Group text thread keeps a scattered team connected

My last blog post demonstrated how easily group texts can lead to miscommunication. But recently, I found some very effective ways to use them.

Recently I helped chaperone my son’s Model U.N. club on its trip to the state conference. Two adults were attempting to keep track of 14 teens scattered all over a bustling university campus at an event with 1,400 attendees. How could we find each other?

I typed each student and chaperone’s cell number into a group text and started a thread. “Please check in on the steps of the student union at noon. — Leslie”

Each person could hit “reply all,” and message the whole group, continuing the thread:
“Our committee is running late. Be there in 10 minutes. – Andrew.”
“Which room is the General Assembly in? — Carina”
“The GA is in Room C-12. – Zane.”
“Proposing a resolution to ban weapons of mass destruction. Need a speaker from the national defense committee to present in support. – Zane”
“I’m on it. Be there soon. – Joey.”
“Don’t forget to bring your pass for tonight’s social. — Josh”

Wow—that was handy! That got me thinking about how this would be useful at work. How about crisis response?

When an incident occurs, usually the team is scattered across the school district, with some at meetings in various schools, some traveling immediately to the incident site, and some remaining at the office. A group text thread set up in advance can be a way to quickly notify everyone simultaneously in a way they will likely pay attention to, and to keep the whole team in the loop as information emerges.

Be sure to run a test to ensure all your numbers work before disaster strikes. At the start of an incident, remind the group to sign each post to clarify who is saying what.

For example:
“Channel 2 is asking about a rumored bomb threat at the high school. What’s happening? – Leslie”
“Calling the principal, and heading there now. – Cindy.”
“Students reported something a student said. Calling a fire drill as a precaution. – Kim”
“Police just arrived. Calling neighboring schools with a heads up. – Kathleen”
“Instigator identified and questioned. Police say threat is not credible. – Cindy”
“Students returning to class. – Kim”
“Working on a letter to parents. Translations needed? – Leslie”
“Spanish & Russian, please. – Kathleen”
“Translation team standing by. – Alex”
“I will brief the Board. – Denice”

No doubt this strategy will also prove useful on our summer vacation. Disneyland, anyone?

Social Media Sessions at NSPRA Seminar Will Take You to the Next Level

I admit it — I’m a nerd. I’m excitedly planning my trip to the 2013 NSPRA Seminar in San Diego and I’ve already printed out the NSPRA Seminar at a Glance document from the NSPRA website and started highlighting the sessions I want to attend.

Even if you’re not as big a nerd as I am, you can benefit from my geekiness. I’ve pulled out all the social media sessions for your consideration. It seems like this year, NSPRA is taking social media past the basics and up to the next level.

Saturday, July 6:

  • Pre-seminar workshop: “Rise of the Mobile App: Mobile App Strategy in School Communications” — Cody Cunningham and Terry Morawski

Monday, July 8:

  • “Beyond Twitter Basics: Developing an Effective Strategy for Twitter Success” ― Erika Daggett
  • “Policy Recommendations to Guide Social Media Interactions for Public Educators” ― Stephanie Smith, Ed.D. and Virginia Conover, Ed.D.
  • “Social Media for Schools: Diving Beyond ‘Should We?’ Discussions” ― Dustin Senger

Tuesday, July 9:

  • “Dynamic, Digital, Mobile School Communication: There’s an App for That!” ― Mary Todoric and Mick Torres
  • “Surviving Social Media Scorn: What To Do When Negative News Goes Viral” ― Laurel Heiden and David Richardson

Wednesday, July 10:

  • “Facebook Forward – Expanding to Your Schools” ― Lauri Pyatt and Elaine Watkins-Miller

Speed at What Price?

One of the most often cited reasons for using social medial channels to share a district’s news is the speed with which messages can be sent. Whether it’s Facebook or Twitter, the near-instantaneous distribution of information from a district central office to students, patrons and the community is a huge advancement for school PR professionals.

One drawback to using these channels, though, is the temptation to skip some of the steps that are part of the process, namely, proofreading and editing. It’s so easy to knock out those 140 characters and hit “send.” It’s so hard to reel them back in when we realize that there is an error that has just been delivered to 10,000 of your best supporters.

Whether because of auto-correct or fat-thumb complex, mistakes and errors are bound to make their way into your messages, especially if you’re working from a mobile device.  The phenomenon is so prevalent that it’s a feature on The Ellen Degeneres Show and has a website dedicated to it.

The message here is to pause a moment, review your text, and then hit “send,” confident in the knowledge that your message will be what people are talking about, not your mistakes.