Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Don't fear the blog

I found myself saying and thinking these words today following a blogging 101 presentation to a group of principals, directors, and coordinators in our school district. Our school district is embarking on a voluntary blogging initiative for administrators.

We presented the group with the basics of defining a blog followed up with a why we think administrators should care about blogging.

An administrator's blog (written by a principal, director, coordinator or other leadership team member) can be a place where parents, students and other staff can read some of the latest news, thoughts, and information from school district leadership and engage in respectful dialogue.

These are the short guidelines we gave them:
  • Write what you know.
  • Be interesting, Be Honest & Be Yourself.
  • It's a two-way street.
  • Respect confidentiality and privacy.
  • Think about Consequences.
  • Most Important: Blog Smart.
(Hat tip to: Blogger, Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, Graco, Feedster, Fellowship Church, IBM, and Forrester Research)

Here's a portion of what I said to the group:
Each of you has a unique perspective that could be shared with a small or even large audience depending on how you want to tell your stories. You have the ability to provide insight into the decision-making process for your campus, department or even district-level. We are encouraging you to be a part of the conversation.
The initial reaction seemed to be the typical FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) that comes when you try to engage an (sometimes older) audience with basic/advanced communications technology. The digital natives thrive on it and the digital immigrants run from it.

Although, I will give credit to a few brave souls who were interested in continuing the conversation and genuinely willing to give it a try.

I think it is in the best interests of school district administrators to pay attention to existing as well as new and emerging communication technologies for adaptation. One elementary principal noted that her parents are getting younger and younger and these technologies (like blogs) are commonly used.

I think it's time to get our collective heads out the ground and take steps into the social web.

Photo credit: dogsivu

Monday, August 25, 2008

Social Media can be ridiculously fun

Do you wish you could fast-forward time to skip all of the soon-to-be released political messaging from the Presidential candidates and stop right before election day?

This post won't help you do that.

What I can do is point you in the direction of something fun, that could take your mind off of the impending (read: boring) messages, that happens to also be the start of a solid example of social media for good: voter registration.

I ran across this post today on Jason Falls' Social Media Explorer blog in my feed reader (Maker’s Mark Is Capturing Election Fever With A Presidential Prediction) that caught my eye since it brought two very different (yet sometimes intertwined) industries together: alcohol and politics.

Check out Maker's Mark News, which according to Falls is...
"...a faux news effort we’ve put together to support Maker’s Mark’s partnership with Rock The Vote."
The About Page pretty much sums it up:
"The Maker’s Mark and Rock The Vote Bus Blog is a friendly place to have some fun during the 2008 election season. To increase awareness and drive voter registration, Maker’s Mark and Rock The Vote have partnered to send the Maker’s Mark-Rock The Vote Bus to several cities around the nation prior to the November election. As an additional reminder to Maker’s Mark customers, hang tags on bottles of special, limited edition, triple-dipped Maker’s Mark bottles remind people to register to vote."

Here's the effort's first video entry:

What makes this so remarkable is that it looks really fun. They chose to work with a message that they know will resonate with positive humor for their target audience. They pieced together a campaign that brings proven elements of marketing and communications, just with a fun twist.

I hope their efforts pay off.
I hope they raise awareness for voter registration.
I hope more professional communicators learn how to have fun with their messages.

Our audiences just might appreciate the change.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Do schools kill creativity?

In honor of the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year...

Some time ago I ran across an informative as well as disturbing video from Sir Ken Robinson @ TED sharing ideas on education and posing the simple question: Do schools today kill creativity? I recommend reviewing this video (running time 19:29) and thinking about what you remember about school.

I've heard it said that if you were to bring someone from the past, say from 1960, and showed them your kitchen, they would likely be amazed to see the various electronic contraptions available to ease the burdens of cooking. They would also be astounded at the flat TV hanging on the wall with crystal-clear images. They might even be uncomfortable at all of the advancements in everyday life. But, put them in a typical classroom of today and they would likely feel right at home: a teacher at the front of the classroom talking to a group of students sitting all in neat little rows of desks.

What makes schools so different that we don't spend the same resources to aid the instruction to make life better for our students and teachers? Many advancements have taken shape and technology integration in classrooms is well beyond where it used to be, but we could do so much better.

Things are changing (for the better) and I look forward to the advancements that my kids will enjoy in their educational experiences. When the focus is truly on the students needs, education will have evolved:

I especially loved this interaction between a teacher and a little girl:
"What are you drawing?"
"I'm drawing a picture of God."
"But no one knows what God looks like."
"They will in a minute."
What do you want education to be?  What needs to happen before you are proud of the state education?

Related post: Starting a Statewide Conversation, strategic planning for Friends of Texas Public Schools

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Diversity Without Opportunity is Just Talk

I attended the Greater Fort Worth Chapter PRSA's August luncheon and meeting where the group heard from a panel on diversity.

The topic, Working Diversity into the Workplace promised to be at best, an interesting approach to something that seems fundamental OR at worst, a nice way to get out of the office and have some pretty good fajitas.

Personal aside: It was kind of funny that we had our diversity session at a famous Mexican restaurant in Fort Worth.
(Thanks, Terry.)

Photo credit: chrisjfry

The People
We were introduced to a panel that included:
  • Mitch Hill, Baylor Hospital (social worker)
  • Leah King, Chesapeake Energy (community relations)
  • Tom Burke, IBM (communications/public relations)
  • Dora Tovar, Tovar PR (public relations)
  • Ken Reeves, Bell Helicopter (human resources)
I was immediately struck by the make-up of the group. Aside from the obvious male/female/ethnic differences, our chapter diversity chair had an interesting mix of PR and non-PR professionals. I had an idea of how PR can help address diversity to build and maintain relationships. What I was looking forward to was seeing how this group would approach the topic.

Thoughts on diversity vs. culture
Here are a few of the thoughts that resonated with me:

Mitch Hill thinks we wear many masks and take on multiple cultures.
"There is diversity within myself," he said. "Once we understand this about ourselves, we can move forward."
Leah King said she lived oversees and takes a broader approach to diversity.

Tom Burke pointed out how IBM approaches diversity.
"[IBM is] welcoming everyone to the workplace regardless of differences un-related to their job functions."
Letter from IBM's Vice President of Global Workforce Diversity, Ron Glover

Tom also made what I thought to be an excellent point about our topic.
"Diversity is not created, it already exists."
Dora Tovar spoke more on culture, telling the group that culture in the U.S. is very individual and is in constant change.
"Those that can adapt and change will be the most marketable."
She also pointed out that diversity is about representation and culture is about identity.

Ken Reeves followed Tovar and gave his perspective on diversity stating that it is not just about representation, it's about opportunity. He explained how as an ex-NFL player he had to develop a strategy to diversify himself and about the corporate strategy at Bell Helicopter related to diversity.
"Until [diversity] translates into opportunity for everyone, it's just talk."
Moving forward
Each of the panelists brought an enlightened perspective on diversity that went beyond the typical race, ethnicity, sex, religions, etc.

Also, going back to Mitch Hill's reference, the mask metaphor, in my opinion, is fundamental to human communication. It is a great explainer for the different roles we play on a daily basis. We are different (diversity within ourselves) depending on our audience. When I am at home, I play the husband and father roles. At work, my mask is that of a communications/PR professional. With friends...With other family members...With new people...etc. These are all roles that are within me. We all have the different masks to wear. It's not hiding. It's playing the role of a human.

Lastly, the notion that diversity without opportunity is a significant next step. It is not about checking off boxes to make sure your company has this many women or that many Latinos. It is about recognizing the business strategy, objectives, and benefits behind a diversity opportunities.

What do you think? Do you consider yourself to be personally diverse? Do you think you wear masks? Can diversity translate into opportunity?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Social Media Free eBooks List

One of my favorite bloggers, Chris Brogan, compiled a list of Free eBooks About Social Media. I have not had a chance to go through these all yet, but I find Chris to be remarkable at sharing knowledge and providing amazing conversation starters, so I trust his list:

It’s interesting what you can find when you look around a bit on Google. I thought I’d look for a few new ebooks to read. I found 20 different ones that might be interesting to you. It never hurts to get a few different perspectives. In all cases, the first link is to a PDF file, the second link is to the site where it’s hosted.

20 Free eBooks About Social Media

  1. The New Rules of Viral Marketing - David Meerman Scott
  2. Marketing Apple -
  3. Masters of Marketing - Startup Internet Marketing
  4. Podcast Marketing eBook - Christopher S. Penn
  5. Google Adwords Secrets - SEOBook
  6. Get Viral Get Visitors - Stacie Mahoe
  7. Marketing With Case Studies - Dynamic Copywriting
  8. How to Write a Marketing Plan - Geisheker Group
  9. SEO for WordPress blogs - Blizzard Internet
  10. Social Web Analytics - Social Web Analytics
  11. Geeks Guide to Promoting Yourself With Twitter - Geekpreneur
  12. The Zen of Blogging - Hunter Nutall
  13. What is Social Media - iCrossing
  14. A Primer in Social Media - SmashLab
  15. Effective Internet Presence - Effective Internet Presence
  16. Introduction to Good Usability - Peter Pixel
  17. Increasing the Response to Your Email Marketing Program - CRM Transformation
  18. We Have a Website. Now What? - Craig Rentmeester
  19. Blogs & Social Media - PRSA
  20. The Podcast Customer Revealed - Edison Media Research

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Starting a State-wide Conversation

Last week  I had the distinct honor to work with the Friends of Texas Public Schools Strategic Planning Committee to participate in bringing a defined direction for the group. The group is a 501 c(3) non-profit dedicated to Texas public education and combating the negative coverage.

The Co-Founders and Board of Friends of Texas Public Schools decided it was time to evaluate where the group is and where it is going for it to be effective. 
My interest in the group is two-fold: 
  1. I believe that a strong education system is the only way for a society to advance.

  2. I want to share my ideas for how to engage communities.

Below are the planning stages that were created:
(I've added a few of my additional thoughts in blue.)


  • Friends, family, faith and community are the support mechanisms that lead to human achievement.

  •  Access to knowledge and educational opportunity are fundamental rights.

  • The power of collaboration exceeds the capacity of an individual’s effort. 

  • All people have a personal responsibility to fulfill their individual worth.

  • All people have a responsibility to nurture and support children.

  • Compassion and giving to others are mutually beneficial.


The mission of Friends of Texas Public Schools, the leading voice of optimism and hope for our public school family, is to ensure positive conversation about public schools by educating Texans through honest communication, productive dialogue, and relentless encouragement.


  • Texas public school educators will be ambassadors for their profession.

  •  Texans will believe that being an educator is noble. This was my favorite.

  •  Texans will revere and respect their public schools.

  • Texans will recognize their role and become engaged in quality public education.


  • We will be a profound influence in the state-wide conversation about public education. I plan on plan on playing a major role with Friends to help with this strategy.

  •  We will identify resources necessary and raise funds to achieve the Friends’ mission.

  • We will organize strategically and build capacity.


  • We will communicate openly and honestly. We had a good balance of Communications/PR people to go along with educators and even a lawyer.

  •  We will treat all people with dignity and respect.

  • We will not allow obstacles to impede progress.

  • We will ensure fiscal responsibility.

  • We will not speak negatively about public education. This is so crucial for education. In education, particularly public education, we are our own worst enemy in speak down about the profession. We hope to change that for Texas.

Are these lofty goals? You bet. Are they worthy of trying to achieve? Absolutely. 
What do you think? What do you believe the role of education in Texas (or in our society in general) should be? How high do you hold education in the scheme of things? (If you are interested, Friends has some suggested reading on the subject.

Next steps are the action plans.