Searching for Cassandra

As the school year comes to a close for many of us, it’s often a time to reflect on the things that have happened. I can’t help but think back to my school days.

Image result for copyright free cassandra greek myth

Cassandra by Evelyn De Morgan,  1898. where my curiosity was sparked by Greek mythology.

According to myth, Cassandra was given the gift of foretelling the future, but in a twist of fate, she was cursed with no one believing her.

While you may not have Cassandra’s gift, you likely have tools at your disposal that can help you foretell possible social media crisis.

Many of us are already using social media monitoring services, but sometimes there are items the monitoring just doesn’t catch. When’s the last time you just typed your organization’s name (or another key term) in the Facebook or Twitter search tool to see what pops up?

I do this from time to time, and on Facebook, I narrow my search to the city in which I live to see what our community is really saying.

A disengaged parent, student or employee may be negatively posting about your organization without you realizing it. The more sensational, the faster it seems to travel when you consider the reach of said post.

Never heard of this? It’s because you weren’t supposed to. If this is being done on Twitter, it’s called a subtweet.

subtweet

Either way, it can be damaging to your organization’s brand.

This simple search can help you see a crisis on the horizon, giving you time to alert leadership that trouble may be around the corner.

Cassandra’s curse doesn’t have to be yours. Knowing what’s around the corner can give you the proof you need to protect your credibility as a practitioner and the time to prepare social media crisis response.

Having Fun with GIFs

GIFs have become common practice on personal and business social media pages. Is your district using them? They are a great way to engage your audience and have a little fun.

Social Media Examiner recently posted about how to make animated gifs. It is a fantastic resource for anyone new to GIF making.

With summer just around the corner for many school districts, here are some GIFs for my school PR friends.

When I think about how many days are left in the school year:clap

When I realize there are only 58 days till #NSPRASeminar2017:
giphy (1)

When I think about all the summer projects I need to complete:giphy (2)

When I think about back-to-school planning:
giphy (3)

When I think about that vacation I have been planning all year long:
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One-Day Social Media Campaign Success

When I started my job as the first public relations supervisor for my school district, the first thing I did was turn to the experts for advice! One piece of advice came from Barry Gaston award winner Nez Calhoun, who has practiced school PR in Alabama for more than 40 years. “The Duchess,” as we lovingly refer to her, told me to get a membership to the National School Public Relations Association NSPRA and to start attending the national seminars each summer.

That is the best job-related advice I have ever received! Through the years, I have learned so much from my NSPRA colleagues — and last year was no exception. Social media was the focus of several sessions, and I made an attempt to attend as many as possible.

One of those sessions was The One-Day Campaign: Building Successful Twitter Engagement, presented by Jennifer Delgado, media manager of High School District 214.  I came away from that session with a new appreciation of how important social media can be for building engagement in our local communities and so many great ideas that my head was literally spinning!

I implemented this great new strategy just a few short weeks later, with a first-day-of-school campaign called #shelbyfirstday. I enlisted the help of our school administrators and promoted it with graphics posted on all of our social media channels. It was a HUGE success, with engagement from both internal and external publics! There were adorable photos from parents of their children all dressed up for the first day, along with photos throughout the day of the excitement being experienced by students and staff alike.

Earlier this month, I did a second campaign entitled #shelbyoneday, which chronicled what a typical day in our school district looks like. Again, I enlisted the help of our administrators and teachers and provided them with a timeline of suggested posts throughout the day. The idea was to show that a typical school day doesn’t start at 8 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. when the dismissal bell rings. A typical day starts bright and early with our buses rolling out to pick up students and then continues with after-school care, athletic events, and special events.

The entire day was filled with such awesome posts that not only highlighted the work of our teachers but our wonderful support staff as well. Pictures showed students doing everything from participating in very engaging lessons to lowering the flag at the end of the school day. One school even went back the next day and posted an entire slideshow of their day!

So, Jennifer Delgado, if you are reading this post, let me say a big “THANK YOU” for presenting such an awesome session at last year’s seminar! My superintendent and board members were thrilled with the results, so thanks for letting us all borrow your awesome idea!

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

Making Data Digestible

As a school leader, you well know that data informs our decision making on behalf of students. In a digital age, this data can be used to garner support and explain the decision-making rationale for school or system initiatives. But how do you make the data digestible on a social platform—especially when it comes to a multi-sheet Excel spreadsheet, volumes of academic data and other reports?

It’s not like you would want to tweet an invitation to read a 140-page report in 140 characters. And who would want to read it on a mobile device? Probably only a handful who were directly involved in its creation. Making your data digestible goes a long way toward promoting transparency for your district.

Draw stakeholders into your data by:

  • Highlighting key points from your report;
  • Using qualitative responses to share stakeholder opinions;
  • Illustrating data points with charts and graphs; or
  • Closing the loop on stakeholder engagement efforts by touting how you used feedback to inform your decision making.

It’s no secret you can get higher engagement when you use infographics to share those data points. But take your work to the next level by carefully crafting posts to drive people back to the report itself or to re-engage stakeholders for more feedback.

Since many school PR practitioners are one-person shops, we must be creative in the way we tell our stories using data, especially if time and budget are a concern.

Even if you are not proficient in graphic arts, free online tools make the task a snap; get professional-looking results in a matter of minutes using your system’s color palate and branding!

In this day and age, making data digestible is easy!

Five Ways to Keep School District Social Media Followers Engaged During the Summer

It is hard to believe the summer of 2016 is almost here. What happened to the 2015-2016 school year? You have worked hard to build your social media presence and audience throughout the school year. How do you keep that momentum going over the summer months?

Below are a five tips and strategies to keep your social media followers engaged and connected when your schools are out for the summer.

  1. One of our favorites is our graduation “roll call.” We ask our Facebook users to post the year they graduated during our annual high school graduation ceremony. It is a really simple post – we ask our fans to post the year they graduated in the comments section as well as a congratulatory message for the graduating class. Each time it garners hundreds – sometimes thousands – of comments, likes and shares and helps increase the number of alumni following our page.
  2. Another favorite is the “Throwback Thursday,” where we find a photo or historical nugget from our archives to share on social media. This is not a new or unique concept by any means. But we can set up our posts for the summer months in advance, which is very helpful when we are out of the office on vacation or at the NSPRA conference.
  3. Be sure to post when you have good content to share. Our district regularly features unique summer school activities. Whether it is a fun field trip, STEM activity, summer camp or other initiative, this is another positive way to feature your district in the summer months.
  4. Photos of summer construction, professional development and the implementation of new curriculum are not exciting – but they do keep your users in the know about things happening in your district when children are not in school.
  5. Finally, we like to feature fun stories and photos from students, staff and families. Be sure to ask your staff and families to send you photos if they took a once-in-a-lifetime trip or had an amazing experience in the summer months. It’s the personal touch and connection that keeps your social media followers engaged during slower times.

These are just a few of many ideas to increase social media involvement over the summer.  I am curious to hear what other districts are doing as well. Please share any and all ideas in the comments section below. Have a great summer!

The power of student-led social media campaigns

We’ve all seen the damage cyber-bullying can do, including suicide. In some states, schools have a legal responsibility to address it. The big question is how to do that effectively.

Student leaders at Gladstone High schooled me on this recently when they tacked the issue head-on through a student-led social media campaign. Expanding on last year’s effort – a Twitter compliments page that drew local news media attention – they planned Unity Week.

Each day of the week-long celebration had a special theme. For example, on “Sweet Tweet Tuesday,” students sent positive tweets complimenting others. On “Whatcha Know Wednesday,” they posed for selfies posing with someone they didn’t know well, including a fascinating fact they discovered about that person (“Did you know Ms. Schuberg ran a radio station in college?”).

One day during lunch, kids competed in the Selfie Challenge: a prize was awarded to the student who posted the most selfies, each with a different classmate or school staffer.

The celebration culminated with Blue Friday, when students wore blue to show school-wide unity against bullying. An assembly that day included elementary school students performing a skit celebrating diversity and a skit by Gladstone High students about the importance of being a positive influence on others.

The whole week showcased the fun of being positive on social media, while reminding kids of the harm cyberbullying can do. More than 200 students signed a pledge against cyberbullying, and an additional 125 students pledged to fight name-calling.

Gladstone High has worked hard to build a positive, inclusive culture, and this social media campaign was just one piece of a year-long effort by student leaders. What made it fun and effective was that the campaign was planned and run by students, who understand the power of social media better than any other generation.