications scorecard to my superintendent and our board of trustees. This is a great way for me to analyze our content and locate trends, as well as illustrate our growth and top efforts.
  5. Stay Connected with our ISD – this is a great publication for parents and the community to see all of the many ways they can stay connected with your schools!

In addition to the documents above, I also want to offer two presentations that I shared at TSPRA last year that may also be of interest/help. One contains ways in which we have engaged various stakeholder groups and the other is a presentation I also use internally to start a dialogue about branding and public education.

C4 Yourself! Cultivate Community, Communication & Culture – bit.ly/bisdc4tspra
Are you BrandED? – bit.ly/tsprabranded

Advertising, Communication, Google, Marketing, Productivity, Social Media

Social media content planning made easy with this collaborative Google Sheets template (great for one man schoolPR shops!)

If you’re a one man schoolPR shop, you know how important it is to find ways to work smarter, not harder. One of the easiest ways to do that is to collaborate with key staff members who can help you develop great content. Share the love, right?!

Last summer I developed this Google Sheet and employed the help of our district content specialists, instructional specialists and instructional technology specialists to plan social media content for the summer using the themes below. (I try to update the themes regularly, so you’ll see different hashtags in the document linked above.) It was awesome to have a diverse range of posts and it really made my job a lot easier to have quality, targeted content ready to go.

Motivational Monday
Technology Tuesday
Wellness Wednesday
Thinking Thursday
Focus Friday
Safety Saturday
Stay in School Sunday

It’s no secret that I love all things Google, so a Google Sheet felt like the obvious choice for this task. Plus, it’s so easy to give access to staff who can help me and I know the document is always live and up-to-date. I even built in a little character counter to keep our posts “Twitter friendly.” It’s simple and basic, but it works!!

Do you have a social media content planner that is working for you? Share it in the comments below!

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!).