Our focus for the next hour and a half will be to look at how we can effectively reach our members through digital communications and social media.
Specifically, we’ll cover…Communicating StrategicallySetting clear communication objectivesLooking at who we’re talking to, what we’re saying to themChoosing the right digital communication and social media toolsBest Practices foreNewslettersFacebookTwitterOther Social Media SitesAnd then we’ll wrap up with opening the floor for questions.
The hope is that you’ll walk away with:Strategies for communicating in a thoughtful and meaningful wayMessages that you can use at the unit levelA broader understanding of why digital communications and social media is importantTools for effectively using eNewsletters, Facebook and Twitter to reach your communication objectivesStrategies for handling difficult online situationsAnswers to your most burning social media questions
Let’s jump right in and talk about communicating strategically. What does this mean? This means taking a step back. Instead of going right into the tactic, we take a step back to give some thoughtful consideration to what our communications objective is, who we are going to talk to, what are we going to say and how are we going to talk to them.For most of us, this is a little differentthat what we typically do right? Usually we go straight to the tactic or the “how” and completely bypass everything else. Someone says, “We have an event coming up next month” and we immediately starting working on a flier. But, we usually haven’t taken the time to really even think about our communication objectives or what is it that we are trying to accomplish?
The first step in beginning to communicate strategically is to start thinking about setting clear communication objectives for every PTA event, project or service. For everything we do in PTA we have a desired outcome. We want our members to take a certain action. Setting a clear communications objective then helps us determine the next step. Maybe we want parents to buy books at the book fair to support reading at our school. Perhaps a flier isn’t the best tool to accomplish this objective. Perhaps we can better achieve our objective by utilizing another tool, or communicating a different message.Let’s take a few minutes to discuss what projects and programs you have coming up at your PTA.[Audience Discussion]
Communicating strategically also means knowing who you are talking to - understanding your key audience. Maybe your objective is to increase membership among teachers. If you spent all your time communicating to parents, you would hopefully see an increase in PTA membership, but not in the group you most wanted – teachers.
There are a few key messages about PTA that seems to resonate, a these messages can easily be incorporated into your communication efforts.The association invested in a research project to better understand the perceptions of parents, both members and nonmembers. And what we found is that the parents’ image and perceived value of PTA is completely based on the people, programs and tangible benefits they see at their own school. Perceptions about PTA are formed at the local level. If your PTA is running smoothly, your communicating well with your members and showcasing the programs and services that PTA brings to your school, parents have a great impression about PTA. In PTAs that might have trouble working as a team or aren’t communicating well, parents don’t see the value of what PTA brings, they have a very poor impression of PTA.So, you have a tremendous opportunity to influence parents’ perception of PTA in your communication efforts.
What are those key PTA message that resonate?Program and services - highlight the programs and services that are considered valuable and are being provided at the local school site is a huge messaging component. This could be highlighting your Science Lab and outcomes in a Facebook post. Sharing a quote about how the PTA reading program increased grades in your eNewsletter. Again, making the connection between the PTA and the valuable programs and services.PTA is the main connector of parents and families to the school. Reinforcing that PTA is strengthening relationships between parents, teachers, school administrators, etc. Including a letter and a photo of the PTA president with the school principal in your back to school kit.PTA makes “your child’s” school a better place – and thereby boosts “your child’s” education. Parents want to know that they are helping to make a difference in their child’s education. I heard a quote from a PTA mom that she joined PTA for her kids, and later continued her involvement (aka volunteering) for all children.
Some bigger picture messaging about advocacy and legislative accomplishments can be sprinkled in and framed in practical terms and the impact on the local school site – “PTA has a seat at the table when the testing requirements and funding for our school is being decided.” “PTA was instrumental in passing the law that ensures your child will wear a helmet when riding a bike.”Membership specific – Messaging should address primary concerns all parents have about lack of time, and unbundle the concept of “membership” from the obligation to volunteer. Joining PTA is a valuable act in an of itself, that shows support for the school and their child.Any questions so far about the key messaging?
Now let’s take a look at our tools for communicating strategically – it’s really like a toolbox. We have access to traditional communication tools such as:Word of MouthPersonal TouchPublications/FliersDirect MailAdvertisingNewspapersDigital communication tools including:WebsiteEmailSocial MediaMobileBlogsVideo
But, just because you have access to all these tools, doesn’t mean that they are the right tool for the right job. We don’t want to be the person who is trying to cut our pizza with a saw. We want to choose the right tool that will best help us meet our communications objective.
We’re going to focus on the importance of digital communications, specifically eNewsletters, Facebook, Twitter and a few other social media sites. Before we jump into best practices for each of these areas let’s take a look at the big picture of digital communications – why it’s important and why it plays a key role in communicating with folks in today’ world.
Mobile - Smartphone usage is up 465% in the past few years with more than 50% of the population using smartphones, and 64% update their status on a mobile device. And this is regardless of socio-economic status. High-income, low-income, college-educated, high school or less than high-school education, Northern California or Southern California – People have mobile phones with access to the Internet, email and social media sites. They may not have Internet access or a computer in the home, but statistics show that on average, one person in the household will have a mobile device.
Email - Continues to be a preferred method of receiving information with 91% of consumers using email daily.
Facebook - Nearly 30% of 18 to 34 year olds check Facebook on their smartphones before even getting out of bed. There are more than 900 million Facebook accounts.
Skype - 57% of people report talking to people more online than they do in real life
Twitter – More than 1,650 tweets are send per second. Twitter is the 15th most visited website.
YouTube – Last year, Psy’s “Gnagnam Style” was the most viewed video with 1.6 billion views. The average person spends 15 minutes on YouTube daily, with “how to” videos ranking among the highest in search.
Pinterest – The average Pinterest user spends and hour and a half on Pinterest daily.Pinterest users are nearly 80% female.
Don’t forget about…LinkedIn, Instagram, Tumblr…And Google +, Del.ic.ious, Foursquare, Reddit, Digg, Meetup, Blogger, Flickr, Vimeo, Yelp, …and yes, MySpace is making a comeback. The list of social media networks goes on and on.Conversations are happening all over the web in thousands of social media environments – far too many, in fact, for your PTA to be everywhere. That’s why it’s critical that you have a clear communications objective and know who you are trying to reach. If your parents aren’t on LinkedIn, then you wouldn’t spend your time trying to communicate with them on that platform. If your members are on Facebook, and prefer to get information on Facebook, then that’s probably a place you should be. As you head into the next year, it’s best to focus your communication efforts in a few key areas that will offer you the biggest return on your investment of time.
As more and more of our world becomes electronic and mobile-friendly, a digital newsletter should be considered as part of your communication strategies for reaching your members. How many of you are currently using eNewsletters?[If many are using eNewsletters – move quickly, say “Then this will be a quick review of a best practices for eNewsletters.]
Let’s look at a few Do’s and Don’t for eNewslettersDO - Take the time create a strong subject line. Folks are quick to delete email and if your subject line isn’t clear, your eNewsletter will get deleted. A good strategy is to write your newsletter first. Get all the photos, links, articles, everything completed – then go back and craft your subject line.DON’T - Use all caps in your subject line or spam word such as FREE, Act Now or Last Chance. This type of language feels like a sale pitch and may get your eNewsletter deleted from the Inbox.DO - Create a professional template. Include your PTA logo, contact information, links to your social media sites, etc. You want folks to know that this is a real association. It also shows that your PTA cares enough to think about how your audience wants to receive information. DON’T - Use distracting backgrounds or use everything but the kitchen sink in your layout and design. Also be careful not too have too many columns. Usually a one- or two-column eNewsletter is ideal. This helps with being able to clearly read and see everything on a handheld or mobile device. DO – Think about your content. Be brief, use as few words as possible. Include links to read more, or to download fliers. Be sure to also make your eNewsletter visually appealing with images. Try to be more story-driven in your content. Instead of just saying “Basketball Tournament tomorrow,” consider including a photo and a quote about how much basketball means to one of your students. Keep your key messages about PTA in mind – highlight a program or service and demonstrate the value for “their child.” Include a link to “Download the Newsletter” rather than simply attaching the newsletter as a PDF and expecting folks to 1 – open your email 2 – open the PDF attachment and 3 – take action. That’s too many things to do for most audiences.DON’T - Be long-winded, text-heavy with no images links or photos. Don’t be boring. Don’t be demanding in your call to action, but have a clear “ask.”DO – Check your open rates, unsubscribes, etc. This will give you valuable feedback as to what your audience finds interesting and compelling. But, don’t let these numbers rule your world in communicating. You should expect a certain amount of unsubscribes, especially at first. And, just because they didn’t “open” it doesn’t mean that they didn’t in fact see it. Preview screens don’t capture open numbers.DON’T – Blast everybody with everything. Ask folks to sign up or opt-in. To get started you may want to automatically add everyone to your list, but then include a quick “You are receiving this because…” introduction. Keep separate lists for separate interests – 3rd grade parents, teachers, sponsors and supporters, entire school, PTA members only, PTA Executive Board only.DON’T – Use Outlook for your eNewsletter. Outlook is a personal email and organization tool. It can’t provide you with the customizable options or reporting that you need in order to have a successful eNewsletter.
There are plenty of free and low-cost services that your PTA can utilize for developing eNewsletters:Mail Chimp – “Forever Free” plan includes up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month. You can also add on options and packages for low monthly fees depending on your needs.Benchmark – Services as low at $10 per month for up to 600 emails per monthConstant Contact – Services around $15-30 per month depending on the number of subscribers you have. But, they also offer a discount if you pre-pay for 6 months.
Facebook is probably the least scary of the social media world right? Most of us use Facebook, or at least have a Facebook account. For the most part, we understand how Facebook works. So, one of the first things to look at is setting up a “Page” for your PTA. This is different that the “profile” that you and I have. We have a personal profile for individuals. But, setting up a profile for a business or organization is a violation of Facebook policy and you could be shut down. So, you’ll want to be sure that you have a PTA Facebook Page. And, here’s why…
Five reasons for a PTA Facebook page:Remind parents of upcoming events, PTA meetings, deadlines, etc.Build relationships with key audiences – make the connection feel personal through photos, comments, likes and sharingRecruit volunteers for events and/or leadership rolesEducate key audiences on how the PTA benefits their children, the school and the communityDiscuss important issues and mobilize parents into action
To start your PTA Facebook Page - Go to the asterisk button at the top right-hand side, scroll down to “Help” and then type “Create a Page” and follow the instructions.
Be sure to:Upload a photo – PTA logo, school mascot with PTA underneathComplete your PTA profile - add a description, link to school website. Add a cover image for your PTA – could be a photo of your school, photo of your PTA board, picture of kids doing activities, or you could even use whatever the state PTA is using.Create a “friendly URL.” Once you have 25 likes you can create a friendly URL such as facebook.com/CaliforniaStatePTA. This is much easier for your members to remember and find.
Assign responsibilities, share tasks and have more than one administrator for your PTA Facebook Page. This lets you have a backup and someone can always access the account. You can decide who should be admin – perhaps the President, Communications VP and the Programs and Member Services Chair.Share content that relates back to your key messages and communication objectives.Vary your posts, share links, photos, ask questions. You can find Facebook posts from what you are already doing:Post link to your eNewsletterCreate individual links from each articleShare posts from state PTA or National PTACreate photo albums for PTA eventsPTA meeting remindersSchool announcementsResources for parents in the communityEngage! Commit to monitoring your Page. Respond to as many posts, comments and messages as possible. Use Facebook Insights to evaluate your posts and collect data. What posts are most popular or least popular? Are you seeing patterns in likes, comments or shares? Is there a certain date or time that seems to resonate best with your audiences? Make it a point to review this information so you can improve.Set a schedule for posting – too few posts and your audience will forget about you, too many and they will “unlike” your page.
Facebook allows you to schedule posts for your Facebook Page. This means you can schedule Facebook posts in one sitting. You don’t need to log in every day if you don’t want to. You can pre-schedule important information such as holidays, testing reminders, PTA meetings, etc. Just click on the “clock” in your post and then you can set the date and time that you want to schedule the post.You can see the scheduled posts by taking a look at your Activity Log. In your “Admin Panel” click “Edit Page”, scroll down to “Use Activity Log” and you can see what’s scheduled. You can change the time, but you can’t change or correct a post.
A common question regarding Facebook is about handling difficult situations online. People saying nasty things, or getting out of hand. Most PTAs want to know how they can handle those situations online.And there’s a rule of thumb that you can follow – At the end of the day, it is your PTA page and as an association you don’t need to allow anything on the page that you don’t want. At the state level we have a link to our social media policy on the “About Us” section in Facebook. But, even though we can remove just about anything that we want, we recognize the value of having an open forum where people can respectfully express their opinion, even if it differs from ours. So try not to remove or hide posts. These conversations about your PTA are happening anyway, now you just have an opportunity to be included in the dialogue and help facilitate the discussion. Take it as an opportunity to engage in discussion, answer questions and maybe even clear up any miscommunication. You can also move the conversation offline. “Thank you for your feedback. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org for further assistance.”However, if someone is abusive, uses foul language,is harassing or is trying to use your PTA Facebook page as a way to jump on their soapbox, then consider hiding their posts or blocking them. Remember, that you can also hide and remove any posts that are sales-related.
Why set up a Twitter account for your PTA? One big reason is that there are already a tremendous amount of people using Twitter.But, before you jump in and set up a Twitter account for your PTA, you should consider your communications objective and key audiences – Is Twitter the best place to accomplish your goals? If your key audience isn’t on Twitter, or prefers another communication tool, you’ll just be spinning your wheels and won’t be any closer to achieving the objectives you outlined.You’ll want to also look at your capacity, and return on your investment of time. Twitter takes longer for most of us to learn, and it’s not meant to be a platform for just re-posting what you have on Facebook. If you don’t have time to learn how to be successful at Twitter, your PTA is probably better served by focusing your communication efforts in other areas. Again, it’s about knowing your audience and your limitations. (For councils and districts, there are tremendous opportunities for Twitter.)But, with that being said, there is room for PTA to be a powerful voice on Twitter. Twitter is a great place to demonstrate the depth and breadth of PTA expertise, positions, advocacy efforts, value to the community, stories and more.
To start your PTA Twitter account - Go to Twitter.com and click “ Sign Up” and follow the instructions.Be sure to:Keep your Twitter account name simple – School name plus PTA will work fineUpload a photo – This should be the same one that your PTA uses for Facebook. This helps with branding and keeping your communications consistent.Add a PTA profile - add a description, link to school website, link to PTA Facebook pageStart following folks:Find parents, teachers and staff on Twitter and follow them. You can also follow County Office of Education, School Board Members, etc.Follow @CaliforniaPTA and @NationalPTAFollow similar groups, allied agencies, sponsors and supportersFollow education reporters locally and statewide
Start slowly by listening and observing. Use this time to learn Twitter rules and common terms:Tweets are 140 characters or less and includes spacesIt’s okay to use text abbreviations such as edu for education@ Mention is how you address or mention someoneDM is a direct message or private message to that person only# hashtags are ways to follow conversations around a certain subjectHashtags are free, anyone can create one, you don’t need to register it, just start using itSome hashtags are already being used commonly such as #CAeducation #PTAadvocacy #schools #teachers [Handout glossary of Twitter terms]
Pinterest is great for visuals and could be a great value to your PTA. National PTA used Pinterest to provide resources and inspiration for Teacher Appreciation Week.Sample boards for your PTA could be:Back to school resources, school supplies, etcTeacher Appreciation Week activities and ideasSchool garden themes and projectsHealthy Eating tips and recipes for school lunchesArt, music, STEM projects and inspirationIdeas for classroom projects and field tripsSee if you can find a volunteer to help set up and establish your Pinterest boards as a one-time project. Be sure to establish a generic PTA account name.
LinkedIn is a professional networking social media site. Unless your communications objective is to directly tied to professional networking, there’s not really a need for your PTA unit to set up an organizational page on LinkedIn.But, LinkedIn is a great way for you to connect with parents, school administrators, sponsors, supporters and more as it relates to your PTA life. For example, I limit by Facebook “friends” to personal relationships only. Even though I get a friend request from PTA folks, I prefer to keep that private and personal. But, I also don’t want to exclude any PTA contacts or make folks feel as if I “declined” their request. Since I have a LinkedIn account, I say “I’d love to connect with you on LinkedIn.”Don’t set up “Longfellow PTA President” as an account. LinkedIn is out personal professional connections. Set up an account and follow the steps to complete your profile, just add your PTA title to “current position.” You can change it when your term is up and still maintain those contacts made through PTA.
YouTube is the third largest search engine just behind Google and Yahoo. That means that people are turning to YouTube to find out information. YouTube will populate “suggested videos” at the end of your video. To avoid inappropriate suggestions be sure to tag everything you upload with:ChildrenPTAParentsTeachersKidsSchoolsFamilyBe sure to include descriptions of your videos to increase the likelihood that your videos will be found in search.
Some additional best practices:Really look at the need to be in all social media sites. Again, just because Pinterest is popular doesn’t mean that you are going to reach your key audience there with the right message. Social media isn’t about being everywhere. It’s about having meaningful conversations with people online. It’s about engagement, so you will want to do a few things well rather than everything poorly. If you can establish a presence in more than one social media site, feel you can meet your communication objectives and reach your audiences there, and have the time to do it well – go for it!Think about setting up a content calendar. This is just a schedule of what you are going to post when and where. It will help reduce last minute “fire drills” and communication emergencies.Keep a record of all social media passwords, logins, etc. This can be in an Excel document or even a hard copy. Be sure to keep this private, but shared with key members of your PTA Executive Board.Publicize your social media sites – add “Like us on FB” icon to your website. Add your Twitter stream as a tab in Facebook. Tweets links to your blog, or Facebook photo albums. Include social media icons and hyperlinks in your electronic newsletter. Let people know at your PTA meetings – Like us on Facebook for all the latest updates and information about what’s happening at our school and for our PTA.
Digitally Speaking: Reaching Members thorugh Communications and Social Media
What we’ll cover today:• Communicating Strategicallyo Setting clear communication objectiveso Audience and Messagingo Choosing the right digital communication tools• Best Practiceso eNewsletterso Facebooko Twittero Other Sites• Questions
What you’ll learn:• Communicating Strategicallyo Strategies for communicating in a thoughtful andmeaningful wayo Messages that you can use at the unit levelo Why digital communications and social media areimportant• Best Practiceso How to effectively use eNewsletters, Facebook andTwitter for your PTAo Strategies for handling difficult online situations• Questionso Answers to your most burning questions
Key Messaging:• PTA brings valuable programs and services to your school.• PTA is the main connector of parents and families to theschool.• PTA makes “your child’s” school a better place – and therebyboosts “your child’s” education.
Key Messaging cont.:• PTA has a seat at the table when the testing requirements andfunding for our school is being decided. PTA was instrumentalin passing the law that ensures your child will wear a helmetwhen riding a bike.• Address primary concerns all parents have about lack oftime, and unbundle the concept of “membership” from theobligation to volunteer. Joining PTA is a valuable act in and ofitself, that shows support for the school and their child.
Traditional• Word of Mouth• Personal Touch• Publications/Fliers• Direct Mail• Advertising• NewspapersDigital• Website• Email• Social Media• Mobile• Blogs• Video
eNewsletters:DO• Keep subject lines simple• Create a professionaltemplate• Focus oncontent, stories, images andlinks• Monitor your numbersDON’T• Sound like SPAM• Be distracting• Be boring• Send everything toeverybody• Use Outlook
Five Reasons for a PTA Facebook Page:1. Remind parents of upcoming events, PTAmeetings, deadlines, etc.2. Build relationships with key audiences – make theconnection feel personal through photos, comments, likesand sharing3. Recruit volunteers for events and/or leadership roles4. Educate key audiences on how the PTA benefits theirchildren, the school and the community5. Discuss important issues and mobilize parents into action
Facebook Tips:• Assign responsibilities, share tasks, set more than oneadministrator• Share content that relates back to your key messages andcommunications objective• Vary your posts• Engage• Use Facebook Insights• Set a schedule for posting
Blocking, Hiding, Deleting…OH MY!• Block, hide and delete posts sparingly• Foster an open community where people can respectfullyshare thoughts and opinions• Take the opportunity to engage in discussion• Move the conversation offline
Tweeting for your PTA:• Start by listening and observing• Learn the “rules” of Twittero 140 characters (includes spaces)• Learn common termso @ mentiono RTo DMo # Hashtag
Tweeting for your PTA cont.:• Be conversational and tweet several times a dayo RT otherso Recognize new followerso Respond to @mentionso Use hashtags strategically
More Helpful Hints:• Evaluate the “need” to have a PTA presence in allsocial media sites• Consider developing a content calendar• Keep all social media passwords in one place – Exceldoc or hard copy• Publicize your PTA social media sites
Questions?California State PTAcommunications@capta.orgMichelle EklundCalifornia State PTA Communication Managermeklund@capta.org