This post was featured in the March edition of AASA School Administrator Magazine. To get the whole magazine click here.
Fall Creek, Wis., is home of the Fall Creek Crickets. We have 1,300 people. 825 students. three bars, two gas stations, one school. The latter sits at the center of the village, literally and figuratively.
On Friday nights during the school year, I know that most of the people in this village will be at a game, wearing green, cheering on our kids. On every other day of the week, the story of what happens within our walls has been limited to only those in our building. Trying to get people into the school physically, outside of sporting events, is a challenge for all schools. Fall Creek is no different. Everyone has busy lives.
The majority of people in our village in west-central Wisconsin do not have kids in school. We want them all to be on the journey with us, on their terms, not ours. People want to connect, but they want to do it on a schedule that fits them. We are completely OK with that because at the end of the day, it is not about the time of the connection but whether or not it happens.
We look at time as a commodity -- one that we can harness but not control. Parents and community members will engage in what we do if we give them the opportunity, but do not force the issue of time on them. With this in mind, we developed an ABC approach to community engagement. Find your AUDIENCE, build your BRAND and CELEBRATE kids.
Find Your Audience. According to www.statista.com, 78 percent of adults in the U.S. have a social media profile of some kind. As a school district, we needed to find where those profiles lived. After surveying our community, we found the adults preferred Facebook, the students preferred Instagram and the alumni favored Twitter. So that is where we engage socially. We don’t have to be present in every social media platform, just the platforms that are relevant to our people.
Build Your Brand. The term brand can definitely have a negative connotation, but we believe it is what people say about you when you are not there. Promoting the positives helps shape the narrative. Building our brand through our #gocrickets hashtag has helped us share the work of our kids in multiple areas. Printing the hashtag on Cricket apparel and giving it to the community at events has built a tremendous amount of momentum for our district. We added a “Where in the World is Fall Creek Pride” virtual map and told our community to take photos of themselves wearing their Cricket gear on vacation so we can spread the message. It has allowed us to show off a #gocrickets item in all 50 states and beyond. We have tried to turn those Go Crickets moments into a Go Crickets movement.
Celebrate Kids. The work performed in our schools is amazing if you think about it. We educate all kids, we move them academically and emotionally, and we provide a safe haven for those who need it. Celebrate that work should be at the forefront of what we do as school systems. As a board of education, we set a goal of sharing 7-10 non-athletic positive posts per week. Our community knows that the space is to celebrate, and we want everyone to join us on the journey. We provide the opportunity to connect, and through that connection we develop a great deal of social capital with the people in our world. That social capital is pivotal for trust. A photo, video or post can have a profound impact on emotions. The world has, and will always belong to the storytellers.
We have 825 students in our school, all with the desire to have their voice heard. When they don’t have the platform, we provide it. When we do, everyone has a chance to come along for the ride. We are the hub of our community. We are the voice for our kids. We are Fall Creek. Go Crickets.