About Delaina McCormack

I am currently a Communications Specialist with Alexandria City Public Schools in the metro Washington, D.C. area. I earned a degree in graphic design from Arizona State University and immediately began working with the Tempe Union High School District and later the Tempe Elementary School District, where my team earned an NSPRA Gold Medallion. On my third day of work I was introduced to the Arizona School Public Relations Association, where great folks like Gary Aungst, Jim Cummings and many others hooked me to the world of school PR, and it's been my passion ever since. Within my role I like to specialize in digital design, email coding, social media, website content, marketing and sometimes photography. I'm an unabashed geek, social media explorer and school PR advocate.

On Facebook, Less May Be More

A recent blog post from the pros at Buffer confirmed for me what I had been suspecting for a year or two: post too much on Facebook, and your content will reach fewer people.

In a nutshell, Buffer decided to cut their Facebook posting frequency in half, and after six months their post reach more than tripled and their average daily engagements doubled. “When trying to fill the queue with content for the simple sake of posting and having a presence on Facebook, content tends to become diluted and lost in the news feed.”

Our success as communicators trying to get through on Facebook lives and dies by the news feed algorithm, and it is a difficult beast to please. Turns out, it only wants the crème de la crème.

Instead of throwing every piece of content on Facebook, Buffer staff realized they had to figure out what categories of content work best, and only post that, up to no more than two posts a day. The results, as I highlighted above, are impressive.

Although the folks at Buffer suggest that the most popular Facebook content can be categorized as either entertaining or educational (“Edu-tainment”), I intend to look at our school district and school page analytics and figure out which buckets of content have worked best for us.

Further, posting one or two times per day may not be what works for you. The bigger lesson to take away is to only post the best content from the categories that are proven to give you the highest engagement.

Time for some research and experimenting!

Crossposting Videos on Multiple Facebook Pages

If you’ve happened to wander into the Settings area of your Facebook Page in the past few months, you may have noticed a new setting called “Crossposting.” If you have multiple Facebook pages or work with others who run pages in your district, crossposting is a great way to share video content and the analytics that go with it.

Say that the high school posts a video to their Facebook page of the choir performing at a high profile event. If it’s something you want followers of the district’s page to see, crossposting gives you the ability to do it without having to re-upload the video or merely share the original post.

To get started, each page has to give mutual permission for crossposting:

  1. Visit the Settings > Crossposting area for your Facebook page (for example, the district page).
  2. Add the Facebook pages with which you would like to allow crossposting of videos (for example, school pages).
  3. For those pages you are a manager, go to the same Settings > Crossposting area and add the district page. The pages are now set up to crosspost.
  4. For pages you do not manage, you can send them a link to confirm the crossposting relationship. Click the chainlink button next to “This Page hasn’t added yours” and it will provide a link to send to the page’s manager.

Crossposting videos

  1. Next time you upload a video to a page, go to the Crossposting tab and turn on the other pages where you would like to allow the video to be crossposted. This does NOT automatically post the video to those pages, but rather gives the ability for those pages to post the video later. This will also send a notification to the other pages that they have a video available for crossposting.
  2. Go to the Publishing Tools > Videos You Can Crosspost area for the page on which you want to crosspost. You will now see the video you just uploaded. Add a checkmark next to the video and under Actions, choose “Create Post With This Video…”
  3. Feel free to add a completely different text for the post, and don’t forget to tag the original page, if appropriate.

Viewing Analytics

Managers of both pages will be able to see analytics for the video, and which posts the views are coming from.

Try this useful feature and see the Facebook Crossposted Videos Product Guide (PDF) for more information.

Top Tools for Twitter Chats

Whether you’re hosting a Twitter chat for your district, or joining a conversation for your own professional development (#K12prchat), there are tools that will do the job much better than the Twitter website or app.

Here is a list of the best Twitter chat tools out there.

The first few options all have a chatroom-like interface and automatically include the chat hashtag when you tweet.

Twubs

Pros: Unlike other options, Twubs gives you a square preview of images in any tweets.

Cons: If someone replies to you without including the hashtag, you might not see it in Twubs. Clicking the retweet button will do an old-school retweet (“RT” followed by the user’s tweet).

Tweetchat

Pros: Tweetchat gives you the option of “highlighting” specific people, for example the chat moderator so that you can more easily see when they post a question.

Cons: Uses old-school retweets and retweets with comments. Images are left out. You won’t see any replies if they are missing the chat hashtag.

Similar to Tweetchat is tchat.io, but without the “highlight” feature, and clicking the retweet button will open a popup window to Twitter, where you can do a real retweet or retweet with comment.

Twitterfall

This interface was daunting at first glance, and the dark interface isn’t as inviting as those mentioned above. However, Twitterfall is definitely more powerful. In addition to following one hashtag chat, you can follow any number of search terms or Twitter lists. You can also have mentions show up, in case someone replies to you but forgets to include the hashtag.

Bonus: you can color code the tweets; for example, direct replies or mentions will be in black, while tweets with your hashtag can be any other color of your choosing.

Tweetdeck

This is what I use for monitoring Twitter on a daily basis. For a chat, it won’t give you that “chatroom” feeling, but you will have access to the usual features that the above tools won’t provide.

The ideal set up includes one column to follow the chat hashtag, and one column to see your mentions and replies. If you are the chat moderator/host, you could even use the scheduled tweets column to set up a queue of questions to go out at specific times during the chat. Plus, you can use real retweets and retweet with comments — a feature missing from all other Twitter chat tools.

There are two downsides. First, you can’t make the columns very wide, so you will only see a few tweets at a time — much less of a “chatroom” feeling. Second, Tweetdeck won’t automatically include the chat hashtag when you tweet.

Similar to Tweetdeck is the reliable, column-based interface Hootsuite. The downside, however, is that their fastest automated refresh is 2 minutes. You have to manually refresh a column if you want to see new tweets any faster.

What I use

No one tool has every feature. During Twitter chats I use Twubs as my primary tool, with Tweetdeck open in another window so I can be notified of mentions and replies that don’t include the chat hashtag.

Here is a feature comparison chart to help you find your ideal Twitter chat tool:

Twitter Chat Tool Comparison Chart

Grow Your District’s Communications Reach with Tough Love

In the past, our district’s cultural mindset was that we, the Office of Communications, would take care of communications. Either we would go out and cover a story and take photos, or staff would send us information or pictures. We would then distribute the story or information districtwide via Twitter, Facebook or the district email newsletter.

However, even with only 16 schools, getting to each and every event can prove a problem with a small communications team. In the age of social media and web tools, we can’t and shouldn’t be the only funnel from which information gets out to our community. That kind of process is not only inefficient and untimely but it makes communication the responsibility of someone else other than the school.

This school year, we started giving our staff a dose of tough love. When someone sends us a photo to tweet out, a small event to cover or information to distribute, our team has gently refused and instead offered staff the opportunity to learn how to do it themselves.

This sounds harsh; however, our team provides staff with support and structure through our new mantra, “empower, train and coach.”

Empower: Giving district staff the permission and access to communicate directly to their audiences

Train: Providing staff with training on communications tools, an overview of district policies to follow, and guidelines and standards for communicating effectively and consistently

Coach: Offering continuing support for improving communications, including technical tips and content ideas

This framework applies not only to social media, but a wide variety of communications tools, including email newsletters, new school websites and blogs.

The change in mindset hasn’t been easy or perfect, and some school staff aren’t yet on board. However, some who were originally reluctant are now some of the most avid and creative in their communications, especially on Twitter.

This principal was very reluctant to join Twitter for many reasons. But after months of tough love from us, he was ready to be empowered. Now he is one of the most awesome and natural tweeters we have ever seen.

The result of our tough love has been viral. More and more staff are seeing the value of communicating on their own and are ready for training. The demand has been so high that we are expanding beyond one-on-one training and our Social Media Tips articles and are planning to develop recorded training videos and regularly scheduled group trainings.

We anticipate many bumps in the road ahead. But ultimately, more voices sharing the great stories in our schools will be more powerful than just a few.

Facebook Multilingual Posts and Other Hidden Gems

Facebook, now 12 years old, doesn’t lack when it comes to options and settings to toggle. It seems that each time I log on, a feature has been added, moved or has completely disappeared, often without explanation.

Posts in Multiple Languages

Facebook now gives you the ability to write a post in more than one language simultaneously. Each person who has liked your page will see the post in their timeline only in the language they have chosen for Facebook.

However, this option has to be turned on manually in the Settings area (https://www.facebook.com/%5Byourpage%5D/settings) for each page you own.

Featured Pages

Each Facebook Page can feature other pages that it has liked. These will show under the Liked by This Page section in the left-hand column on the page. This is one way, for example, for a high school page to promote the pages of its feeder schools.

These featured pages can be selected by first liking them as your page, then going to the Featured tab in the Settings area (https://www.facebook.com/%5Byourpage%5D/settings/?tab=featured).

Merge Pages

Over the last two years I’ve noticed many unclaimed place pages for our schools, some of them with hundreds of likes and check-ins. Little by little, I have claimed them and used the merge pages feature to roll them in with the official school pages. All check-ins and likes are combined with the official page.

Suggest Page to Email Contacts

This option seems to be available only to pages with a few likes who need a boost. While on your page, click the three dots button over the cover image and select “Suggest Page.”

A panel will pop up where you can upload email addresses. Facebook will see if any of those addresses match the email addresses of its users, and show those users a suggestion to like your page.

This is a free alternative to Facebook Ads and is a good option for new pages trying to boost likes.

Are there any hidden gems you’ve found in Facebook?

Social Media Resolutions for 2016

As with your other new year’s resolutions, the beginning of 2016 is a good time to pause and take a look at your district’s social media strategies and tactics and see where you can improve.

Here are a few of the 2016 social media resolutions for my district:

  • Refreshing our social media profiles and making sure profile bios, cover images and other profile information are fresh and up-to-date
  • Developing a School PR Liaison program to launch in September
  • Empowering, training and coaching more staff to use social media to share good news and stories directly to the community. We will do this via drop-in training sessions and a social media tips series in our employee newsletter.
  • Committing to tracking our analytics, especially engagement rates, on a weekly basis
  • Posting more frequently on Facebook (at least eight times a week)

Some good resolutions you may consider:

Finally, some professional resolutions for my school PR colleagues:

  • Use and watch the #SchoolPR hashtag on Twitter to keep the conversation and learning going throughout 2016 (Thanks to Jason Wheeler for this and the following reminder).
  • Find and follow your school PR colleagues on Twitter. One place to start is the School PR Twitter list I have curated.
  • Participate in #K12PRchat every other Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET. Previous chats have discussed branding, leadership and legal communications. Keep an eye out for new chats starting up in 2016.

What goals and resolutions do you have for 2016?

Amplify Your Communications Reach with School PR Liaisons

A small school communications office can’t be everywhere, telling every story. That’s why I believe the future of our roles will involve a lot more training, coaching and empowering others in our districts to tell their own stories.

That’s exactly what the communications team at Arlington Public Schools (APS) in Arlington, Virginia has done with their school PR liaisons program.

The program was originally started in 2004 with volunteers from each school. After 10 years, there was only a meager average of one story per school being submitted to the communications office by the volunteer liaisons every other month. The program, as it stood, was not growing.

For the 2014-2015 school year, the superintendent supported a new effort to pay a small stipend to each of the liaisons, at a total cost to the district of $51,000, less than the cost of adding a full-time employee. School PR liaisons now have to fill out an application and be chosen by their school’s principal. Further, they sign a contract that outlines the performance objectives they have to meet.

The APS communications team supports the liaisons with a kickoff training, iPad minis, quarterly meetings and weekly emails to suggest hashtags to use and campaigns to promote.

The results from implementing this structured program are astounding. The number of APS Twitter accounts — representing schools, departments and staff — went from just a few dozen to more than 500 in less than a year. Twitter reach district-wide went from 100,000 to 1 million viewers per week. Readership of district publications skyrocketed.

So that others may replicate their success, the Arlington Public Schools communications team has generously provided the entire overview and documentation of this program, for which they won an NSPRA Golden Achievement Award.

Download the APS School PR Liaisons Program Overview and Documentation. This document includes:

  • School PR liaison job application
  • Quarterly goal/task evaluation form
  • Content tracking form
  • A link to the PR Liaison Training Manual
  • Sample weekly emails to PR liaisons
  • Agendas for kickoff training and quarterly meetings
  • A sample editorial calendar

If you are looking to amplify the reach of your district’s communications, especially on social media, it will be easier if you don’t have to do it alone.