Archive for the ‘Communication’ category

Stocking Stuffers for Every School Communication Professional

12/08/2018

15972909905_68db55cea5_o (2018_01_11 18_36_47 UTC)You can hear it in the air: ’Tis the season for joy and merriment. I wish all who work in school PR a wonderful holiday season for you and your families as well as a great and healthy new year ahead.

We hope all your holiday wishes come true, but just in case they don’t, here are some stocking stuffers I’m tossing your way.

Feel free to “re-gift” those you can’t use.

 

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  • First, a stocking stuffed with a superintendent who “gets it.” One who listens, understands what little may be ultimately controllable, and one who gives you green lights and budgets to make a real communication difference in your system.

 

  • Cell phone batteries that never die.

 

  • A copy of the NSPRA classic, The Wit and Wisdom of PR Success. I could teach a full semester of a School PR course for superintendents just based on the valuable advice in this compendium by some of the best in our business. For instance:

“Don’t wait to be asked.” John BuddWit and Wisdom cover front (2018_01_11 18_36_47 UTC)

“Public relations programs without effective internal communication are built on quicksand.”Buddy Price

“People want to be served, not sold — involved, not told.”Patrick Jackson

 

  • A “Go Bag” with battery extenders, extra phone chargers, nutrition bars, apparel and underwear changes, and a few photos of your special loved ones because you know it may be days until you see them again.

 

  • A copy of Jim Lukaszewski’s Why Should the Boss Listen to You? The Seven Disciplines of the Trusted Strategic Advisor, a perfect fit for every school public relations professional.

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  • A Do Not Disturb Sign or — maybe better yet — a Please Disturb Sign for your office door.

 

  • A stack of 25 small gift cards to hand out to staff and volunteers for doing a great job.

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  • At least 3 outstanding principals who serve as positive role models for building-level PR — one each for elementary, middle and high school.

 

  • A stash of 5 additional personal days that you probably won’t get a chance to use but at least you can feel good about having them in your back pocket all the time.

 

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  • A ticket to NSPRA’s newest member benefit, NSPRA Connect, where you can ask nearly 2,000 school PR pros for their helpful insights about your upcoming sticky issue or stewing dilemma or operational tool like what the best choice is for a mass communication system.

 

  • An extra night’s sleep — just because we all need to recharge once in a while.

 

2018 Washington logo--October 23, 2018

  • Tickets for both you and your superintendent in July for a chance to network with colleagues at NSPRA’s National Seminar in Washington, D.C.

 

  • A quiet moment to sit back, reflect and smile because you have one of the most meaningful and important jobs in the world. You help kids every day.

Those of us in our profession know how our work makes a difference in the lives of students, staff and our school communities. Savor those accomplishmgift-3ents.

Be sure to make some time to be good to yourself and your loved ones in the holiday season ahead.

Best wishes and happy holidays to you,

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Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

 

Santa photo by Jim Cummings, APR, Glendale Elementary School District

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What Does Your District Stand For?

11/10/2018

IMG_0066What does your district stand for?

What makes it different or better than other school districts?

What is your “elevator speech” when asked about your schools?

Over the years we’ve seen many approaches that school professionals take to help define their authentic response when they describe their districts in a compact and meaningful way.

Years ago, I even wrestled with creating NSPRA’s own elevator speech description and the result was our current tagline, NSPRA Is the Leader in School Communication. There are other ways we could have described who we are because we provide communication training, leadership, resources, and insight, but because NSPRA’s approach is comprehensive — and that is what makes us exceptional — we decided that our best descriptor was The Leader in School Communication.

Recently, Dr. Susan Enfield, Superintendent of the Highline Public Schools in Washington, and the current NSPRA at-large Board member representing superintendents shared her system’s approach to defining their school district with the development of the Highline Promise. (Highlineschools.org/OurPromise).

Along with her talented communication staff, she implemented the Promise after going through a strategic planning process. We decided to share just one element of their thoughtful approach.

In a nifty 4- by 3-inch accordion fold-out brochure that can easily be slipped into a pocket or pocketbook, the piece begins with:

The Highline Promise:

Every student in Highline Public Schools is known by name, strength and need, and graduates prepared for the future they choose.

It goes on in its brief style to list the District’s Foundation encompassing:

  • Equity: We will disrupt institutional biases and inequitable practices so all students have an equal chance of success.
  • Instruction: We will reduce achievement and opportunity gaps by using culturally responsive, inclusive, standards-based instruction.
  • Relationships: We will know our students by name, strength and need and have open, two-way communication with students, families and community partners.
  • Support: We will increase student success by supporting their social-emotional and academic needs.

But wait there’s more:IMG_0069

The little foldout even contains the 5 goals of the system on the flip side. Yes, I know the content is way too much for an elevator speech — unless you are on slow elevator in a Qatar, Saudi Arabia high rise. But the beauty of this small publication is that when you give it out to people, they now have a copy of what you stand for and what your district hopes to accomplish for all your children. It’s likely that they will share it with others because it hits its mark so effectively. They may even follow-up by going to the link to learn more about Highline. And it will be a conversation–starter about what makes Highline better because it focuses on the need, strength and name of ALL students.

So, well done, Highline Public Schools. You’ve taught us all a valuable lesson in just a small way.

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Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

 

School Public Relations People Look at the Whole Apple

10/07/2018

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Outstanding past NSPRA President, Ann Barkelew, APR, commissioned this mini-poster during her tenure back in the early 1980s. It reads, “School Public Relations People Look at the Whole Apple.” After all these years, it still hangs on my office wall because it says so much to those of us who fully grasp the impact of our profession.

In my last blog, I focused on how important it is to get a seat at your cabinet’s table or as Lin-Manuel Miranda says in his acclaimed musical Hamilton, that you need to be in “the room where it happens.”

Another way of getting where you need to be is to follow Ann’s advice — look at the whole apple. To make an impact for your system, look at all of the operational and possible controversial potholes that you anticipate for your schools. If you consistently develop this insight, the practice can become a critical function of your job.

But here’s a heads up: You must have courage. Be ready for pushback because some colleagues may see you as “mucking around” in what they consider to be their turf, not yours.

As I have said many times, and immediate past NSPRA President Tom DeLapp, APR, recently told us, two school district jobs are more similar than others: that of the superintendent and the communication professional. You are both there to deliver the greater good, to identify what can be better, to protect the reputation of your system, and to assist others to make it happen.

So when you see or hear or find out about missteps or know of potential practices or inattention that can harm the operation and reputation of your system, it’s time to speak up.

Here are two concrete examples of where your insight could be valuable to the district:

  • School bus delays — When vehement parents call the “bus barn” and no one picks up the phone, the problem continues to fester. To solve it, you could suggest having some informed temporary customer service help be assigned to the bus barn. (Hint: Always offer a few solutions as possibilities to assist in “righting the ship.”)

 

  • Growing negativity of parents about your middle school programs — Parents who have choices leave your system as they approach the transition period after elementary school. Even more depart as high school looms. What to do? Just present the data you have and note that you need to start focusing on this departure pattern sooner rather than later. Your curriculum and instructional folks surely know that this type of exodus may be apparent. Gather them as a team to talk about viable steps to take to begin finding solutions.

 

These are just two instances of how looking at the whole apple can help you become a catalyst to move your system in the right direction.

Of course, none of this should happen unless you and your superintendent are on the same page and your superintendent supports the approaches you’ve identified. Typically, you can discuss preliminary approaches with cabinet colleagues; a collaborative approach creates a smoother path as you move forward. No one should ever be blindsided at a cabinet-level meeting.

I urge you to look at the entire apple and share your thoughts about potential solutions with your superintendent. It’s one thing to be in the room where it happens, but it’s a major step to be in the room and to make it happen.

 

Creating a Wall of Fame as a Motivational Tool

Previously, we highlighted how one school — Bensalem Township School District in Pennsylvania — started a high school wall of fame to boost a positive and substantive image in its community. Just two weeks ago, the second group of outstanding graduates was installed at a special Saturday afternoon ceremony.

wall

 

Naturally, friends and relatives of all of the inductees attended the event, but one exception in the audience was a current high school student along with his parents. They had just moved into the community.

You might ask, why would they go to this ceremony?

At the high school’s annual Back-to-School night held just a few days before, the parents and their son saw the wall of fame display as they entered the hallway. They stopped to read about the accomplishments of some 24 graduates. They all were so impressed with what they read — a Pulitzer Prize winner, renowned scientists and doctors, and successful entrepreneurs among them — that they decided to come with their son to the ceremony. They thought it would be an opportunity to be inspired and understand what Bensalem High, combined with their son’s hard work, could do for their son in the years ahead. Stirred by the speeches of how their high school experiences and teachers contributed to their paths in life, the son leaned over to his parents and said, “Someday I’m going to be on that wall.”

Strategically, the wall’s mission was to boost the image of Bensalem High School. And it looks like that plan may just be working. In this case, at least one student at a time.

 

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Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

 

Tap 1,800 School PR Pros for Insights and Solutions

06/11/2018

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With NSPRA Connect, You’ll Have the Wisdom of Countless Pros at Your Fingertips

One of NSPRA’s major strengths is our members’ willingness to share their solutions and insights on issues that they’re facing and their readiness to offer helpful opinions or information about the nuances and effectiveness of new tech functions. I often say that NSPRA is like “having a friend in the business” when it comes to school public relations.

We launched NSPRA Connect just a bit over a month ago and it has already caught the attention and provided solutions to hundreds of our members. Collaborative software industry experts tell us that our participation rates are much higher than most other launches. Given that NSPRA members are communicators and networkers by nature, we expected a healthy response.

Now to make it an even a richer resource for our members, we’re urging more members to participate or at least receive the daily open forum digest. Take a quick, 30-second scan and you’ll get a feel for what’s percolating across the country. We encourage you to join in to share your own info or to ask even more questions.

From a recent listing of topics or issues we saw these:

  • Announcing transgender graduates’ names
  • Labor public relations negotiations
  • The latest in annual reports
  • Welcoming a new superintendent
  • Updates on OCR complaints
  • Broadcasting Board meetings
  • Providing the media with Board background materials when you are using Board Docs
  • Approaches to internal communication
  • Archiving social media posts
  • Project management software solutions
  • Using social media schedulers
  • And more

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NSPRA Connect Demonstrates What We Do for a Living

NSPRA Connect also gives members the opportunity to demonstrate by example what school PR professionals are working on for their districts. Just share a screen shot with your superintendents to convince them that a few of the examples from others align with recommendations you’ve been attempting to implement in the past year. And if you work with superintendents who are not totally committed to a comprehensive communication program, begin showing them how our function is working for others throughout the US and Canada.

NSPRA Members Get Connected Today

This new membership benefit will only get better as more members participate. If you have not connected yet, just go to connect.nspra.org and start reaping the benefit and insight of NSPRA Connect.

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Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

 

Are You Excited About What You Do?

05/05/2018

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Last week Gallup released a new poll noting that half of American adults work full time for an employer, but only 13% who are working full time are actually excited about what they do.

I trust that our school communication professionals — a spirited, creative and exciting group — would rank their jobs much higher than the 13% that this latest Gallup poll found.

 

Good Experience, But Something Was Sorely Missing

I have said many times that my stint as a VP in the corporate agency business was one of the best experiences I have had during my career. I learned a great deal more about leadership, sales, customer service, how to make or lose money, and how to make our programs accountable and successful. But even though we were successful, somehow I felt that our work there was a bit hollow contrasted to working for our school community.

One of my client accounts back then was for a plastic surgeons’ group who specialized in enhancement and reduction procedures for their affluent customer base in the Potomac communities just outside of Washington, D.C. While visiting with some of the doctors leading their practice, I found out that one of the docs had just returned from saving the toes of a teenager who inadvertently cut his toes while mowing his parents’ lawn. (Even in wealthy Potomac, Maryland, some families still cut their own lawns back then!)

I was impressed with the results and recommended that we highlight this work as a general interest story that demonstrated the humane side of their practice.

Well, let’s just say that this idea turned into a “dog that did not hunt.” The client did not want to promote their repair and restoration work because it was not the type of work that they wanted to be known for.

 

They Were Correct and I Learned Something About Myself

And they were correct. Strategically I was off target.

We regrouped and offered more relevant and profitable procedures for their prospective clients. This approach worked and our business relationship with them blossomed into a viable one for our agency.

But I wasn’t excited about this work. It felt hollow after working in a local school district and for two education associations.

I realized that most of us get into education to help students and staff improve through engagement and communication. We also enjoy building more support for our local systems. And when our work makes a difference, we get even more excited about it.

Now I know we all have bad days and we experience circumstances that are out of our control. But even during those times, we are there to help improve and possibly provide solutions to protect the reputation of our systems.

It all depends on what we value and how we practice our profession.

Most NSPRA members enjoy the opportunities to help their systems in authentic and results-oriented ways. In fact, I’ll bet most NSPRA members I know even get excited about their work. Unlike those unlucky people in the Gallup poll.

 

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Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

 

 

Photo by Jim Cummings, APR, Glendale Elementary School District

 

 

 

Earn Respect Through Accreditation

04/05/2018

APRLogo2

Adding value and respect to your career is a goal most professionals have, no matter where they work or what they do. Adding those two attributes to the public relations profession is a must if you are serious about committing your lifetime to our profession. After all, we all hear from people that PR is just a fluff job; you only need to be good with people, make the right contacts with the media, and know how to “spin” and navigate your employer out of trouble and into a favorable spotlight. Unfortunately, this mistaken image of PR still prevails among those who do not understand our business.

Early in my career, I remember telling a future in-law that I was in public relations. She laughed and said, “Oh you mean you deal in B.S.” I can’t explain here my first knee-jerk response in that moment, but I did manage to muster something like, “Walk in my shoes for a week (if you can keep up) and you will see first-hand what I do for a living.”

More than 30 years later, I see that we still are fighting a negative image in some circles. Many of us have overcome that image by amassing positive results for our employers and by serving as ethical and trustworthy role models in our school communities. Our consistent performance and the style of our practice have earned the respect and credibility needed for our profession.

Another Path to Respect and Value Is Through Accreditation

But there is another path to becoming respected in our field and it’s by being accredited.

NSPRA is a member of the Universal Accreditation Board (UAB), the organization that provides the testing process for accreditation. When you venture through the accreditation process, you take an exam and go before an interview panel to assess what you know and how you practice it. The process judges your readiness to earn the right to put the APR (Accreditation in PR) moniker after your name, signaling that you have achieved a high standard in our profession.

Currently 187 NSPRA members are accredited. Just a tad over 10% of our membership.

One quick historical note you should know: In 1976, NSPRA started its own accreditation program with the first exam. NSPRA pioneers, Joe Rowson, APR; Dr. Don Bagin; and Dr. Ken Muir, APR, crafted the test and the administered it at the 1976 Seminar in Philadelphia. A number of veterans and a few newbies (I was about 12 years old at the time) passed the exam and then began using the ASPR label after our names.

The ASPR accreditation program transformed over the years and then joined the UAB in 2000 to become one unified test for all of us in the PR profession. We made the move to have equal status with all industries that needed accredited PR counsel and services.

 

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What Are the Benefits of Accreditation?

If you want to learn why you should be accredited, just contact current NSPRA members to see what they think the benefits of the accreditation process have been. Ask our NSPRA office for a listing of our current accredited members if you want to discuss the process.

But quickly, here are few benefits of accreditation that we have seen over the years:

  • Accreditation sets you apart from other PR people, indicating that you “measured up” to the standards and knowledge of our profession.
  • It gives you an “admission ticket” to be considered for other higher level positions because you have proven your understanding of the full scope of the need for the four-step process.
  • It broadens your awareness and practice of our profession and gives you more gravitas when someone asks you for solutions to everyday or sticky situations in your systems.
  • It arms you with answers to approaches so you can be much more strategic in your practice of public relations.
  • It gives you confidence to tackle new situations knowing that you have a foundation of proven practices rather than just a “gut reaction.”

 

Earning accreditation is something that will stick with you forever. Bosses come and go, but your APR will be with you throughout your entire career. If you have your APR, you’ll earn the respect of your colleagues and will be recognized as one of the best in our profession.

To learn more about the accreditation process, go to https://www.nspra.org/professional_development/accreditation. We’re also offering a special pre-seminar accreditation prep session at NSPRA’s Annual Seminar in Anaheim this coming July.

 

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Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director

 

A Half Million Respondents Confirm What NSPRA’s Auditors Have Consistently Heard for Years

03/10/2018

Personalize Your Direct Messaging

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NSPRA again tips its hat to the annual results of the partnership of the Speak Up Research Project, Project Tomorrow and Blackboard, Inc., for capturing the latest trends in home-to-school communication. The partnership has been conducting this valuable research since 2003.

You can review the results at Blackboard’s Trends In Community Engagement report. For the full nifty infographic which is great for quickly sharing much of their findings, go to Parents share expectations for K-12 communications in new report at Blackboard’s blog.

 

Listen Up to a Half Million Voices

The survey reported feedback from more than 514,000 K-12 students, parents, educators and community members. It even tapped the wisdom of school communicators between Octobers 2016 and January 2017.

Some key findings include:

  • Parents would like information to be conveniently pushed directly to them instead of having to seek it out.
  • At the same time, parents are busy and don’t want to be overloaded with messages. Schools should send timely, highly impactful information.
  • Email is the best way to reach them no matter their child’s grade level or whom the communication is coming from (teachers, school administrators or the district).
  • Personalization is a key thread of expectations concerning communication. Personalized emails, text messages, voice messaging, direct phone calls, and face-to-face meetings scored well in expectations from parents.
  • A disconnect for many parents was the use of Facebook for district messaging. Parents were not enthralled to use Facebook for their school messages. They wanted a system to be more personalized. The authors even noted that principals and school communicators seem to be leaning more to Facebook for messaging —  which is not parents’ preference.

 

NSPRA’s Communication Audits Confirm These Findings

Our NSPRA Communication Auditing process seeks to learn the preferences of parents, community leaders, school board members, and staff at all levels about content, frequency, channels of communication, formats, etc. We, too, hear that people prefer personalization and directly pushing messages to them as their top priorities in communication.

When we ask people about Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media channels, those vehicles are normally not even close to the preferred messaging format.

But Here Comes the But

But things may be changing rapidly.

You won’t really know for sure unless you ask your preferred target audiences (parents and others) about their preferences. Simple feedback devices at the building level can tell you a great deal about your parents and teachers’ preferences. The same approach can help you be more effective and efficient with district messaging as well.

Just make the time to ask or to learn more about your specific needs by completing a communication audit for your district. (Contact NSPRA if you want more information about an audit.)

As more of our parents have grown up in the digital world, they may want us to do more with Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. But our bet is that you will need to weave in the personalization factor as best you can in every new approach that you decide to take.

We are all fortunate to have this annual research to give us an indication of where home-to-school communication may be heading.

But it is up to us to find out what’s real in our own school communities.

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Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director