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:
source

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.

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!

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 brianico@hssd.k12.wi.us

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:

Facebook
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.

Twitter
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.

YouTube
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.

Instagram
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.