The Power of “Thanks”

“Always show more kindness than necessary, because the person receiving it needs it more than you will ever know.” – Colin Powell

When contemplating an awards program for our growing use of social media throughout the Howard-Suamico School District (Green Bay, Wis.) one of our teachers suggested a simpler approach: “I don’t want an award; just write me a nice thank-you note.”

Longtime Campbell’s CEO Doug Conant shared more than 30,000 handwritten thank-you notes over the course of his 10 years at the helm. That’s 10-20 a day! He said this of his effort:

I heard over and over from executives the line, ‘Hey, we say thank you with a paycheck.’ Well, guess what? You don’t say thank you with a paycheck. You say I’m paying you with a paycheck. You say thank you with thank you.”

In our school PR roles as public goodwill ambassadors on behalf of our students and teachers, it might be easy to overlook the importance of saying thanks along the way. Research shows the practice pays dividends whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of the gratitude.  Here are some ideas for how to share thanks each day:

  1. When you retweet a link to TV coverage, thank the reporter and camera operator by name. Or better yet, snap a pic while they work and tweet-tease their upcoming coverage.
  2. Social media is inherently social — thank your followers who take the time to append a kind note to a post.
  3. Ask for five minutes at a school staff meeting. Highlight great collective or individual work that has made a difference in your world. Expert level: bait-and-switch with praise for the principal in front of his or her staff.
  4. Sometimes private thanks is better: make a goal of one handwritten note a day and keep track. My personal record streak is six straight months.
  5. My first principal would do this at staff meetings: tuck a $1 scratch-off lottery ticket into a handwritten note when you want to show how lucky you are to work with someone.

Thank you for reading. I’d be grateful to hear your thank-you tips and tricks. – @bsnicol2 or

How to add captions to your Facebook videos

Last week’s blog post talked about the benefits and importance of captioning your videos on social media. This week, I’m going to show you how simple it is to implement in your Facebook videos.

Facebook recently rolled out the ability to automatically caption your videos, so it makes the process very simple.

Step 1: Upload your video, and after uploading and publishing, click ‘Generate’ under the Captions tab.

Facebook will automatically caption your video. It’s pretty great but there will likely be a few edits you’ll need to make as it’s not perfect.

Step 2: To edit the captions, click ‘Edit Captions.’ and you will see the ‘Review Captions’ screen.

Step 3: The review page shows the video on the left and captions on the right. You can see the timings as well as a play button to the right of each caption when you hover over. To edit, click in the text field and make your corrections.

Step 4: Click ‘Save to Video’ and then ‘Publish’. This will save your video with captions and publish your post (or schedule if you choose to schedule your post instead).

Here’s what the final video looks like:


You can also upload your own .SRT file if you choose. The great thing about using Facebook’s automatic caption tool is that not only will your videos be accessible to those who cannot hear or choose not to turn on the sound, but the captions will display in the language each Facebook user has set as their preferred language!

Learn more on how to caption and add text to your videos at my DIY Video 2.0 session at the NSPRA Seminar this July!

Accessibility on social media

Communications and IT leaders in school districts across the U.S. are working to ensure their district websites and online resources meet updated regulations by the American with Disabilities Act — and social media content cannot be ignored. If your employees are using social media to communicate and engage, you must create content that is accessible to people with disabilities.

Here’s a brief rundown of ADA considerations for common social media platforms:

We all know that images and videos hold the highest potential for engagement, but this content must meet new standards for those with vision disabilities.In 2016 Facebook began describing the content of photos using artificial intelligence, reading the descriptions aloud on accessible devices. The images you share should be easy to describe, and know that the screen reader likely will not pick up on text in your image. If you’re using an image you created that says SNOW DAY!, make sure “snow day” is also included in the text of your post.

All videos now require captions to be accessible. (But this is great for overall engagement, as the majority of Facebook videos are viewed, at least in part, with the volume muted!). As a page administrator, Facebook provides you a convenient captioning tool that can be used when you upload native video; it can also be used to add and edit captions to any videos you may have posted in the past.

Check out the Facebook accessibility page.

Users can add alt text to images, allowing for greater accessibility. Simply enable this feature in the Settings menu of your account. Whether on mobile or desktop, click on General > Display and Sound > Accessibility > Compose Image Descriptions, and you’ll have the ability to add a description any time you prepare to tweet an image.

With speech recognition technology, YouTube can automatically create captions for videos. The quality of the captions varies, so always check for accuracy and edit any mistakes directly in YouTube.

There is no reader available in Instagram, nor are there alt text options. Simply ensure that every photo or video you post includes a meaningful caption, and you’re good to go.

While it’s normal to feel overwhelmed by the changes these updated standards require,  remember that accessibility improvements take time. After all, it was many months after the ADA passed in 1990 before someone in a wheelchair could count on an accessible restroom in public buildings.

But also remember that the work underway isn’t just about compliance — it’s about engaging all people better on social media.


Special thanks to NSPRA member Steve King for sharing this information and additional details (including Snapchat resources) in a recent blog post.

When Communication and Culture Combine

Social media can mobilize an organization to action, but how can you use social media to reinforce your school’s (or system’s) commitment to serving students? As school public relations practitioners, we are in the service industry of supporting those who take care of people’s most precious possession each day: their children.

Social media gives parents (and grandparents) a peek into the classroom. This transparency can help families develop relationships with the inanimate objects of schools and school systems. As school public relations practitioners, we train and support our schools in developing their brand, this is probably a novel concept when it comes to schools.

One of my schools, Central Elementary School, has taken the ball and run with it, by developing their own hashtag #CES360. But more than a hashtag, it is about impacting culture. The hashtag isn’t lip service to what goes on inside the building, but rather a showcase of it.

Credit goes to the principal, Dr. Monte Linebarger, for seeing the connection between communication and culture. He defines #CES360 as the school’s method for creating a positive environment to help close the achievement gap by focusing on five different areas: attendance, discipline, partnerships, academic achievement and leadership.

Like any great PR plan, evaluation is needed, and Dr. Linebarger has measured the impact of this work and is seeing positive change. The school is presently undergoing major renovation work, and as a result of their branding work, we are having to adjust our construction plans. The school will need a larger parking lot to accommodate all of the volunteers it now has as part of its efforts to move the needle towards excellence for students.

Their social media stream is just a reflection of it. Just follow #CES360 to see it for yourself.

Using Facebook to respond to your district’s patrons

On my district’s Facebook page, there is a little badge that sometimes turns green and sometimes does not, depending on how quickly we respond to questions and comments from our patrons.


The badge itself is not an incentive, because we don’t have the staffing to try to beat Facebook’s target of responding to each message in about 15 minutes. In addition, if you don’t get the last word in the conversation, Facebook sometimes doesn’t count your response. We don’t want to make our interactions awkward just to game this measurement.

However, we do try to get back to people within 24 hours, as the Messages tool is a great way for students, parents, community members and alumni to reach out to us. We turned off the ability for people to make public posts on our page, so they tend to use this feature to contact us.

Recently, Facebook beefed up the Messages interface, and we find it easy to use when responding.


How do you use this tool?

Reactions Now Weighted More in Facebook Algorithm

Many of us have become accustomed to the Facebook reactions that began rolling out last year. In late February 2017, Facebook completed the rollout, ensuring that users worldwide could now use reactions. For those unfamiliar with reactions – Facebook users can hold their cursor over the like button and then select from like, love, haha, wow, sad or angry.


With the rollout worldwide, Facebook also announced that when users use a reaction rather than hitting the like button, it would be weighted more in the news feed algorithm. According to a Facebook news release:

“Initially, just as we do when someone likes a post, if someone uses a Reaction, we will infer they want to see more of that type of post. In the beginning, it won’t matter if someone likes, “wows” or “sads” a post — we will initially use any Reaction similar to a Like to infer that you want to see more of that type of content. Over time we hope to learn how the different Reactions should be weighted differently by News Feed to do a better job of showing everyone the stories they most want to see.”

What Does This Mean For Social Media Managers?
Page owners will now have a better understanding of how their users are interacting with the content they publish. In the past, it was sometimes difficult to decipher what a user really meant by liking the content.

Additionally, instead of asking users to “like” your content, ask them to react to the post. This will increase engagement on your page and ensure users are consistently seeing relevant content from your organization.

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.