Articles & Resources About Time & Training

time-and-trainingBuild your organization’s key communicators’ capacity through the time and training tips in this blog!

We’re taking over 15 years of experience in public relations, marketing and communication, as well as advice from our guest bloggers to provide you the best tips on time management and information about upcoming trainings and webinars so that you can be your organization’s best key communicator and marketer!

5 Steps to Making Engaging Infographics

Person sketching out graphs for an infographicPresent Complex Information in a Snapshot Format

As your district or COE plans for the 2021-22 school year, it’s highly likely that you’re elbows-deep into complex planning processes.  But, your internal and external audiences want–and need–to know this critical information. 

Here are tips for creating infographics to share important information about your plans. Whether you need to share LCAP survey results, budget information, in-person learning plans, or more, infographics are a great and modern way to share complicated or detailed information in a way that is scannable, organized, in an all-in-one visual overview.

Here are 5 Steps to Creating Engaging Infographics:

  • Don’t overwhelm the reader: It is important to remember that less is more. Start with a simple layout of information that needs to be included. Figure out different categories of data and information. Consider what needs the most spaces and how much. Determine if the information is better organized in halves, thirds, or fourths. It is important to not overwhelm the reader. The best way to help avoid this is with an intentionally clean layout.
  • Tell a story (but it does not have to include every detail): Consider the overarching story the infographic needs to tell.
    The nature of the infographic allows for important information to be shared without every single detail being shared. Consider the layout of your infographic like a story:

    • What is the journey you want the viewer to take?
    • What will they see first, what are they prompted to do next?
    • When thinking of the layout of the infographic, consider the flow of the graphic as well as the reader’s experience as part of the storytelling process.
  • Use layers/play with fonts to have top-level information and smaller fonts to include details: A unique feature of infographics is the ability to share details. However, it is important to not overwhelm the viewer. How can a lot of information be shared in a small space?
    • Implement layers so that top-level information is in large fonts and graphics. This is the most important surface-level information the viewer needs to immediately get an understanding of what the graphic is about at just a glance.
    • Next, implement more layers of detail using colors, images, and smaller fonts that may not be seen at first glance but become noticeable as the reader looks longer at the infographic.
  • Color: Color is a central part of an information graphic where it is to grab attention, organize information, or help with brand and logo association.
    • Organization: First, consider how color can be used to organize the information in your infographic. Perhaps there are three main categories in your infographic you want to include. Choose a specific color to be associated with that category. This will help the reader to quickly identify the different sections of the infographic at a glance. If they are looking for specific information they can quickly identify the color of the topic they need and search the graphic for that color.
    • Emotion: Colors have meaning and are able to communicate different emotions. Consider not only what colors are eye-catching and appealing but use them to help communicate the feeling you want to be communicated with the information being shared. For example, blue is associated with trust. Orange can be associated with energy and yellow with happiness as just a few examples.
      The shades of color used can also help express emotion. To learn more about the best colors to use in your infographic you can explore 99 Designs blog post about Color Meanings and the Art of Using Color symbolism
    • Brand: Lastly when implementing color, the most simple but effective is to implement your district’s brand colors. This helps to quickly associate the information with the school district. You can implement different shades of your brand’s colors to bring in variety while still staying true to your district’s existing brand.
  • Use Consistent Terms: Lastly, providing clarity to the reader is the goal of the infographic.
    It is important to use consistent terms and clear organization to help the reader follow the infographic. When necessary define terms and use them throughout the infographic. This will help build understanding and increase the potential for connection.

Free–And Time-Saving–Resources

Infographics are a great way to summarize and combine complex and detailed information into a format that is easily understood and shared. To get started on implementing infographics into your district’s communications you do not need to be a graphic designer. There are a variety of Free Resources to get you started on beginning the design for your infographic:

Canva

Beautiful Ai

Google charts

Google slides

Powerpoint

 

Need more help?

If you are looking to improve your district’s communications moving forward, Sounding Board can help you reach your goals. If you are wanting to revamp your communications goals for the upcoming school year, Sounding Board offers strategic planning services to meet the needs of your district. Get started on planning for the next school year today by sharing information that matters in an easy-to-understand format for each of your audiences.

 

5 articles to help you boost, fix, or improve online engagement

I love learning new things (or getting an affirmation that old things continue to work) to help fix and improve the ways I do my work.  These are some recent PR Daily articles that I found particularly useful for boosting, fixing or improving online engagement:

3 Key Tips for PR/Marketing Spring Cleaning & Organizing

gerberdaisiesWith Spring, comes….Spring cleaning, of course! This is a great time to start getting your marketing, PR and communications organized for the upcoming school year or for the quieter days of summer.  But, you’re probably asking yourself,  “What should I focus on first?”  Here are three ideas:

  1. Content.  Develop a gameplan over the next few months to update content on your organization’s web pages.  Delete now-expired deadlines and dates, update calendars, map out blog entry topics (including planning guest bloggers), view currently posted or linked videos (and remove any outdated videos), check links to make sure they still work, and rework messaging, where needed.
  2. Planning.  If you don’t already have a Three Year Marketing & Communications Strategy, this is the time to start the process of outlining your strategy and the steps involved, so that you can plan ahead for holding focus group meetings, sending out surveys, and implementing the first year of your strategy.   A thorough strategy includes taking inventory of how well your print and electronic methods of communications are working for your organization. If you’ve been feeling like you’re “just keeping your head above water” then run, don’t walk, to developing your strategy.  Need help?  Sounding Board Marketing & Communications can help you develop your strategy.  Are you a DIYer?  If you opted-in emails from Sounding Board, you received a FREE “Marketing & Communication Strategic Planning 101” Guide—use this guide to develop your own Three Year Strategic Plan!  If you haven’t yet opted-in to receive emails, then fill out the contact form to the right!
  3. Learning. Take the time to focus on your professional growth in marketing, PR and communications.  Even us marketing experts and consultants are lifelong learners—I know there’s always, always better ways of doing things.  Read articles on Mashable.com and PR Daily (and, if you’re on social media, you can follow their pages for daily updates…and, if you follow Sounding Board on social media, I post PR/marketing/communication best practices articles on my pages, as well.  In addition, I also write blog posts on a variety of best practices (click on the topics linked above, and if you want to see them when I post them, follow Sounding Board on social media—click on the social media icons above!).

I genuinely want to help you accelerate your organization’s marketing, PR and communication efforts.  If there’s anything I can do to help YOU in your efforts to obtain, maintain, retain, and strengthen your organization’s stakeholder relationships, please send me an email at hvmcgowan@sounding-board.net or call me at 916.673.8868.

The 10 PR Commandments of a Successful New Website Launch

hcgovimageNo matter what side of the Obamacare debate you’re on, there’s one thing that we can probably all agree upon: Websites still matter.  In this day and age of increasing focus on social media, websites and website content have kind of gotten the back burner in terms of marketing focus.

The healthcare.gov website roll-out debacle certainly fueled politicians’ fire on both sides of the political spectrum, but there are some valuable lessons that can be drawn from “the nation’s worst website roll-out in history” for any organization with a website—whether it’s a school district, school, county office of education, governmental entity, non-profit, or business.  While techies and other website gurus could spend a lot of time discussing the technological aspects, I’m going to focus on the 10 PR Commandments of a successful new website launch, so that your new website becomes your best PR tool…and not your latest PR nightmare:

Commandment 1: Develop a website that is responsive to stakeholders

How do your stakeholders want to navigate your site?  Do they want a list of options, or do they want a site that is intuitive and takes them to the information they are seeking?  In the healthcare.gov example, backend users (insurers) are experiencing problems that differ from the frontend users’ (those seeking insurance) problems.  Both are equally important to the overall success of the site.  And, let’s not forget the “ques”….look, if you built a site for all of America to get government-subsidized health insurance, then make sure your site can handle the traffic!  So, with this in mind…

Commandment 2: Strategically develop your new website

Use surveys, focus groups, and interviews with key front end and back end users of your site.  Make sure the tech folks understand the needs and capabilities of those who will be updating the site and vice versa.  Look at the short- and the long-term needs of the site.  Ensure that your organizational policies will support the new site, and consider implementing a governance plan for the site to ensure the site’s integrity over the long-term. And, before launching the site, test pages with your front and back end stakeholders and ensure that everyone’s needs will be met.  There’s nothing worse than having a new website launched and then hearing about everything that’s missing from a key stakeholder.

Commandment 3: Set realistic timelines for the development of a website

Everyone wants a new website…yesterday.  Rushing the development of a website will risk critical website testing that needs to occur prior to its launch.  This website testing is code word for: saving your organization’s rear from a PR nightmare. Testing takes time—so does applying fixes.  With that being said…

Commandment 4: Heed the advice of your website developer

Prior to its launch, the healthcare.gov site’s website contractor threw out several red flags related to the site’s capacity and its ability to launch by the October  deadline.  These warnings were widely ignored (according to media accounts), and, as a result, an incomplete, faulty site was launched, placing a dark cloud over the launch of the nation’s first comprehensive healthcare plan.  Look, a great website developer is going to be your partner in success—they don’t dig in their heels for their own kicks.  They have a very valid reason to raise concerns about launching before certain activities are completed. Listen to them.

Commandment 5: Develop a website that is reflective of your organization’s brand

Many organizations think they can use a cheap template approach to work around the financial challenges associated with developing a new website.  Unfortunately, this out of the box template approaches result in underperforming websites that look like…a bunch of other underperforming websites.  I work together with who I consider to be some of the best website developers around who develop custom, branded websites for a competitive price.  They not only provide great design elements, but they also deliver websites that use navigation, content organization, and design that best respond to stakeholders’ needs.  Consider making a little more of an investment to launch high quality website that is responsive to your unique stakeholders/customers and best reflects your organization’s brand.

Commandment 6: Every page shall have content

Seriously, healthcare.gov had pages without content…worse, it had placeholder content. I don’t think this should require further discussion.  Really, please don’t use placeholder content—just don’t include pages that don’t have content.

Commandment 7: Every page shall have consistently messaged content

Having a content style guide for your site will ensure that your organization isn’t referred one way on your home page, and another way on an internal page.  The content style guide will also ensure that, if multiple employees are developing content, that there’s one way that bulleted lists are presented, a consistent approach to linking content, and more.

Commandment 8: Every page shall have effectively messaged content

Writing effectively messaged content ensures that your content is interesting to readers, guides them to other pages on your website, increases SEO (search engine optimization), and reflects your organization’s brand.

Commandment 9: Launch a website—that meets and exceeds everyone’s expectations

With that being said, don’t overpromise and underdeliver.  If you wanted video streaming on your website, don’t talk about the “new streaming video feature” until you have ironed out all of the details and finalized that video will actually be on your site.  There are a lot of technological details that go into every website feature.  Video, for example, sounds great on the surface, until you discover that you don’t have organizational support for developing video, or because your server can’t accommodate video hosting…and your organization blocks YouTube videos.

Websites cost money and take time—when public funds are used, then the light of scrutiny shines brighter on a new website launch.  When discussing the yet-to-be-launched website in public, make sure that your organization’s leaders are on the same page when describing the website’s new features—I would highly recommend developing talking points.  That brings me to my next and final point…

Commandment 10: Have a PR and Marketing Plan for the launch of the new website

Just as you would carefully construct a PR and marketing plan for the dedication of a new building, launch of a new program/product, or other feature of your organization, your website is the most important digital PR and customer service vehicle and structure for your organization.  Yet, all too often, organizations launch new websites quietly, under the radar, and expect their stakeholders to take up and notice the site when they happen to visit it.  Here’s a quick reality check: you may have already lost a lot of your stakeholders’ interest in your website before you updated it—and I’d be willing to bet that one of the goals of your new website is to have increased traffic!  So, why wouldn’t you treat its launch with the same PR kitten gloves (talking points, press releases, announcements to stakeholders, social media announcement) as you would any other important launch in your organization?

Oh, and if I could add a Commandment 11: Keep your new website updated!

Want more resources for developing your new website?

Sounding Board provides website content writing services, as well as capacity building workshops on writing effective website content, including a website content style guide.  Contact us to begin improving your website content today!

Sounding Board’s Preferred Website Developers

We want to refer you to the best of the best when it comes to website developers.  For this reason, Sounding Board does not endorse companies that provide a cookie-cutter, template-based approach, and instead, would prefer you to invest in a strategically-planned, branded, and beautifully-designed custom website through either of these amazing website developers:

SectorPoint, Inc.: Sounding Board Marketing & Communications regularly refers clients to SectorPoint, Inc. on the development of large-scale websites on the Microsoft Sharepoint 2010 and 2013 platforms.  More information about SectorPoint, Inc. can be found at www.sectorpoint.com.

Bourn Creative: Bourn Creative specializes in strategic consulting, extraordinary branding, and custom WordPress websites. More information about Bourn Creative can be found at www.bourncreative.com.  (P.S. Bourn Creative designed Sounding Board’s website!)

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.

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