Mobile Integration, The Cloud & Instagram.. Oh My!

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In an effort to stay current on emerging trends within the realm of digital communications, marketing and public relations, I read a variety of articles, blogs and news sites, from both “experts” and “average joes,” about once a month. Doing this not only benefits me as a communications professional, but allows me to better serve my District and our families. According to my latest round of research, here are some things communicators (including marketers and PR professionals) should be aware of as we head into the second half of 2014:

  • The Shift to Mobile: I cannot agree with this more. Although school PR/communications is a niche segment in the greater PR/marketing/communications stratosphere, the reality is that, given many of the recent legislative changes, families are school shopping, and have more educational options available, than any other time in American history. As such, websites and social media pages need to mobile friendly so that any parent (or other consumer for that matter) shopping during his/her lunch hour has the ability to quickly, easily and effectively get the information needed to make a decision. Landing on a web page that isn’t mobile friendly could cause a potential parent (or customer) to give up on your school, company or brand entirely.
  • “Join Our Cloud:” Although this trend doesn’t directly impact school districts looking to attract new students/families, it can be used to assist  employees. A cloud space for teachers can be a great way for them to store work and share collaboratively, a major plus given the amount of work many districts are facing as they work to rollout and implement the Common Core State Standards.
  • A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words:  Instagram is exploding with popularity, and its use of hashtags are a great way for companies, organizations and brads to interact with potential new customers and show-off their products. Instagram (I’ve used Instagram hashtags to search for everything from centerpieces to wedding dresses throughout my wedding planning process.)  However, the value of photos doesn’t end with Instagram: Pinterest continues to be popular, and, somewhat surprisingly, some articles I’ve read suggest that an individuals’ photo is one of the most important parts of a LinkedIn profile. (Confession: after reading that, I instantly updated my LinkedIn profile photo.) I’ve continued to expand my district’s Instagram page in throughout the past year, and will continue to do so moving forward.

*Photo from http://heidicohen.com/. 

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Coding, coding and more coding

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As a 21st century communications professional, website design, maintenance and management are three important components of my job.

I’m lucky enough (or unlucky, depending on which view of the millennial workforce you subscribe to… I’ve heard arguments casting the millennial job market in a positive light, as well as those casting it in a negative light… but that’s a topic for another day) to have received some website coding instruction while I was in college… but it was basic, providing me with the skills to build a simple website that would have been cutting age in the mid 1990s (something like this). To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention, or think much of, my coding instruction while in school; at the time, it seemed unnecessary. Today, however, I realize I was wrong; I think basic knowledge of how to build a website from scratch, or at least understand how to make custom edits if using a content management system, is an important skill and tool for public relations professionals and communicators to have. I also think it will pay off in the long run; within ten years, possibly sooner, I anticipate that will be expected that professional communicators have a base knowledge of coding and I have recently read a few articles about teaching coding to future communicators while in college.

Because of this, I have been doing some work on developing these skills on my own, outside of the office and when I can find time between nighttime School Board meetings and puppy training (which could almost be a full-time on its own). At the recommendation of one of my friends who is an actual developer, I have been using CodeAcademy, which I have found to be easy, helpful, and to the point. HTML Coding

I recognize that the majority of individuals interested in a career in public relations or communications aren’t going to study computer science while in college or have a lot of interest (or time to spend) in developing their coding skills on their nights and weekends. However, I do think a solid foundation can benefit communicators and think it’s important, where possible, to carve out an hour or two each week developing the skill.