Sunday, January 7, 2018

Podcast: How to Communicate Missing Students in Your School District

Five Crisis Communications steps to take when your school district has a missing student. 
1. Contact the family 
2. Work directly with law enforcement 
3. Stick to the facts 
4. Constant communication with school site 
5. Be sure to follow up
Full details via podcast. Play below. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Podcast: Why Facebook is the Safest and Best Social Media for Schools, Plus Page Tips

Gave my first podcast a go🎙. Talking safety features of Facebook for schools and organizations. Our philosophy of deleting comments and some other tips and techniques for Facebook page users. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Why the NFL Has Gone Insane and its Protests Horribly Wrong: From a PR Perspective

The National Football League has gone insane. Many NFL players and coaches keep doing the same thing over and over again, and for some reason are expecting a different result.  

From a public relations perspective, the NFL protests have been very poorly executed. Bad idea after bad idea. I’m not speaking from a social justice, civil rights, conversation starter, or political perspective, just from a PR and communications lens.
The problem with many of these NFL protests, which former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started when he took a knee last year during the national anthem, is that their message is far from clear, and it’s being delivered in a highly emotional environment. Way too emotional. How many times have Kaepernick and others had to explain that they are not anti-American, are not intending to disrespect the national anthem, are not turning their backs on the American flag? Too many. If you keep having to explain your intent, the messaging is not clear, and therefore, from a communications and PR perspective, many of these protests have gone horribly wrong. They have insulted, offended, and angered many. Not exactly the goals of your typical public relations outreach campaign.  

These protests had more fuel added to their fire last weekend after President Trump responded to them by saying, “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He's fired!” That response was not received well by many in the sports world and beyond, and the protests raged on. More protests this week, more protesters being booed, being misunderstood, and trying to explain what they actually meant.

The Dallas Cowboys seemingly had the most well thought out and executed demonstration under the bright lights of Monday Night Football on ESPN last week, and still, the team was booed in Glendale, Arizona, and the masses did not understand the team’s message. The Cowboys linked arms BEFORE the national anthem and then rose in unison for it, not wanting to disrespect the American flag. Yet this message once again got lost. People instantly sent out their angry tweets and posted their negative reactions on social media. President Trump included, who also seemed to be confused as witnessed by his contradictory tweets.
Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett explained in detail last week, and very well, just how much planning went into their demonstration, “A series of discussions we had, individually, a series of meetings we had (with) coaches and players, players among themselves, leadership council with players, leadership council with coach(s). Everybody you know talking together, working it through sharing some of their thoughts about what we thought the best thing to do was. We had discussion with ownership, and the objectives as much as anything else were to somehow someway to demonstrate unity and demonstrate equality, and do so without any way involving the American flag and the national anthem...It took a lot of conversation to figure out how to do that.”  

@sheisfromBoston tweeted, “Can you smell that Cowboys? That's the smell of thousands of fans burning their Jerseys and season tickets in protest of your ignorance~”

Garrett went on to say that the conversation started Saturday after practice and went until 15 or 20 minutes before the ballgame on Monday night. Even with all that went into coordinating this demonstration, it was misunderstood.

As ESPN SportsCenter Anchor Scott Van Pelt said on his show, “Does anyone listen? They talked for days as a team to figure out how they could show their support and then not be disrespectful to the flag, and that’s what they did. But if this is something that upsets you, you are just going to be mad, and no conversation can take place if that’s all there is. It just can’t happen.”

He’s right. The problem is you can’t talk to someone who doesn’t want to listen, no matter how logical you are. If people are furious, they will only see and hear what they want to. Mouths are open while ears and minds are closed.
With the many protests and demonstrations on NFL fields, none was better received and applauded than Pittsburgh Steelers offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva last Sunday. The former Army Ranger who served several tours in Afghanistan stood alone with his hand over his heart during the national anthem just outside the team’s tunnel while the rest of his team stayed in the locker room. Social media loved his stance. In fact, his jersey was one of the hottest items selling online afterward. A marketing feat reserved typically for high paid quarterbacks or skill position players, not obscure offensive lineman. Yet, once again there was a need for a press conference complete with a lengthy explanation of what went horribly wrong. Villanueva took to the podium to apologize to his coach and teammates and explain why he was embarrassed about what transpired. While every team, including his, was trying to demonstrate unity and togetherness, there Villanueva stood, alone, without his team, despite extensive planning into what the team as a whole would do together. You can read his entire transcript here courtesy of ESPN, and it’s easy to understand what happened and why he felt terrible afterward despite his praise via social media and the team’s plan. But yet again, great intent for change and whatever the message may have been, goes misunderstood and causes more questions than answers and more problems than solutions.

An effective public relations strategy doesn’t continually get misinterpreted and constantly anger thousands of people, and this is what many are having trouble comprehending and where all sides are becoming polarized. Stop trying to tell people how they should feel about your protest and how they should interpret it and that they are wrong. Talking to a wall would be more effective. If you really want to make an effective statement, stop trying to do it before NFL games where many are assuming you are taking a stance against their country, their police, their military, and their loved ones who may have fought and died for this country. It’s way too emotional of a setting to try and create meaningful conversation. Such conversations can’t and don’t happen when people are livid. Great communications cannot overcome poor process. These protests before games, with old glory waving in the wind nearby and “bombs bursting in air” soon to be heard, are not the time or place, unless that is your specific intent. Square peg, round hole, no matter how well your intentions to change the world are. And I do think the intentions of all these athletes who are trying to make a point in an effort to create change are admirable and important.

However, if your message is unclear, don’t expect people to understand what you are saying. If people don’t want to listen, you can’t force them to. If your communication is going to anger people, realize it’s nearly impossible for them to try and rationalize when emotions are running at historic levels.

Here’s my 5-step recommendation for what NFL organizations, other teams, and players should do before their next demonstration:

  1. Explain what you are going to do and why BEFORE you do it. NOT AFTER. This will help navigate the story and help people understand what you are doing and (more importantly in these cases) what you are not doing.
  2. Keep it away from the flag and national anthem. This backdrop stirs too many emotions and causes message misinterpretation, unless that’s exactly what you are protesting. And if that is your intent, remember all that is associated with it before you do. Perception is reality.  
  3. Execute your plan as you said you were going to. Do not do what the Steelers did.
  4. After the demonstration, reiterate step one. Tell them again what you did and why.
  5. Make sure everyone executing the message knows what they are protesting. Garrett only talked about equality and unity, yet his players, specifically Dez Bryant and Ezekiel Elliott, made it clear it was a protest against President Trump. If you ask three different people in the same organization what their message was, you should get three identical answers. This is not happening.  

The art and science of public relations is why so many Fortune 500 companies and organizations spend millions of dollars each year trying to get it right. Public relations help shape perception, your brand, your image, and your character, all of which translates to more money than most can comprehend. More importantly, it helps create a positive definition of who you are as a company or who you are as a person. You can’t afford to get it wrong.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Why Old School Marketing Is Still Essential

Billboard for Facebook Live

If it’s good enough for one of the most data-driven digital companies in the world, it should be good enough for your organization. Even Facebook, which could reach millions of people with one click on its own platform, utilizes old school marketing. As I was driving to work on the 210 Freeway in Los Angeles one morning, I noticed a new billboard. I always enjoy critiquing billboards for their marketing value and messaging, so I pay attention and analyze billboards more than the average Joe Public I would imagine. This one caught my eye though because it was a billboard for Facebook Live. Wait, what?! On the surface you might think that’s the equivalent of Apple CEO Tim Cook opting to pick up his rotary phone in his office to slowly whip his finger around the dial to make a call to the operator instead of using his iPhone. But it makes perfect sense upon further scrutiny. In fact, it was a great reminder that even in a digital world, old school marketing techniques are still essential. A billboard, which is basically just a really large flyer, can’t possibly provide the detailed analytics we all crave these days. We will never know how many impressions, shares, likes, or comments a billboard or flyer will get, but we do know they still work. It’s simple, put your message on a piece of paper, and place it where people will see it.

(T: If you do want some type of analytics from a flyer, billboard, or newsletter, create and use a unique website URL that is only on that specific flyer to track traffic from that source.)

Innovation Comes In Many Forms

I recently started placing my school district’s newsletter above the urinals in the district office. It takes little to no time to tape it up, and people who have never read our newsletter are now asking when the new one will be up. Sometimes we get caught up in our Facebook followers, number of retweets, and forget, we are missing a large audience that isn’t connected on social media like we are. Or, we are missing a great opportunity to repeat our message, and hope it sinks in. Repetition is important when you are marketing and branding. Coke doesn’t run a commercial once and call it a day. Repetition is the reason we can all finish this catchy tag line, “Give me a break, give me a break, break me off... can you finish it??? It’s also the reason we hear the phone number in radio commercials at least three times in one single 30 second ad, or why we all know exactly where to apply Head On…

At Arcadia High School the students are very smart. Not only are many of them matriculating to all those prestigious Ivy league schools, but even as most are on the cutting edge of technology and early and eager adopters, they still create simple 8.5x11 paper flyers to advertise clubs, prom, concerts, soccer tryouts, etc. Why? They could easily send something out on Snapchat or Instagram and have hundreds of their peers see their flyer in minutes. So, why? Because they are smart. They know that hundreds of students are walking through the quad at all hours of the day, almost every day of the week. It works. It can also help provide a great reminder for people, as they see your message online and in person, and they see it multiple times. Repetition is key for marketing. “A piece of that Kit Kat bar,” is the obvious answer you knew thanks to repetition. Unless you're Andy Bernard from my favorite show of all-time, The Office.

Continue all of your digital and social media marketing, but don’t forget to take a few seconds and double up those efforts with some old school flyers. If you’re now creating an electronic newsletter, why not print some out and place them in your lobby, in employee mailboxes, email blasts, on the break room refrigerator, or better yet, above the urinal. Be creative with your marketing, and understand that creative doesn’t always equal new school technology.

Even in our data-driven digital world with analytics just a swipe away, old school marketing is still essential. Even in our data-driven digital world with analytics just a swipe away, old school marketing is still essential.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Why Your School District Needs To Be On Social Media

I often get asked, "Why does a school district need social media?"
Here's your answer, and some behind the scenes analytics. Just one video (see below) of our very impressive Arcadia High School Marching Band from the Rose Parade (which I shot with my iPhone with no post production or editing), has already been viewed 26,000 times and has reached 68,000 people's Facebook timeline. There are hundreds of positive comments from proud alums, parents, students and community members. Read the comments, and you will know why social media is important.

Social media is an invaluable resource to help highlight and recognize our incredibly talented students and staff. To share with the world what makes Arcadia Unified unique, and why people should continue to support our students and staff. Again, this is just one single post of dozens from the past few days.

This week our Facebook page alone (we also have Twitter, Instagram, Weibo, and Youtube which also reaches thousands) reached nearly 200,000 people. That's almost four times the population of the city of Arcadia, and more than 20 times the student population of our entire school district of about 9,600 students. How else could we reach that many people with a few clicks on the phone?

The Facebook live video from the band's rehearsal last week has nearly 1,000 likes and 200 comments which are all positive. The somewhat shaky video that I shot as a last second "why not" with my iPhone as I tried to keep up with the band marching up and down Campus Drive, has already been viewed more than 17,000 times. If you want a quick glimpse of what community pride looks like, take 40 seconds and scroll through the comments. How can we afford not to have social media?

This is why we spend time and resources on social media. Our Digital Communications Internship program (DCI) has also helped immensely to post more content from games, concerts, events, etc. from all throughout our district. This past year we have never posted more, and it's because of our dedicated DCI students. This allows us to highlight more of our students and staff, which in turn brings more people to like the Arcadia Unified School District page, and then when we do post again, it reaches more people. Tip- get help with your social media.  

Social media, if nothing else, helps boost school and community pride, and we are lucky to have a lot of pride here in Arcadia. I do admit I have the easiest and best job because it's beyond easy to find remarkable things being done by our students and staff in AUSD to post about. But anyone could walk on any school campus in the country and within an hour find at least five awesome things that will bring a smile to your face, and those things are all worth posting on social media.

Doesn’t it take a lot of time and energy to posts all these things? A little, but not much, and it’s well worth the time. With the phone app, it just takes a photo or two and a quick caption. Once I started our social media pages three years ago, our principals and teachers were great contributors. Tip- Ask for submissions, they will come pouring in. Then soon our parents and community wanted to know how their team or group can be featured on our Facebook page. Simple, send me a picture or video with a brief description of what it is. People quickly saw the positive responses our posts were getting and were happy to send me pictures from plays, sports games, concerts, for fundraisers, etc. Once you start, people will be happy to help and send in news items and share stories of success. Tip- you don’t need to post every day. There are no rules of how often or how much. Post when you can, and ask for submissions on the page. You will have plenty of content in no time.

Could someone write something bad or negative on your Facebook page? Sure. Just delete it and move on. There will be WAY MORE POSITIVES than negatives. What do you do when your school gets hit by offensive graffiti? You don’t shut down the school because of it. You clean it off, implement new measures to monitor and get back to business. Same exact concept in the digital world and Facebook has excellent security and safety features which make this easy to do. Don’t be scared of social media. Be scared of what you’re missing without it.
One Tweet from the Rose Parade reached 8,500 people. 

Also, a personal and sincere thank you to everyone who likes, shares, and comments on our posts. The interactions truly help with our vision of supporting our students and staff, and even with the Facebook algorithm- it helps our posts be seen and "reached" by more people when there are more likes and comments. Tip- encourage your staff and community to give a few likes and shares, even if it’s not their group or people they know. It will benefit everyone in the future.
Social media should never be your only communication plan, but it needs to be an essential part of it. You can’t afford to miss the joyful comments and celebrations of your students and staff. Your community needs to know what you’re doing and why. Most importantly they need to know about your many successes. My superintendent and I have a little joke about social media, “if it’s not on social media, did it really happen?”

Make it happen, make your community proud, show off your amazingly talented students and staff, create more school and community pride, get in the game, get on social media.