When Worlds Collide

Much of my life revolves around sporting events. My earliest memories include going to basketball games at the high school where my dad coached. Most of the males in my immediate family have a connection to sports as either a coach or an athlete, including my son.

I went to college to become a television journalist. I always considered it to be a “for now” job vs. a “forever” job. At the time, I just didn’t know how long “now” would last. Working my way through my journalism career included a sports stint where I served as the weekend sports anchor. My responsibilities would include covering collegiate student athletes, including my own brother.

The author with her younger brother as a collegiate student athlete at a D-I school.

As a school PR practitioner I can still draw on those skills, but this summer, I have found myself doing so in new ways. As the mom of a youth baseball player, I have somehow managed to parlay these diverse skills to help tell the story of his All-Star baseball team in a social media age.

Because families are spread out, I volunteered to set up a closed Facebook group page for the team so that grandparents, aunts, and uncles could participate in the fun. Little did I know that this would become an incubator for me professionally.

What started out as a lark, provided me a professional spark. It was an opportunity to use the platform to test out ideas I could use in my school PR world. Most notably, with video.

Strategy can be applied to something as innocuous as your child’s ball program. For our little group, we wanted to communicate to out-of-town friends and family through social media our game dates, behind-the-scene photos, and highlight videos.

I must confess: I am a broadcast journalism purist. I believe camera shots should be steady and video must be quality high. The era of user-generated content makes me queasy. That why I have shunned cellphone footage in favor of professional-quality videography and editing.

However, as the post season has gone on, members of the Facebook group shared their appreciation for my skill as evidenced by the analytics of their engagement with the multimedia posts created. As a result, I looked for ways to be more inclusive with the work: I asked them to send me their videos and pictures.

How do you tell a story with video over which you had no control and make it cohesive?

This was a huge risk for me professionally! Using this content was more of a challenge that I would have ever imagined, but the payoff was much sweeter, too. It was a challenge I was excited to take on, too, as I can see the implications of using crowd-sourced video in school PR to tell a story from multiple perspectives. As a result, my kid and his friends have series of highlight videos, edited with free cell phone apps and uploaded to Facebook where music was added.

Made by Mom

It was interesting to see that a youth baseball team was capable of pulling the type of analytics one might when posting a video for your school or school system. Even more impressive is that this was primarily shared with only about 65 people!

This post has more than 1,000 views!?!

I think we hit this one out of the park…and will head to the World Series soon! Clearly, my worlds collided.

Who’s Got Next?

Last week, the school PR family lost a stalwart in Gary Marx, the former long-time associate executive director for communications for AASA, the School Superintendents Association. As we consider the legacy he left for our profession, I am left wondering who’s got next?

As a profession, we must encourage folks to make their mark in this era. School PR needs more than just tweeters: we need more thought leaders.

Increasingly, more school leaders are turning to social media to communicate with their stakeholders. Social media is a great avenue for connection, but it is not the only way.

A strategic approach to public relations incorporates multiple channels of communication in order to reach key audiences. It is no longer enough to raise awareness about our schools; we must seek engagement on behalf of positive outcomes for students. For me, that’s what gets missed in the advice to “tweet more.”

There are some concerned with the outputs of social success: followers, clicks, and likes. I am, too: I wonder if they are pursuing outcomes like building relationships in order to make a difference for students. If so, tweet that! Show the connection between your social activity and the substantive impact it had for students in your community.

Others are watching your example; use your platform as a school communicator to demonstrate this key leadership skill.

Tweets are fleeting. We need people challenging us to stay true to our strategic roots in a digital age.

So, I’ll ask it again: who’s got next?