About Shane Haggerty

Shane Haggerty is the Director of Marketing and Technology at Tolles Career and Technical Center near Columbus, Ohio, and has more than 15 years experience in public education. In 2007 he accepted the position of marketing and communications coordinator for Ohio Hi-Point Career Center, where his work was honored at both the state and national levels, particularly in the area of social media. From 2011-2014, he worked as a consultant for school districts and other organizations. He received his degree in English education from Huntington University , a masters in educational leadership and principal’s licensure from the University of Dayton and a masters of education in sports administration from Xavier University.

What do you teach? The school PR person as lead teacher

As school communicators and marketers, our jobs are many times separated from the day-to-day educational elements of the classroom. Dealing with the media, working with vendors, spending time in the community — it can all feel so overwhelming. We sometimes forget the value in being the lead teacher on topics to do with social media, communications and digital citizenship. While time is sparse, school communicators should take stock in the value of providing professional development to teachers and being a resource to students. The bottom line is this helps create a team of responsible content makers and communicators (remember, you can’t be everywhere at once), and it helps you showcase the value of your knowledge, expertise and place in the district’s organization even further.

Teach Digital Citizenship
Provide professional development to administrators and teachers on the importance of responsible social media usage. Digital citizenship should be taught around nine key areas: online privacy, digital communications, etiquette, personal branding, digital health and wellness, copyright, plagiarism, digital access, and cyberbullying. Many issues school PR people must face result from fallout over inappropriate online activity. By becoming the lead educator on this topic, you are helping solve this problem. Teaching responsible usage to your colleagues can then be passed on to both students and parents.

Teach Social Media For The Classroom
We know that social media is a powerful tool of outreach to our audiences, but that can become even more powerful when teachers use it in the classroom. Social media are effective platforms for both student learning and a personal learning network for teachers and administrators. Moreover, these platforms can open up the classroom to parents and community and truly showcase student learning at its finest. From creating classroom YouTube channels that stream live Google Plus Hangouts On Air to hosting Vine and Instagram open house tours to showcasing student work in a science fair via Twitter, the meshing of student learning and social media can sometimes be the best PR of all. But teachers have to know how to effectively use it. Add value to your role by providing professional development on this. Be the go-to expert.

Teach Parents And Other Constituents
Hosting parent universities or senior citizen digital events can be valuable in creating digital literacy among key constituent groups. If you are using social media as a communications tool, it will become even more effective if your core audiences know how to consume the content you are putting out there. Parents and community members need to learn, too. Since we can’t do it alone, why not use students to help teach it? One of the best examples of this is the subject of a new documentary called “Cyber Seniors.”

Grow professionally, network with social media

Social media as professional development sounds a bit tricky when you first consider it. We talk a lot in the education space about how to enrich teaching and learning with 21st-century tools, including social media ones. Most of the time, we’re talking about students, but these tools don’t have to be used just for students’ benefit. There are plenty of ways we can sharpen our skills and learn something new, all through online peer communities.

Follow, Follow, Follow

Twitter is brimming with a wide variety of personalities and expertise. And there’s plenty to learn, even if you aren’t ready to start tweeting yourself. The best way to begin? Just start following. Find a handful of education pros, PR experts, writers and leaders, and follow their feeds. Not only will you be tuning in to what they have to say, but because of how Twitter is set up, you’ll quickly see their interactions with others. Your circle will widen to include new voices—and new opportunities for learning. The same can be said of blogs and education RSS feeds (Feedly is what I use).

Chat It Up

If you’re ready to utilize Twitter in a more strategic way, keep an eye out for Twitter chats. These events turn Twitter into a chat room for participants. A date and time is designated for the chat, and all who wish to participate use a hashtag on their tweets, for easy indexing. A simple search for the hashtag allows anyone to read along and watch the tweets scroll in real time. A good platform to utilize during these chats is Tweetchat.

Some good education-related chats to check out include #PTChat, #EdChat, #EdTechChat, #SuptChat.

Leave Comments

You can participate in comment dialogue almost anywhere these days. Pinterest posts, online articles, Facebook and blogs all have comment sections that take on lives of their own. Real dialogue can occur—and in the best cases, though not always, it stays respectful and productive. These dialogues are a great way to make connections with like-minded individuals.

Take advantage of distance learning

Webinars, archived presentations and YouTube videos can all be fantastic resources when you want to learn something new or sharpen your skills. It’s amazing how much free, high-quality content is out there for the taking. There’s no need to commit to a full online course (though those are certainly available) to get the benefits of a distance learning scenario.

It can take some sifting through the junk, but there’s a wealth of resources available online for professional development and learning. Social media and 21st-century tools make it easier than ever to broaden your knowledge and networks.

Ideas to engage through niche social media

It’s safe to assume Facebook and Twitter aren’t going anywhere, and most schools have figured out how to effectively leverage these platforms. But what of all the new or niche social media out there? How can schools use these platforms to engage their communities and reinforce brand?

Google Plus

What it is: A very niche social network that is popular for long-form content, targeted communities called Circles, video conferencing called Hangouts and broadcasting opportunities through Hangouts on Air

Who uses it: 18-34 demographics are tops; dominated by males

Ideas for schools: 

  • Use Circles to build relationships and have consistent communications with your key communicators and advocates;
  • Use Hangouts On Air to broadcast messages from administrators or to host one-on-one segments with teachers, students, etc.

My take: G+ is not for mass outreach right now. Consider it as a tool to add value to other tactics rather than as a communications platform by itself.


What it is: A social video platform that only allows for 6.5 seconds on a loop. It works seamlessly with Twitter because it was created by the same people.

Who uses it: Demographic data is limited on Vine, though it tends to be a younger audience (13-24).

Ideas for schools:

  • How-to videos
  • Call-to-action campaigns
  • Host a Vine open house and push the videos out on Twitter to a larger audience.
  • Campus tours
  • Quick Q&A videos

My take: Vine is a very niche crowd and using it as a platform by itself does not make sense for schools. The content that can be created on Vine does make sense, though. If you have strong Twitter following in your district, make Vine your go-to platform for quick videos and push them out on Twitter, which has become a much more visual social platform.


What it is: A social photo and video platform. Videos on Instagram can be 15 seconds long. Instagram is owned by Facebook.

Who uses it: A younger demographic. It is one of the top platforms of ages 18-24.

Uses for schools:

  • Since you already have Facebook to share photo galleries, no use posting the same pictures here. Have a specific purpose for using Instagram.
  • That purpose could include a place to showcase school history or traditions, a place for special campaigns or a place to hold a visual open house.
  • Create special hashtags to crowdsource your content and have the community, students or teachers take photos for you.

My take: Instagram is a great place to be creative and engage your audiences by involving them in content creation. It is also a great place, thanks to their array of filters, to showcase more creative images than your typical school district photos.

Using data to set your social media strategy

Our ability to use data to make decisions about how best to leverage social media for our school districts has never been more available. Over the past several months, several new research studies were released by the Pew Research Center that can be used to pinpoint demographics and usage habits for us to make strategic decisions about social media as a part of our communication strategies.

Fact: Five years ago, just 29 percent of online adults used social networking sites. Today, that figure has more than doubled to 72 percent.

What It Means: As if we didn’t know, social media is not a fad or a fading trend. Social media are a collection of communication channels that are here to stay. In the next five years, we can likely expect that 72% to grow to well over 90% of all internet users. The fact is your district must adopt some sort of social media strategy.

Fact: Three quarters (74 percent) of all women internet users are on social networks, 8 percent more than men. Women are significantly more likely to use social sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Women are actually five times more likely to use Pinterest than men.

What It Means: As you think about which platforms to use and what the strategy is for them, consider that your audiences will be large numbers of females. It is important to gear your content for this audience and what would be most interesting to them.

Fact: While age demographics have shown growth among older audiences, social media is still a young person’s playground. Eighty-nine percent of social media users are in the 18-29 year-old demographic. 

What It Means: I think we have all realized that the next generation of parents will be the most connected generation of parents ever. Consider your social media strategy a proactive investment in the future. Still, every other age demographic has seen significant growth over the years. For example, 78 percent of 30-49 year-olds are using social media and close to 45 percent of those over age 65 are on a social network.

There is much more interesting data in various studies. If you want to explore even more data to help you make more strategic decisions about social media, feel free to check them out:

Why content matters on your social channels

According to Seth Godin, “Content marketing is the only marketing that’s left.” Why? Well, times have changed and audiences are fragmented. That means that for schools it is less important to send out traditional press releases, rely on the news media to report stories on the district, pay for expensive advertising, and on and on.

Here are some facts about the way your audiences are consuming information:

  • According to eMarketer.com, mobile and internet consumption continues to rise among consumers, while traditional media usage continues to fall, especially with print media.
  • According to eMarketer.com, the top two reasons social users follow brands on social media is because they want to keep up with the latest content and share that content with family and friends.

Content matters, then, because people want to see relevant, interesting, local and specific information directly from your district. In effect, you are now your own publisher of content. The model should look like this: owned media (original content you create as the most important), earned media (local news media coverage), paid media (advertising). By owning your media, you become a good storyteller rather than a good story (and by “good,” I mean sensationalized or controversial most of the time in the media). Also, your content never expires the way paid advertising does.

Since owning your own media is so important, and creating original, engaging content matters, here are some thoughts to keep in mind as you begin to shape your own stories:

  • Your content strategy is just as important as the content you create or curate. What are your goals? What are your platforms? How will you distribute original content? How will people know about it? Part of the process is planning ahead and re-educating your constituents about how the district is going to be communicating.
  • To own your own media and to make a content strategy effective, you must communicate internally and train administrators and staff. Try to invest in mini-campaigns on Facebook (feature a different school or program in your district weekly or monthly on your page) and use the power of hashtags on Twitter to aggregate conversations. Also, involve the voices of your students and your staff in your content.
  • Always be in a storytelling mindset. Showcase your school’s culture. Introduce your school’s characters. Educate your community. Keep your audience’s attention.

Create social content with the help of apps

One of the best ways to create unique content for your social media platforms in a fast, professional way is to take advantage of all of the apps out there that allow you to be creative without actually being a creative.

Recently I have been taking advantage of several apps on a daily basis to create visually appealing content for many of my clients for their Facebook pages. Here are the ones that I am using the most:

  • Over | Over is a great mobile app that allows you to add typography over photos. By using Facebook Insights, measurements have shown people respond most to photos on many of the pages I manage. By writing copy over photos, this is a new way to spread key messages in a visual way that people respond to. The app is easy to use and offers the ability to adjust fonts, colors, tints and more. Right now, it is only available on the iPhone and is free. If you want more fonts, it is a $.99 upgrade.
  • PicFrame | According to their own description, “PicFrame helps you combine multiple photos into amazing looking frames and share them with your friends and family via Facebook, Email, Instagram, Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr.” Again, it is easy to use and is available on iPhone and Droid operating systems. This is a free app.
  • Collage Creator Lite | I downloaded this on my MacBook Pro and use it frequently to create Facebook cover photos with typography messages. It easily allows you to enter the required dimensions to meet this need. I have also used it to create photo collages for various content pieces. There is a paid version that allows you to do even more.

These are just several of an abundance of apps that are out there that can save you time and provide fresh ways to create content! Which ones are you using?