About Ken Koch, APR

Ken Koch is Director of Marketing and Communications at Francis Tuttle Technology Center in Oklahoma City. Prior to joining Oklahoma's CareerTech system in 2002, Ken's career stops included: corporate theater; presentation production and staging; broadcasting; photojournalism; and cow punching.

We Can All Use a Little Help

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pinterest

As you labor away, trying to come up with the perfect social media post that will be shared, liked, re-tweeted or just appropriated, do you ever feel like no one understands you? Does anybody really know what time it is . . . does anybody really care . . . about the Oxford comma or the singular “they?”

As it turns out, the answer is yes. There are kindred spirits out there who are as dedicated to good writing and the proper use of grammar as you are. Surprisingly, many of them have posted some of their best tips and techniques on Pinterest. Yes, the same Pinterest that is home to cupcakes, fashion trends, home makeovers and parenting suggestions.

One of the most notable pins is “30 Copy Editors Tell Us Their Pet Peeves.”

Items included on the list were:

  • Versus, not verse
  • Oxford comma or not, we’re all correct. Can’t we just get along?
  • “Due to” does not equal “because of”

Along with that piece, there are other useful (and humorous) topics, such as:

  • 250 Ways to Say “Went”
  • Know Your Dashes
  • 22 Rules of Storytelling
  • “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed. Everything else is public relations,” — George Orwell

There are some strange, irrelevant pins included on this board, but make your way through the site and you’ll find some helpful tools and advice.

Same As It Ever Was

Even as technology marches on (along with its cousin, time), much of a school PR pro’s day is still spent doing hands-on work projects . . . planning, writing, organizing, meeting, editing and creating.

Not quite a year ago, the fine folks over at capterra put together a great list of tools for content marketers to have in their box. And yes, if you are writing for a newsletter or blog or website for your district, you are a content marketer. Any tools or techniques that can simplify necessary work are always welcome, and here are a few. Take time to look at the full article and you’re sure to find some gems.

If your workflow needs some help, Google Calendar is ideal for managing an editorial calendar for your social media posting routines, especially if you want to share a calendar with a team. Trello is like a digital bulletin board, letting you arrange and rearrange virtual index cards for component pieces of a project. By moving them along in the production process, you can practice what’s known as visual manufacturing and have a quick glance of where you stand.

A shared document is key to collaborative work, and Google Drive (formerly Google Docs and Google Apps) does sharing better than anyone. If you’re constantly shipping drafts back and forth between writer and editor, Google Drive is the way to go. The capability to show edits by author, revert back to historical versions, and restrict writing rights only scratch the surface of what this program can do. And it’s a much safer place to create documents. As my fellow authors of this blog might attest, WordPress is a wee bit flaky sometimes and you can easily lose your work.

The blog article also touches on SEO, promotion, and image creation as it suggests other free tools that are available to the content marketer. Check them out, because after all, you are a content marketer too.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

By now, you have no doubt read many tips about how often you should be posting on social media, which days are best for posting, and what time of day is ideal for posts. While consistency, frequency and timing are important, I’ll suggest that content continues to be king.

Creating and posting and creating and posting is a never-ending chore. It’s great to rack up volumes of posts, but it’s even better to start growing engagement, as measured by the number of shares, likes and comments your posts receive. That kind of engagement depends on the creation of captivating content . . . thoughts, ideas, opinions and how-tos that your readers are compelled to share with their communities.

In a treasure of an article entitled “The Science Behind What Love People Love to Share on Social Media,” the folks at Kissmetrics have graciously shared some valuable insights. Be sure to take a look at the full article to get all the details.

Here are some brief nuggets that relate to Facebook:

  • Of the top million posts on Facebook in the last six months, the most popular content type was quizzes, at 51,968 total shares. The average article had 15,527 shares. The key here is to create quizzes for which the questions and answers are centered around your district or schools: historical events, current-day activities or gee-whiz numbers.
  • Should you keep your posts short? Survey says . . . not really. Posts of 2,000-2,500 words do 15-percent better than those that are 0-500 words and 24-percent better than posts of 500-1,000 words.
  • Videos need to be longer that what you might have thought – those that are between 4:00 and 4:20 do much better than short snips, such as those that are only 0-20 seconds or 40-60 seconds.

The article has similar suggestions and tips for LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest.

Write the Right

Social media is all about technology. Ultimately though, it’s the words and messages that really make the difference. To that end, here’s some information that caught me by surprise that I think you’ll find interesting.

Words often look alike but have different meanings. Sound alike but have different spellings. Or look the same but sound different. Thanks to this article from Mental Floss, I now know about contronyms . . . words that are their own antonyms.

An example:

Here’s an ambiguous sentence for you: “Because of the agency’s oversight, the corporation’s behavior was sanctioned.” Does that mean, ‘Because the agency oversaw the company’s behavior, they imposed a penalty for some transgression’ or does it mean, ‘Because the agency was inattentive, they overlooked the misbehavior and gave it their approval by default’?

The article lists 25 of these gems, but here are just a few:

  • Dust is a noun turned into a verb meaning either to add or to remove the thing in question. Only the context will tell you which it is. When you dust are you applying dust or removing it? It depends whether you’re dusting the crops or the furniture.
    (Remember Amelia Bedelia?)
  • Off means “deactivated,” as in “to turn off,” but also “activated,” as in “The alarm went off.”
  • Go means “to proceed” but also “give out or fail,” as in “This car could really go until it started to go.”

The point is to be sure to choose your words carefully and eliminate any possibility that the message can be confused by a contronym.

Your Summer Reading List

Books

What could be more appropriate to get summer underway than a reading list?

Whether you’ve been a PR pro in education for a long time or just a few short months, you can certainly remember taking home the summer reading list on the last day of school. Those lists were meant to keep your literacy edge sharp through the dog days and get you ready for the challenges of a new grade.

The real test was whether you would actually read over the entire summer or just cram all of that reading into the last ten days before school resumed.

This list, though, can start the summer without the threat of a Labor Day deadline. The topics covered will serve you well throughout the year . . . if you finish these books before school starts again, all the better.

Embracing Social Media, by Kristin Magette, APR (a fellow contributor on this blog)

A great beginning for those who are just dipping a toe in the social media water for their district. Kristin is a leading light in this field and her book reflects that. It’s filled with tips on developing policies and managing the workflow needed to preserve your sanity while working with social media.

LinkedIn Success, by Wayne Breitbarth

I’ve had the opportunity to attend Wayne’s presentation, which moves along at such a quick pace and with such enthusiasm that his book is vital to implementing his techniques. If you’re considering using LinkedIn as a channel for business and community connections, this book can show you how to get the most out of the free, basic account.

The Art of Social Media, by Guy Kawasaki and Peg Fitzpatrick

Guy Kawasaki is one of the best known and most prolific users of social media and much of his output is powered by Peg Fitzpatrick. There are hundreds of tips in this book that are more than philosophical; they are practical. Even though it was published in 2014 (an eon ago in social media terms) there are still plenty of great best practices that can be employed today.

Why Social Media Matters, by Kitty Porterfield and Meg Carnes

If you haven’t been fortunate enough to attend an NSPRA Seminar workshop presented by Kitty or Meg, reading their book is the next best thing to sitting at the feet of the sages. The book is less about the nuts and bolts of how to use social media than it is about the why your district should be on social media and what you should be saying.

The New Rules of Marketing & PR, by David Meerman Scott

Are you familiar with the term “newsjacking”? Neither was I until I read this book. Google “Oreo Superbowl tweet” and you’ll find out what this new-millennium concept looks like. Plus, you’ll learn plenty more from this 400+ page handbook that will give you insights into how the biggest companies and brightest practitioners are making the most of social media.

Anyone Surprised?

AP StyleIn a move widely expected, the AP Stylebook has announced that, as of June 1, the 2016 Stylebook will lowercase internet and web. How does this affect you? That all depends on whether your district follows AP Style, Chicago Manual of Style or any other style guide at all.

Choosing and adopting a style guide for your district’s publications, websites, social media channels and other communications activities will make your job easier:

  • You can justify why and how you edit other’s submissions.
  • If you have colleagues helping you out, they will have a reference point when they are creating or editing material.
  • The number of emails you receive suggesting you spelled something incorrectly will diminish.
  • A guide will give you a consistent resource so you don’t have to remember which way you chose to spell a word.

Once you’ve chosen a style guide, be sure to stay up-to-date with it and use the latest version. Things do change (even those rules you learned the hard way in J school) and who wants to get “e-mail” from “Webmasters” about your “Internet” gaffes?

 

Mobile-friendly: more than just a good idea

As we’ve gone from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 to Web whatever, it’s been a struggle to keep up with the latest technology platform guidelines. Some of you may remember when screen resolutions exploded to 640 x 480 and the limited color palette blossomed from 16 colors to 256 and we wondered who would ever need more colors. Now, screen resolution and color choices appear to go on without end.

We were also told that we needed a mobile version of our website. Then . . . forget having a separate mobile site, but spend your resources on a responsive site, if you have the time and money. Responsive design was a progressive nicety, but not necessarily a necessity. And, it wasn’t even a concern when it came to email.

Today, mobile devices seem to have taken over the Web and the world. If your school regularly uses email blasts to communicate with your students and patrons, here’s some important news:

How can you make sure your messages are getting through to the mobile throngs? Many of the larger email service platforms (and blogging tools, like WordPress) include templates designed for mobile devices along with mobile previewers. Taking the time to use these tools can save some missteps and heartache.

Before you hit the send button, make sure you sneak a mobile peek.