Who’s Sinking Your Marketing/PR Battleships?

Battleship Board GameConsider the following scenario: Your superintendent (or board) has asked you to develop a marketing strategy for two of your district’s schools.  Each school has undergone amazing physical, programmatic and achievement improvements over the past year, yet they are still challenged by perception issues—people still think “gangster kids” go to these schools, and that they are underperforming schools.  While you’ve successfully obtained a couple of positive stories in the media, these perception problems still persist.   Your board thinks that some slick flyers and creatively designed posters will help attract more students.  The parents of current students at the schools share that people keep their children away—and send them to the local charter or private school—because they don’t really know how well the students are performing.  The mayor still describes these schools as being in disarray during his most recent state of the City address.

You’re thinking about the relationships…at least, you will be after reading today’s blog.

Continue Reading

6 Easy Ways to Build Your Organization’s Social Media Following

Building your organization’s social media following is comprised of activities that should be part of your overall social media strategy, and occur on an ongoing basisRemember, relationship-building and nurturing is not a one-time activity!  These are six easy ways to build your organization’s social media following, which will, in turn, also build your social media presence.

1.    Cover the basics. Make sure the bios/profiles for your social media accounts are complete. They should include clear and concise descriptions of your organization, your organization’s logo and your website URL.

2.    Share the news — and make sure yours gets shared! Retweet and share posts from others that you are following. And make sure you have sharing buttons on your content (blogs, news posts on your website, and of course, on your social media accounts).

3.    Promote your social media presence. Add social media badges (icons) to your organization’s website, blog, email signature, on your business cards, in your storefront and in email marketing.

4.    Make sure your content is interesting, useful, and interactive. Use photos, videos, write about engaging topics that leverage your expertise, and find ways to interact with your followers.

5.    Provide some exclusive offers to your followers.  Whether you’re a school and you offer free spirit items to the “next 20 followers” that comment and share a photo that you post, or a non-profit, and you offer an exclusive discount on your next event to the “next 10 followers” that share/comment on your status update, make sure that you are asking your followers to take an action (or actions) that helps build your following and social media presence, while providing a valuable exclusive offer that builds your brand.

6.    Network in person and online! Go to Tweet Ups, networking events, and other events in your market niche (or, better yet, start your own networking event/Tweet Up for those in your niche!). Find and follow partners, donors, supporters and others that support your organization’s mission via social media searches.

Check out Sounding Board Marketing & Communications’s Savvy Social Media Guide and Video for more tips on how to harness the power of social media to advance your organization’s goals!  Need help with developing your organization’s social media strategy or presence?  Contact us for more information about our social media services.

5 Social Media Content Ideas Readers Love

One of the biggest mistakes that marketing and PR people (or those who wear that hat) make for their organizations is pumping out website and social media content that I roughly define as content that “makes their organization look good” but isn’t necessarily interesting to readers.

One of the biggest challenges of social media is developing constant content that compels followers to come back for more.

Many education and non-profit organizations are challenged to come up with ideas of how to create this type of content, so, using some inspiration from a recent ragan.com article highlighting 20 content ideas readers love (you can read them here).  I’ve narrowed down the list to just five content ideas that will resonate with your education and non-profit audiences:

Continue Reading

Increase Resources. Save Time. Advance Your Goals…and Resonate Your Message

I am so excited to launch Sounding Board’s new website, which includes an awesome new blog feature (fabulously organized into different, value labeled categories), new products, new messaging and an overall new look and feel!

It is my sincere hope that you will find this new approach valuable to advancing your organization’s marketing and communication goals, and that it will help your organization Increase Resources. Save Time. Advance Your Goals…and Resonate Your Message. I wanted Sounding Board’s new website to not only sell and communicate my business, but to be a service to those who have the unique task of communicating the value of public education or a non-profit organization.  I know it’s not easy.  Marketing education and non-profits doesn’t fit into a neat little “product” box that has your typical “promotion” approaches like the rest of the “marketplace.”  Yet, everywhere you turn for resources on marketing, it seems that you have to fit your strategies into this box.   The same goes for communication—do a Google search on “Crisis Communication” and you’ll get a bunch of results that don’t really fit your organization’s needs.

That’s why I started Sounding Board Marketing and Communications, and that’s why I’m re-launching the website with information and resources (free and paid) to help you meet your organization’s goals through proactive and strategic marketing and communications to help your organization Increase Resources. Save Time. Advance Your Goals…and Resonate Your Message.

Continue Reading

Congratulations! Your district passed a general obligation bond or parcel tax….now what?

Over the past few years, faced with huge budget reductions and increasing facility and operating costs, school districts across California successfully obtained approval from their local communities for general obligation bonds (GOB) or (and in some cases, AND) parcel taxes.

The bond funds provided much-needed financial resources to districts facing new, ongoing and other facilities and technology infrastructure costs, and the parcel tax dollars helped to stabilize certain areas of districts’ operating budgets.

Now that your district has the money….how are you going to ensure that tax payers not only know how their money was spent, but how their taxes resulted in positive outcomes for your district?  Furthermore…how will you ensure that the next time you reach out to voters isn’t to ask them to approve another bond or parcel tax–but you approach them before you make this request?

Continue Reading

10 Ways to use Instagram and Pinterest to Market Your Organization

Photo-based Instagram and Pinterest have built followings based on the compelling, fun and interesting photos posted by users…and in Pinterest’s case, providing decorating, clothing and other sources of inspiration to its millions of users.

Corporations to small businesses are boosting their brand identities and expanding their reach using these free services…why can’t your district, COE or non-profit organization?  Your brand is about great programs that advance important outcomes—education, interventions to help students be successful, making learning fun, great teachers, great staff members, improving a social good, and more.  I’d be willing to bet that there are hundreds of photo opportunities each day.  And with Instagram’s availability on just Apple iOS and Android mobile phones, your photos are available to quickly build awareness and loyalty in a personalized approach.

Here are just a few tips* how you can use Instagram and Pinterest to take your organization’s marketing and communications to the next level.

Continue Reading

Keys to Inspiring Confidence During “The Critical Hour” Category: Crisis Communication

Little did I know, the second entry in this blog series, “Inspiring Confidence Through Communication” would come just three days after one of the nation’s worst school crises — the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut.

As we slowly learn more about this tragedy, much is focused on the gunman, school safety and the like. However, early in the crisis, the news coverage featured — in addition to the press conferences with the police department — interviews with parents. One thing I noticed about the interviews with the parents was their initial confusion about where they could find more information during the first hour following the crisis, including where to locate their children. As more information and misinformation came out during the early hours following this crisis — including the fact that a key communicator, the school principal, died in the incident — there are several explanations for this confusion.

In the aftermath of this crisis, decision-makers, community members and parents are asking whether more can be done to prevent this from ever happening again. In addition, parents are also inquiring how they will be contacted should a crisis of any magnitude occur at their school. Because they are entrusting the school with their child’s (or children’s) safety, they want to receive the information from the school, first — NOT the media, and not the police.

Continue Reading

Going the Extra Mile…To Not Merely Communicate, but Inspire Confidence With Communication

A couple of months ago, I had the honor and pleasure to present a workshop on “Inspiring Confidence During the ‘Critical Hour’” to colleagues and friends at the California School Public Relations Association (CalSPRA) Fall Conference in Costa Mesa. The workshop aligned with the conference’s theme, “Surviving a Crisis of Confidence”—and also coincides with the efforts of the California School Boards Association, California State PTA, and the California Department of Education’s “Stand Up for Education” campaign, which highlights positive—confidence boosting—stories in education(for more info, visit the website …and, be sure to submit your stories for the campaign!)

This was all extremely timely, as the conference came just two days after we learned the the outcomes of the 2012 Presidential Election, which included the competing education funding measures, Propositions 30 and 38. What became so apparently clear throughout this campaign cycle, and has increased in magnitude is this: public confidence in public education continues to decline, and public trust in education is also declining.  And, do I believe that communication can make a positive impact on building trust and confidence in organizations?  You bet I do!

Continue Reading

Who’s Really Selling Your Schools?

Over the past few years, public school districts have seen a shift from natural school enrollment from neighborhoods in their boundaries to… losing enrollment to private and charter schools. Districts have turned to marketing campaigns, advertising and more to re-attract parents to their schools. What happened?

Private schools have always engaged in advertising. Pick up any local social or parenting magazine, and private school advertisements comprise the majority of their ads. Charter schools have made great headway by riding on the wave of “education reform” and parent choice, and communicating their best student achievement results. Public school district superintendents have been scratching their heads to determine why they are losing students, and turn to district-led efforts to sell their schools.

Well, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Your district is not selling your schools. Your schools are selling your schools. Or not. In fact, when parents go about making a decision about where to send their child to school, they’re not deciding between your district and a charter school or a private school; they are literally making a decision about whether or not to send their child to one of your district’s neighborhood schools. So … why do central office administrators spend so much time pumping up their districts?

I’ll give you a few answers … and a few ways to turn these assumptions on their heads, and to start focusing on selling your schools, instead.

Continue Reading