Here is our #SchoolPR question and answer blog with Zachery Fountain.

#SchoolPR Q&A: Zachery Fountain

RB: What is your name and occupation?

ZF: Zachery Fountain, Director of Communications and Public Relations for the Flagstaff Unified School District.

RB: How would you describe your job and where you work to a complete stranger?

ZF: The work of a school communications director is that of an air traffic controller.  We have schools, programs, and activities that are always occurring and it is my role to ensure that we can appropriately share this information with our stakeholders.  This means creating predictability from all of the different groups so that their great work can be effectively shared and promoted for the greatest good.

RB: If someone were to shadow you for a day, what would they learn or what would you want them to learn about you?

ZF: I would want them to learn that I believe in high expectations in all that we do.  Our work is the ultimate start up. We have only so many opportunities to support our students, families, and community and I want us all to succeed to the best of our abilities.

RB: What’s one pet-peeve you see all too often in the education space that you’d change if you could?

ZF: The idea that we are only competing with other educational institutions.  Individuals receive a massive number of targeted messages everyday and we are not just competing with the school down the street, but also every large organization with an advertising budget.  This means that we have to invest in quality communication and visual mediums that drive student experience; not just singular events.

RB: If you had a magic wand and could fix three things about K-12 education, what would they be?

  1. Respect for school communications teams as professionals.
  2. Commitment to branding resources.
  3. Increase in the number of staff applying to join the education profession.

RB: What do you miss the most about being a kid in school?

ZF: We moved around a lot while I was in school and the thing that I miss the most is exploring new communities and meeting new people along the way.  There was a sense of adventure and it always paid off with great lessons and experiences.

RB: What grade level did you enjoy the most and why?

ZF: I enjoyed my junior year of high school at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Nev., because Mr. Mark Remillard taught me that my passion for politics and communications could be used together on the Forensics team.  It was the first time that I could be competitive off of the basketball court and join other students who had similar passions. The son of a military officer, I really felt like I finally found a school community at Centennial and I will always be grateful to Mr. R for creating that opportunity to grow in new ways.

RB: What did you think was “cool” when you were young that isn’t cool now?

ZF: My Sony Walkman.  Back then, 12 Foo Fighter songs on the go was an incredible feeling.

RB: In your opinion, what makes a brand good?

ZF: A good brand is identity.  Knowing the who, what, when, why, and how from an icon builds buy-in and common understanding.  When folks can look at an icon and know the story or identify with the people, it is powerful in building trust overtime.  In an impression based marketing world, repetition of the values and comprehension of the work makes all the difference as organizations seek public trust.  So, it is more than logos, it is a bridge to storytelling that encompasses why anyone should care.

RB: How has the way parents and students communicate and engage with you changed since you started your career?

ZF: The big change is that our families have become platform agnostic.  They may check Twitter for a snow day alert, sign up for events on Facebook,  or check grades via an app. What this means is that we now have to adapt for multiple platforms and drive home communications in more comprehensive campaigns for the most basic of information.  As each of these platforms fine tune their practices, it adds more requirements that we need to be prepared for as we seek to break through.

RB: If you were given ad space for a 30-second Super Bowl commercial to promote where you work, what would the commercial look like?

ZF: The commercial would start with images of a traditional classroom experience, a needle drop sound effect would drop, and there would be a rapid set of images and video showing the fast paced experiences in our district closing with a large FUSD logo and a link to a splash page for all of the programs that were featured.

RB: Do you have any bold predictions for what K-12 education will look like in 20 years?

ZF: I believe that we are the verge of a massive change in K-12 education with large segments of teachers, staff, and administrators on the edge of retirement.  It means new ideas, while also a loss of institutional knowledge for all organizations. How we navigate this gigantic change is going to be interesting in that the greater adoption of technology inside and outside the classroom, with more prevalent consumer practices towards education, there are great opportunities on the horizon if districts are prepared.

Team gathered to review calendar at a roundtable

A Content Calendar: What it is and why you needed it yesterday

What is a content calendar?

Content calendars are shareable resources that your team can use to plan all content creation and promotion and visualize how your content is distributed throughout the year.  A content calendar gives you the direction you need to develop rich, quality content on various platforms and stores it all in one place. By establishing and maintaining a consistent theme, planning your posts, and crafting robust content on time, a content calendar aids your school or district communications team by saving them time!

Developing a content calendar allows for more time to be proactive and less weight on your shoulders during the busy school year when you have to be reactive. Content calendars are integral to a successful marketing strategy, yet only 32 percent of companies that utilize content marketing have a written process for it (Content Marketing Institute). In posting thoughtfully curated content, you increase your school’s following, boost engagement, connect with your students and staff members, and maintain your school narrative.

Establishing Guidelines

When creating a successful content calendar, the first step is establishing guidelines. This means assigning content owners, publishers, and schedulers for each platform and theme. For you, this might be an athletic director, the journalism teacher, or anyone who’s already involved in creating content. Starting is the hardest part, so make it easier on yourself by adding important dates and themes from previously established calendars like your school’s academic calendar or a sports calendar.

Determining a Cadence

The second step of implementing a content calendar is determining a posting cadence. Your cadence is how often you post content to each platform. For example, you may post to Twitter 12 times a day and Instagram only twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. A consistent cadence helps your community establish trust and know what information they can rely on and when. If the cadence is disrupted, you can leave your students and staff members feeling confused.

Establishing a cadence also keeps you from forgetting about that one platform that hasn’t had much attention in a while. It’s important to be aware of the different levels of interaction on your social platforms as each of these is likely to vary in engagement. Knowing what content performs well, which platform is most impactful, and the most ideal days and times to post, is key to defining your cadence.

Quality Content

Determine what content resonates with your audience. To do this, utilize the analytics tools provided by your social media platforms. These metrics are often titled “Insights” or “Analytics” and can be found on Instagram Business profiles, Twitter, LinkedIn Business profiles and Facebook Business pages. Through these results, you can develop a deeper understanding of what types of posts perform well and when. For example, your audience may resonate more with your school’s sports teams and engage more with score posts or updates from the latest play on Twitter. Or maybe you just rolled out a new career program and your parents are highly engaged with articles on Facebook explaining what’s new. By observing metrics, you discover what’s performing best.

Theme consistency is a good indicator of a strong social media direction and presence, but it’s also beneficial to include features of diverse perspectives. For example, you could ask a teacher to write a blog about their teaching style, or you could reach out to your principal or headmaster for a blog on what makes a good leader. Not only is consistency key, but diversity and inclusiveness is paramount. No one likes being left out and that goes for staff, sports teams, art clubs, teachers and your community as a whole. Make sure you’re not being one-sided in your features and posts.


Because so much of the school year is spent being reactive, scheduling out your content ahead of time is incredibly important. If you can’t fill in every blank space on your content calendar, don’t panic. Instead, include a placeholder theme of the post with a due date for the draft. This way, you won’t go days without content and you’ll have a direction for what’s needed, along with a deadline. For example, if you know your school will need content to post on Veteran’s Day and you host a Veteran’s Day breakfast each year, your calendar might look something like this:

| Holiday | Veteran’s Day | Take pictures at Veteran’s Day Breakfast | Post to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram | Due Date: November 11, 2020 |

A good rule of thumb is planning out your content 1-2 weeks in advance. That way, you can see which days of the week are more saturated with content and which days may need some attention.

A successful marketing campaign requires an organized, well-thought-out approach. With a content calendar, you can schedule posts weeks or even months in advance instead of brainstorming them in a frenzy the day of. There are plenty of free content calendar templates available online, and you can even get started with a simple Excel spreadsheet. You’ll be happy you started- a content calendar can bring you one step closer to achieving your marketing objectives and exhibiting your school’s growth!

9 tips to recognize teachers and staff throughout the year

9 tips to recognize teachers and staff throughout the year

Retain and motivate your staff with positive acknowledgment

As a leader, it’s important to create a cohesive team culture for your employees. A major part of this is showing recognition for your team of administrators, office staff, and teachers throughout the school year.

Your staff walks through the school doors day after day for more than just a paycheck. They want their contributions to make a difference and impact their students – the real reason they are there. Along the way, though, staff members also want to feel appreciated and recognized for their hard work, and this starts from the top down.

Recognition in the workplace has been proven to increase retention, engagement, performance and a sense of fulfillment for employees. Knowing their leader cares about their role and the effort they put forth, employees feel a greater sense of accomplishment, purpose, and ultimately reward. 

It’s important to remember that recognition needs to be authentic. Your staff can easily identify an artificial compliment during the morning meeting. How do you ensure your praise is sincere? 

  • Be thoughtful and specific. Take a few moments ahead of time to articulate – in your mind or in writing – the explicit value the person’s actions have brought to the school/team/students/etc.
  • Use your staff members’ names when recognizing them in front of their colleagues. 
  • Make eye contact and use positive body language. If you seem disingenuous or disinterested, your efforts will have a negative lasting impression and create distrust amongst your staff.  

Along with authenticity, consistency is key to effective recognition. Starting off the school year strong is essential, but you want to maintain steam throughout the year. Being consistent will keep your staff engaged during the hyper-active times of the year and feeling motivated through the last days leading up to summer break.

Here are nine tips for recognizing your staff throughout the school year that will keep them engaged, fulfilled and hungry for more.

Peer-to-Peer Recognition

Peer-to-peer recognition creates a considerate team environment and fosters collaboration. You can create a board in the staff lounge or front office with notes of appreciation to colleagues, nominate a staff member each week and hang their photo on a board with positive mentions from colleagues, or post sticky notes with positive messages on a teacher’s room door. You can also recognize staff members on their birthdays – whether it’s a monthly email recognizing staff’ birthdays or simply wishing ‘Happy Birthday’ to your personnel on their special day, the thought will provide feel-good moments to your team.

Celebrate Milestones

Observing staff anniversaries or applauding milestones is a touching recognition opportunity. Celebrating a new teacher’s completion of their first year or a tenured staff member’s 20-year anniversary at the school, these highlights are vital to celebrate. These are great gifting moments as well. A personalized plaque or a gift card to a local restaurant are popular options that are easy to get and have a meaningful impact.

Acts of Kindness

A simple compliment goes a long way. Exuding genuine kindness towards your colleagues and staff every day is an easy and effective way to build rapport and show you care. Showing an interest in a staff member’s personal life is a considerate way to display compassion. Asking about their weekend plans, their family’s vacation, or purely how they’re doing on any given day shows an easygoing and natural approach to be a thoughtful leader.

Positive Feedback

Along with acknowledging achievements and providing shout-outs to your team, it’s important to reinforce their performance with positive feedback. Constructive, encouraging, and actionable feedback is just as beneficial as a ‘thank you’ on a consistent basis. It helps your team feel a sense of accomplishment, reassures their dedicated efforts, and emboldens their drive to keep going.

Free Staff Meals

Providing your staff with a free breakfast or lunch a few times a year is an enjoyable way to recognize their roles throughout the school year. Giving staff time to sit and enjoy a break with each other is also a great way to maintain collaborative rapport amongst the larger team. A free meal is an easy way to appreciate the entire team at one time.

Growth Opportunities

Providing project opportunities to encourage growth is another way to recognize your team for their continued efforts. Providing committee leadership openings is important as well. Continuing to encourage staff to enhance their skills, discuss their long-term plans, and consciously put them in growth situations will flex your muscles as a leader and grow their individual flame. Make sure to offer continued support, guidance, and feedback as well.

Give Time Back

The gift of time is a hot commodity to educators; shortening a meeting or surprising your staff with a cancellation to give time back is an appreciated way to recognize their busy schedules. Any extra time to plan or catch up is always valuable. Also, ensuring staff meetings are concise and efficient is welcomed. Provide relevant district or school news in a timely manner and avoid frivolous topics that can be covered in an email.

Signs of Appreciation

It’s important to show your staff appreciation for all their contributions. Whether it’s the secretary who manages the homecoming committee or the teacher who is always ready to cover another class, letting your staff know you are grateful and value their efforts is essential.  A sincere ‘thank you’ is the quintessential sign of gratitude that every leader needs. Writing a handwritten note or humbly saying ‘thank you’ to a staff member is an effective and noticed method for recognizing them on a regular basis. Even better, it doesn’t cost a thing.

School Merchandise

A fun way to recognize your staff, while also presenting a consistent brand image, is giving free merchandise. Apparel, office supplies, drinkware, and writing utensils are all great items to display your school logo or mascot and gift to staff members. The options are endless. Utilize ‘spirit days’ where staff can wear their school apparel. Your team will feel a sense of pride using and wearing items with their school imagery and branding.

Remember, your teachers, administrators, and staff choose to be at your school for more than a paycheck. Let them know their contributions don’t go unnoticed. Put these nine tips into action to show your genuine appreciation for long-term retention, engagement, and happiness.

When engaging alumni, the two most popular ways we think of are asking alumni for donations and reunions. However, it is important to know that your alumni are looking for more than just being asked for money and hanging out with former classmates. Alumni can be an important ongoing part of your school’s community, including interacting with current students. These 5 ways will help you to engage your alumni on a deeper level.

5 ways to engage alumni

Offering More Relevant Content and Opportunities to Engage with Alumni on a Deeper Level

When engaging alumni, the two most popular ways we think of are asking alumni for donations and reunions. However, it is important to know that your alumni are looking for more than just being asked for money and hanging out with former classmates. Alumni can be an important ongoing part of your school’s community, including interacting with current students. These 5 ways will help you to engage your alumni on a deeper level. 

Social Media

85% of alumni organizations at large report they “do a poor job,” or “need to do more” to attract and engage young alumni. A key way to reach out to your alumni is to meet them where they are at. For many of your grads, especially the younger ones, they are hanging out on social media. In fact, 61.6% of grads use social networking sites to keep in touch with their alma mater. 

Nostalgia campaigns that take advantage of the #ThrowbackThursday hashtag on Twitter and Instagram can catch the attention of your alumni. You can also share information about upcoming events that alumni may be interested in. One example of this is sharing the date and time of the homecoming football game. To keep alumni engaged that can’t make the big game, ask people to show their school pride by sharing a photo of themselves wearing school colors.  

Monitor the hashtags your alumni use when sharing content about your school so that you can take advantage of relevant hashtags. Also, monitor what social media platforms your alumni use. If your alumni are really engaged, you might consider setting up social media accounts specifically for your alumni. 

Also, don’t forget to segment your audience. You’ll have alumni that range in age so make sure to target each segment where they are and with content that is most relevant to that group. To help you segment your alumni, currently, you’ll typically find graduates of less than 10 years on Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, while you’ll find that graduates of 10 or more years are likely hanging out on Facebook and their email inboxes. 

For the more professional side of social network platforms, utilize LinkedIn to help your grads focus on higher education and/or finding a job. This is a great platform to show that you still care about your graduates and their progress. On LinkedIn, you can build groups or communities for your grads where alumni can connect with people from their class and reach out to businesses looking for employees. 

A Place on Your Website

Many school websites focus on prospects as well as current students. Consider creating an alumni microsite or an alumni portal that offers benefits and showcases relevant content like events, news, photos, and resources. In fact, 78% of alumni prefer to access their benefits online. But don’t let your alumni content on your main website get buried, however. You want your alumni to find the link or portal easily.

If you have the resources and time, consider curating a blog on the alumni site that shares relevant content, like tips for stand-out resumes, interview etiquette, and other fun topics. 

Maintain Networks and Offer Resources

Speaking of resources, two of the most important resources you can offer alumni is networking and help with finding a job. You can offer to make introductions, keep alumni engaged with their former professors and offer career fairs. Even as a high school you can help your alumni network and find jobs, especially if they have moved back to your community. Who better to know local businesses and their need for employees than the local schools and their employees who live in the community?

LinkedIn has recently become a great tool for schools to provide alumni with career resources as well. In fact, it can be pretty hands-off for your school–just create the group and allow the networking to happen organically! These groups can also give current students and alumni the opportunity to create professional relationships and establish a career-driven network with other alumni. Twitter can also be a great tool to share job leads or relevant articles on finding jobs (or perhaps share posts from that blog we mentioned above). 

Presence at Events and Collaboration

Do you have an event or a student organization that could benefit from alumni support? If your event needs career panelists or judges, staff for student retreats or mentors for students, alumni are perfect for filling that role. Not only is it a great way to get your alumni involved with the current student population making them feel as if they are still part of the community, but it can also help current students better understand the skills they are developing for later in life. Consider having a group of alumni that you rely on often for these roles and refer to them as alumni ambassadors. 

Hire Your Alumni

Who better to support your school and show school spirit like no other than your alumni? Obviously the job of teacher or mentor is a great job for many alumni, giving them the chance to interact with current students, but you may find other ways to support alumni with building projects, event planning, and other ancillary projects the school develops. There are so many roles within your school that alumni can fill with gusto and pride!

From utilizing social media accounts better to having grads mentor or even teach your current students, you can build your school’s community. By engaging your alumni where they are at and on a deeper level, you’ll be able to have more meaningful interactions with them that benefit both your school and your grads. 

Useful stats to better understand Generation Z.

Useful statistics and info to better understand Gen Z

Generation Z is the newest generation to be named and encompasses people born between 1998-2015. They are currently make up nearly 74 million people in the United States and, by 2020, Gen Z will make up about 40 percent of the U.S. population (Sparks & Honey). 

The Greatest Generation1928-1946
Baby Boomers1947-64
Generation X1965-80
Generation Z1998-present

They are the first generation of true digital natives, meaning from an early age, they have been exposed to the Internet, social media and mobile devices. Because of this, Gen Z is incredibly comfortable researching and cross-referencing sources of information before making a decision.

In a time of increased competition among public, private and charter schools, it has never been more vital for school administrators to understand Gen Z and what makes them unique. They do their research and what they see online from your school influences their opinion of your brand. 

Here are a few data points to keep in mind when you’re thinking through how to effectively communicate with Gen Z.

45% of Gen Z say they are online “almost constantly” (compared to 24% in 2014-2015), and another 44% say they go online several times a day. (Forbes)

60% of surveyed Gen Z will not use a website or app if it loads too slowly. Similarly, 62% will not use an app if it is too difficult to navigate. (Content Square)

Instagram and YouTube are the two most popular social media channels for Gen Z. (99 Firms)

It’s estimated that Generation X had an attention span of about 40 seconds, Millennials of about 5 seconds, and Gen Z, even less. (Sarah Gibb, Future Shopper)

Both Gen Z and Millennials are turned off by brands that constantly self-promote. (Social Media Week)

More than 40% of Gen Z and Millennials expect to see user-generated content before making a purchase. (Statista)

More than half of Gen Z (51%) say their generation is more creative than previous generations, according to a 2019 study conducted in the United States and United Kingdom by JWT Intelligence. 

After watching their Millennial siblings expose everything in their personal lives for posterity on social media and suffer the consequences, Gen Z has grown up more cautious about leaving their digital footprint behind. (Content Square)

75% percent say their mobile device/smartphone is their device of choice, compared to their laptop (45%). (National Retail Federation, IBM)

Gen Z consumers are 2x more likely to shop on mobile than Millennials. (99 Firms)

73% use their mobile device to text and chat, while only 36% do schoolwork through their mobile device. (National Retail Federation, IBM)

47% of U.S. Gen Z consumers research items on mobile devices while shopping at brick-and-mortar locations. (Retail Touchpoints)

60% of Gen Z are more likely than average consumers to hang up if their call isn’t answered in under 45 seconds. (Business Wire)

63% of Gen Z members prefer real people to celebrities when it comes to advertisements. (BazaarVoice)

61% know someone who has been cyberbullied or stalked online. (Alanna McLeod, Burns Marketing)

70% of teens are working entrepreneurial jobs like teaching piano lessons or selling items on eBay. (Harvard Business Review) 

Gen Z’s are the least likely to believe there is such a thing as the “American Dream.” Many have watched their older Millennial siblings dream big and then move back home when it didn’t work out, which has given Gen Z a generally practical, no-nonsense mindset. This means that they look for products and messaging that reflect reality, rather than a perfect, imagined life. (Ruth Bernstein, Advertising Age, Move Over Millennials – Here Comes Gen Z)

Gen Z is saving money far earlier in life than older generations. About 60% of the people surveyed by Lincoln Financial Group between ages 15-19 have a savings account and 71% say they are focused on saving for the future. (Lincoln Financial Group)

63% are worried about their future. (Sparks & Honey)

Gen Z influences $600 billion in family spending. (99 Firms)

60% expect to have multiple careers by age 30. (Sparks & Honey)

76% want to make their hobby their job. (Alanna McLeod, Burns Marketing)

63% believe entrepreneurship should be taught in college. (Alanna McLeod, Burns Marketing)

45% choose brands that are eco-friendly and socially responsible. (National Retail Federation, IBM)

46% agree that their friends’ recommendations and opinions matter when choosing a brand. (National Retail Federation, IBM)

60% want to have an impact on the world. (Alanna McLeod, Burns Marketing)

Education is evolving faster than ever. The choices of where a student can study are growing, and schools of all shapes, sizes, and stature must define what they stand for and take into consideration the differences between Gen Z and Millenials when crafting their communications.

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