“Social media gives us tremendous power, but not everyone chooses to use that power for good.” 

Source: ln.is/buff.ly/zN3GC via @deannamascle

A few years ago, I wrote an article, Reaching for the Heart: 5 Tips for School District Communications, which focused on the use social media. At the end of this blog entry, I re-share the 5 Tips again for schools.

In that article, I share the following:

…time and again, school districts step back from encouraging their staff, students and parents from using social media. Failure to embrace these tools leaves school districts open to attacks, but times are changing–parents are fighting back using social media. “Activist parents now have,” points out Dr. Scott McLeod, “a bevy of new tools and strategies to help facilitate their agendas and they are not afraid to use them. School organizations are going to have to get used to this new state of affairs in which parent activism and criticism are more public, permanent, and far-reaching.”

Earlier today, I had the opportunity to listen to an engaging presentation by Suzanne Marchman, Director of Communications & Media Relations, TASAnet.org on Media Relations: Tips & Techniques for Working with the Media. 

In this blog entry, you’ll find some of my take-aways–and any errors are mine–from her presentation:

Understanding Today’s Media Environment
  1. Pressure on today’s reporter
  2. Slow death of traditional media
  3. On deadline, all the time
  4. Information Overload
  5. Impact of social media
  6. Rise of video, reader comments
  7. News is often adverse, negative, tense, dramatic
  8. Media are extremely competitive (it’s about ratings & readership)
  9. When you know ratings is what is motivating a reporter…it changes the way he views…how can I get you to watch? What is their angle?
  10. Keep those things in the back of your mind. NOT all reporters are bad or out to get the dirt.
  11. What is “news?”
  12. What makes the news?
  13. How can you make the news?
    1. Leander ISD Bus Driver Video
    2. View Leander ISD bus driver video
    3. Avoid no-win interviews
    4. The District provided a written statement, as well as the relevant Penal Code. Provide the reporter with filler.
    5. In that particular situation, a letter was sent home with students.
  14. New Rules of Social Media
    1. Everything you say or do can be broadcast faster, wider, in shorter form, and without context:
    2. Twitter
    3. Facebook
    4. YouTube
    5. Blogs
    6. Any of those can become a firing squad.
  15. Reporters use social media:
    1. Find sources
    2. Search for story ideas
    3. Create buzz about a story they’re covering
    4. Provide real-time coverage of events
    5. Consider social media fair game for quotes without permission
    6. Print reporters will find negative perspectives
  16. It’s Not Just Reporters Using Social Media
    1. Kyron Birdine, a junior at Arlington High School, was suspended after tweeting a photo of his STAAR test.
    2. View news story
    3. Kneejerk reaction from TEA and school district. All of this hits the media
  17. It’s Not Just Reporters Using Social Media
    1. Jonathan Stickland: “I am a bit extra heated tonight. I just wrote a $2600 check to the state of Texas for my property taxes that will go to pay for a educational system that sucks and my family will never use. It is bull***t and its unfair (August 25, 2011 at 11:05pm)
    2. Ginger Russell, Red Hot Conservative blogger (http://www.redhotconservative.com/)
  18. When You Get the Call
    1. …and you don’t know what to say, buy yourself some time.
    2. Ask the reporter if they would be willing to email you their questions.
    3. Find out the reporter’s deadline. If you know you can’t meet it, say so.
    4. Tell them you are working on a deadline. “If you gotta a minute, could you email me your questions?”
    5. For TV reporters, deadline is 5:00pm.
    6. Let the reporter know when you expect to have an answer. Don’t let their be a big gap in the time from reporter’s first contact to present. This will help build a relationship that will get them to have your back and they will avoid “throwing your district under the bus.”
    7. Gather your facts.
    8. Brainstorm potential questions that may be asked and prepare your responses.
    9. Why should she care about your story?
    10. What questions might be asked?
    11. What follow-up questions might be prompted by your answers?
    12. WHat’s the purpose of the interview? What’s the story?
  19. The Interview
    1. Find out the nature of the interview.
    2. Ask for the reporter’s deadline.
    3. Let the reporter know when you can be available.
    4. Give yourself time to prepare, even if it’s just 5 minutes.
    5. Be in control of the interview.
  20. Your message
    1. Before you begin the interview, gather all your facts.
    2. Decide the 3 most important things you want to say and then write them down.
    3. Brainstorm potential questions that may be asked and prepare some type of response.
    4. Relax.
    5. Respond with confidence.
    6. Be aware of your body language.
      1. Be careful of perceptions
    7. Look at the reporter when answering questions.
    8. Avoid saying “No comment”
    9. Using stall tactics can also result in “No Comment”
      1. “Superintendent Jones was unavailable for comment yesterday, despite repeated attempts.”
    10. Stick to the facts.
    11. Answer the questions as succinctly as possible. Stop talking when you have answered the question.
    12. Avoid the jargon…or at least be prepared to explain. (e.g. AYP, AEIS, PEIMS, ADA, ARD)
    13. If a reporter repeats a question, repeat your original answer.
    14. Avoid guessing, speculating or answering “what if” or hypothetical questions.
    15. Nothing is ever “off the record.”
  21. Bridging Your Message – AVOID THIS TECHNIQUE
    1. “Bridging” is a technique to avoid answering a question and redirect the reporter back to your key message. Bridging is often a crutch for politicians.
      1. “What important to remember…”
      2. That’s certainly a concern, but the real issue is…”
      3. “Let’s not forget…”
      4. “Before I answer that…”
      5. Let me put that in perspective…”
      6. Let’s start at the beginning…”
  22. Tips for TV & Radio Interviews – Questions to Ask Beforehand:
    1. Is it live or pre-recorded?
    2. How long is it going to be? When is it broadcast?
    3. What’s the format? One on one interview, debate, questions from callers?
    4. What is the purpose?
    5. Who else is involved?
    6. Who is the interviewer/host?
  23. On-Camera Interview
    1. Before the camera begins to roll, ask what to expect.
    2. Relax. Use positive body language and a friendly greeting.
    3. Look at and talk to the reporter (not the camera) when answering questions.
    4. Keep an open face and smile when appropriate.
    5. State the most important information first.
    6. Keep your answers brief. Make only one point per sentence.
    7. Avoid distracting mannerisms (like jingling pocket change, tapping fingers, rocking in a chair).
    8. Answer the question, then stop talking. The reporter is not going to broadcast “dead air”
    9. Repeat, repeat, repeat your most important message.
    10. If it’s taped, ask to start over if you stumble
    11. If you don’t know something, say so.
    12. Not responding at all on camera to a question can hurt your credibility. Dead air is okay, but only if you have given some type of answer.
    13. “I don’t have that information here, but I’m happy to get it for you and send it to you later today or when we’re done.”
    14. Nothing is ever “off the record.” No matter how nice or friendly a reporter is, or how many times they say “this is off the record,” everything you say has the potential to end up in the news–either in print or on air. Be aware of your comments after the interview.

So, as promised, please find my 5 tips below for schools:
Here are 5 tips for K-12 educators, communication professionals or not, inspired by Social Media Explorer similar blog entry:

  1. Craft A True Story Worth Sharing: Content that hasn’t been prefabricated, is lifeless and written in third person, but is authentic, transparent, open about success as well as failure will be read by your constituents. Start with a story, including audio, video, avoiding being limited by one format or another (e.g. text, video, audio). What a great way for students, community members and staff to find out what is going on from others in their organization. 
  2. Make Content Sharing Easy: Press releases on a web site just do not work anymore. Traditional web sites that can’t be subscribed to using RSS feeds or that allow email subscription are dead sites. Use social media workflows that allow you to post content once in a blog then it is autoshared via social media outlets like Twitter, Google+, Facebook, Instagram, etc. 
  3. Create a Content Calendar: In your District, there are many wonderful things happening that your community wants to know about. Create a content calendar that enables you to map out with a calendar what you will be sharing with others online.
  4. Define and Build Relationships: While it may not be popular to follow your local news reporters via Twitter, it is critical that you do so. It is critical because you can raise their awareness by the engaging content that you are sharing about your school district. While they may want to focus on the negative, you can mitigate the effect of their tweets by building a relationship of trust and integrity through the stories you share about your district, your campus, and your classroom.
  5. Make Offline Available Online: Every speaking engagement, each meeting is an opportunity to share your ideas. Avoid the mistake of creating content solely for online or offline audiences. When you create offline content–a conversation with parents at the morning coffee meet-n-mingle with the principal–take the time to write about it, maybe even debrief a parent in a one on one conversation. “What did you think about our morning coffee meeting? How did it impact you?” Take the time to share what you’re doing online.

These 5 tips combined with Ms. Marchman’s advice will serve you well.

Remember: With great power comes great responsibility. Social media gives us tremendous power, but not everyone chooses to use that power for good. Are you following, inquiring, engaging, and feeding others through your social media accounts? Being a connected educator means that you are making connections and help others do so as well. (Source: Connected=Community, by @deannamascle)


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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