Today I’m excited to share with you a conversation with William Parker. William Parker is the Executive Director of Oklahoma’s Association of Secondary and Middle Level Principals. He has been an educator since 1993 and he recently released his second book, Messaging Matters. Here are some highlights from our conversation.
Tim Elmore: So many times we get in front of audiences where we’re passionate about our subject matter, but the audience is looking at us, shaking their heads and thinking, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” It happens in classrooms every single week across America, and it’s often not the teacher’s fault. We’re definitely passionate about our subject, but somehow the messaging isn’t as clear as it should be.
Andrew McPeak: It just doesn’t get through, and it reminds us of the value and importance of this conversation. Today, I’m really excited to speak with William Parker on the importance of messaging.
Tim: First of all, why did you write Messaging Matters, and why should educators even care about their messaging with students, teachers, and communities?
William Parker: Well, I believe that part of the responsibility of those of us in education is communicating to those within our community, but also communicating with those outside of our community—about the positives that are happening in our schools. Public opinion drives public policy, and as long as we want schools that are going to be supported by our communities, state governments, or our federal governments, we have to make sure that they’re seeing the best face of our school. Messaging to me is so important because teachers or school leaders need to be committed to celebrating the positives happening in schools—even though they’re managing negatives.
Tim: This almost sounds cliché to say in response, but all of us are sending messages whether we’re doing it on accident or on purpose. Whether it’s clear, or unclear, we don’t realize that we’ve got a brand, and we’re sending messages. So, let’s talk about some practical steps that educators can take to enhance their messaging. What are some things we can do if we’re going to try to pull off what you just described?
William: Let me give you six simple things that I try to have leaders think about—and they’re all no brainers—but sometimes I think we just need to be reminded.
- Carry your phone or your camera everywhere you go and capture moments.
Everyday you have the opportunity, whether it’s snapping photos or short videos, to see classroom activities—like when you give kids an award. Snap those moments, email them out, post them on social media, or tweet about them.
- Increase your social media shares.
Never before in the history of our schools have we had so much opportunity for free advertisement for our kids. I know that there are some districts that manage policies on social media, but come up with a policy that allows you to share as much as possible, because tech savvy parents are thrilled, and they will share those great happenings.
- Think about boosting the post.
Sometimes you can boost posts on social media, and those great moments reach even wider audiences than simply your school community.
- Share weekly positive summaries.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for you to be wrapping up every single week with the wonderful things that are happening, and somehow getting the word out to parents about those happenings.
- Use media relationships to promote your student and teacher activities.
Every school is connected to somebody, whether it’s a local newspaper, online resource, or a TV station. Become friends with someone at those media outlets, because they like to talk about great things happening in schools too—once they know you.
- Don’t be afraid to push out your press releases beyond your own community.
Your community loves it when other communities hear about them.
Tim: Those are great. Okay, one more question. What about the educational leader out there who seems to be struggling to move the school forward?
William: Well, let me say this to any school leader out there who is struggling to move the school forward. No strategies of messaging work without relationships. The most important thing you can do first is build positive relationships. So, with your teachers, students, or families, always be thinking about, “How can I build a relationship of trust? How can I be listening to their concerns and asking for their input so that I’m building and cultivating an atmosphere of understanding?”
Tim: This has been outstanding and the overarching thought that keeps racing through my head as I hear you talk is that, leadership operates on the basis of trust. Good cultures happen when trust happens in relationships, and if it’s a bad culture then usually it’s an issue of trust. I believe I’m hearing you say, “You want to build trust? Communicate.” This is what you’ve got to do well. Better communication, better trust.
I hope you take time during your commute to listen to the whole conversation. Click below to listen to the full discussion.
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