Description: Engaging Data
In 2006 when I left the technology sector and a hefty salary to go and work in my hometown school system, everyone in my life (with the exception of my dad who was still a custodian there) told me it was a mistake.
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Before we start, it should be noted: I hear voices.
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Growing up, one television show in particular drove me crazy. Every week on Three’s Company, Jack Tripper would eavesdrop on Janet Wood talking to a friend (or some similar scenario with different characters) and make an assumption about what it meant.
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Many people contributed to this project in ways both large and small, but all played a part. My dad and sisters are my foundation. They are my biggest cheerleaders, helping me believe I can do anything I set out to do. I wish more of our young people had that kind of support at home.
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Description: Engaging Data
We are very familiar with using data in school systems. We can tell you which third grader needs a reading intervention to get them up to grade level, how many lunches are served in a given day, how many miles our buses drive each year, and how many computers are in our middle school lab.
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Imagine going on a hike without knowing anything about it. You don’t know how long it is, what the elevation is, or even what the weather is. When you don’t know where you are headed, how long it may take, or what the conditions may be, you expend a lot of energy and resources on things that don’t matter or even things that get in the way.
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Most television shows and movies that include a communication professional give the impression that most savvy PR people come up with brilliant campaigns at a moment’s notice and based exclusively on their intuition. For example, Olivia Pope from the television show Scandal routinely develops an extensive crisis response in the span of an hour-long show and always looks impeccable...
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When the topic of research comes up, it seems that school leaders, especially communication professionals, seem to think the area is reserved for the folks in lab coats or statisticians in front of computer screens. The truth is, our organizations are conducting research nearly every day—we just need to take notice and document what we learn.
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When schools and districts begin a conversation about adding research and tracking to their communication and engagement efforts, one of the first barriers is finding the time to add one more thing to an already long to-do list. The good news is that there are a number of ways to conduct research, track your efforts, and evaluate your programs without adding anything new.
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The elephant in the room when it comes to surveys is this: don’t ask if you don’t plan to do anything with the results. Surveys are work for everyone involved. They have to be designed, written, put into the correct platform, tested, revised, distributed, and marketed.
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Even when people are determined to follow the four-step process, conduct foundational research, track their efforts, and evaluate their success, there seems to be a stumbling block when it comes to developing truly measurable objectives for a communication campaign.
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One of the wonderful things about doing public relations work today is the amount of data easily available through analytics. It may be hard to imagine a world not that long ago in which practitioners had to guess at what the audience was responding to or conduct expensive and time-consuming surveys to get the same information that today is available with a simple click.
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While analytics is one of the easiest ways to collect data on communication efforts, there are other tools and systems that can help track efforts and make it easier to report on communication’s less-visible activities.
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Most people have no background or experience in understanding numbers as large as a school or district budget. They come to board meetings to try to serve as good citizens and get bombarded with millions and hundreds of millions in budget figures and large tables of numbers that make any average person want to run for the hills.
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Qualitative research sometimes doesn’t get the respect it deserves. It is messy, it doesn’t provide black-and-white solutions, and it doesn’t easily translate into a statistical report that makes people feel good.
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Sometimes when we go through the process of collecting data about an issue, it doesn’t come back the way we predict it will. This can put the data collector in a tricky position, especially if the school or district leadership team is already heading down a path based on the data coming back differently.
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If you’re not lucky enough to have a dedicated public relations professional at your school or district, this chapter is for you. It will also likely be helpful for small, one-person shops. While having an internal PR pro is ideal, there are some benefits to engaging a wider variety of departments and people in the effort.
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9781475841893:F0A_001-1
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Even if your district has a large PR department, it’s a good idea to provide a variety of training to ensure that everyone sees good communication as part of their job each day.
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Located just east of Sacramento, San Juan Unified School District serves a very diverse population—many walks of life are represented, from recent immigrants from the Middle East to sons and daughters of prominent politicians and everything in between.
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List of related communication ~terms with a definition of how they are being used in this book.
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Looking for additional information on one of the topics covered in this book? Here are a few organizations, books, and websites that may help.
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With more than twenty years of experience in communications, marketing, and public relations, Trinette Marquis is passionate about working with public schools and improving school community relationships. Early in her career, she cut her teeth with Fortune 500 companies, statewide nonprofits, and internet start-ups, but she came to the...
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