Connecting with District Retirees Through Facebook

We’ve found an interesting new way to engage and correspond with our retired employees by using Facebook. This summer, we plan to introduce something new and fun for our retirees – a private Facebook group page solely for them.

Currently, we are in the planning and development stages, but we will have the page up and running by late July of 2013.

In the Ritenour School District, our retired employees are an active group. They get together for lunch and dinner on a regular basis and many serve as tutors for our elementary school students. As of June 2013, we have nearly 500 district retirees in our database.

But, other than mailing them the district newsletters and the (sad) occasional funeral notice, we don’t take advantage of communicating and sharing the district’s key messages on a regular basis. Because of their connections within the community and interactions with each other, we are missing out on a key demographic. This will be a new way for them to stay in touch with the district after they have given so much of their life educating our children.

In addition to helping our retirees receive communication from the district, the group page also allows them to connect with each other like never before. They can plan get-togethers, share recipes, show off photos of their grandchildren and much more – the sky is the limit!

As a district, we can continue to share upcoming events, notices, and volunteer opportunities in real time.

According to surveys and online research of Internet users, those over the age of 50 have been using Facebook more than ever before. That is why we feel like this is such a great opportunity. Anecdotally, I can’t begin to tell you how many older long-lost aunts, uncles and family members I have connected with over the past few years via social media.

Our plan is for it to be a private group. We have begun asking recently retired employees to serve as moderators and approve requests to be a member on the page.

We will begin recruiting group members at our annual retiree breakfast on July 26 and the efforts will continue this fall.

We consider our retirees our greatest ambassadors and key communicators within the community. This summer, we hope to connect with them like never before.

It is not often we get to share the plans with you about social media initiatives on this blog, and I am anxious to see the results. I’ll be sure to update you in a future post about the progress of our new page.

Awesome Productivity Apps for a Frantic Digital Life

Looking for a better way to back up your files? Want to share stories, photos and press releases with your team or your boss without email and nasty attachments? How about something to help you organize your frantic digital life?

Here are a handful of applications I’ve tried over the past couple of years that have made my work (and home) life a bit more organized and have satisfied the mobility issues associated with my job and my constant traveling companions, my tablet and mobile phone.

You might want to consider this app if, like me, you have imperfect recall and are lacking a fabulous executive assistant who’s paid big bucks to remember everything for you. Evernote is a cool app that allows you to quickly save just about anything you create, or anything you see or hear on the web, and store it away for future use or reference.

Once you’ve downloaded Evernote and created an online account, you can simply drag the “save to Evernote” icon, an elephant, into your browser toolbar — and boom — you’re set with Evernote. You’ll be able to create new notes and notebooks, paste things you read (including documents, emails, websites, screenshots, photos, videos and music) to your Evernote account. Evernote organizes your files for you in “notebooks” based on categories, and works with almost any computer (Macs and PCs), mobile device and browser.

iPhone and iPad users can also record and save voice and audio notes to Evernote, which I often do, especially for spur-of-the-moment ideas I’d hate to see evaporate into thin air.

Evernote can serve as a searchable “everything” inbox, and many people are using it that way. Think of it as a container where you can collect all those random bits of information that populate your increasingly crazy digital life.

Dropbox, Box and Google Drive
Dropbox, Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) and Box are all time-tested cloud storage apps worth mentioning here. All do the same thing — allow you to create and store documents, files, photographs and other items in the cloud and share them with others on your team or in your district.

All three also offer cross-platform desktop and mobile apps, and Google Drive is free as long as you have a Google account. Dropbox allows you to create a free account with 2GB of space, and Box offers 5GB of free space. Once that runs out, you can share documents with new users to earn more space, but if you upload videos and photos frequently, that space will fill up quickly. If you love the Dropbox or Box experience, you can always purchase an upgrade.

Penultimate and Skitch
Penultimate and Skitch, two Evernote products, can enhance your Evernote experience. Penultimate is designed especially for anyone using a stylus instead of a keyboard with his or her iPad. Penultimate enables you to handwrite notes, stories, press releases, and even drawings, and save them for posterity. Although your notes will remain as handwritten text, you can sync all your Penultimate notes with Evernote and view them there.

Penultimate is also searchable and you can share any notes you’ve made via email. The recipient will get a PDF attachment of your handwritten document. Simply amazing.

Skitch is a photo editing application for anyone who wants to edit, crop or add text and a variety of icons to photos, maps, screenshots and graphics. Skitch stores your photos in the cloud instead of cluttering up your desktop and can be accessed from any computer or mobile device.

I’ve used Skitch to mark up website pages and maps, and again, it syncs with Evernote so that you can store your documents all in one place, search for them easily, and share them via email with friends and colleagues.

Social media strategies for your next job search

As the economic downturn continues, a number of skilled public relations professionals across the nation have been laid off. In the Portland metro area, three of our six local APR practitioners have lost their jobs, me included.

Here’s the good news: as experts in marketing, strategic communication and social media, we have an edge in this competitive job market. Social media is the biggest game changer since my last job hunt eight years ago. Here’s how to use it to your best advantage:

Linked In:  For years, I’ve been asking myself whether Linked In is worth my time. Then I lost my job, and suddenly it became an essential tool. Prospective employers will check you out on Linked In before an interview, and you can find out more about them. Here, you can

  • Make contacts aware you are looking for work. If you update your site, it’s assumed.
  • Post resume content on your profile.
  • Request recommendations from past supervisors and professional colleagues.
  • Get endorsements from colleagues on specific skills.
  • Network by linking to friends and friends-of-friends.
  • Find local job postings in your field.

This is my site.

Wix:  As a job seeker, I had to shift my focus from marketing my district to marketing myself. That’s when I discovered Wix, which offers oodles of snazzy template options to create and customize a free online portfolio. This would also be a useful tool if you decide to start a consulting business. My first step was to have a professional portrait taken. I then used this site to

  • Post my resume and reference letters.
  • Highlight major project successes.
  • Post testimonials.
  • Link to online examples of my work: the district website, Facebook page and YouTube channel; my professional blog; and Linked In.

Be sure to list the URL for your portfolio site on your resume. On job applications that do not allow resumes, take advantage of the opportunity to list this instead.

You can check out my site here.

Facebook: Job searches are as much about who you know as what you know. That’s where Facebook comes in handy. Private messaging can help you

  • Discreetly find out who in your field is retiring.
  • Gather inside information about prospective employers.
  • Line up reference letters and Linked In recommendations.
  • Find out about job leads.
  • Get advice from mentors as you update your resume and prep for interviews.
  • Build alliances with former co-workers who now work for a prospective employer.

All job-hunting aside, by far the biggest benefit of using Facebook when facing a layoff is the support you get from friends, colleagues and family through each step of your journey. Hard times are when you discover who your real friends are.

Best of luck with your job search! And remember — as a school PR professional, you have the most versatile skill sets on the market. Use those skills to show them what you’ve got!

Creating useful guidelines for social media use

Social media is becoming more widely used in schools – even if your district hasn’t fully embraced it. Parents and community are sharing accomplishments, students are communicating with teachers and media are using much of this for content.

If your district is considering, or has even already started using social media tools – Facebook, Twitter and the like – it is important to have appropriate guidelines in place. Guidelines should address a number of items: directions for set-up, content recommendations and rules for use.

In Hutto ISD, our guidelines reflect our transparent communication style and help staff to set up social media. The guidelines are relaxed and informal, and even read in a light-hearted, playful way.

Consider some of these tips when creating social media guidelines:

  1. Make it a group effort. Cast a wide net when organizing a team to create guidelines for your district. You should consider including those who use social media and those that don’t as well as educators and external stakeholders. It will give you a good perspective of what your users and followers expect. And be sure your attorneys and school board see the effort.
  2. Consider your district’s culture. What do your administrators, board members teachers and students believe concerning social media? What are concerns and praises of social media? Do you communicate formally or informally on expectations? Is your district strict or relaxed in your communication guidelines? These will help shape your guidelines to ensure they are used properly and respectfully.
  3. Find resources and use them. We are all aware of the four-step communication process. Use it. Focusing on research and evaluation will help ensure that your district puts guidelines in place that fit your students, staff and community the best.
  4. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Share your guidelines. Make them visible and easily accessible to parents, community, students and staff. This will ensure the best use of the tools and save you headaches later down the road.
  5. Evolve when necessary. Be sure your guidelines are designed to incorporate change. Your action plan should be a living document that allows for periodic review and adaptation to the quickly evolving landscape of social media. This should be done at least annually, if not more often depending on resources.