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22-year school comms professional
Former assistant professor
K-12 PR, marketing and branding agency owner
Crazy about design, efficiency and helping others
Though school may be out for summer break, admissions and administrators know that finding time to relax is hard as you prepare for the fall (especially for those of us responsible for enrollment!).
Well-deserved, as it may be after this past year, when you’re a school communicator, putting your feet up and trying not to look at emails, takes practice. However, for the sake of not becoming married to work, taking a break is absolutely necessary (check out this personal post on burnout here).
A great way to put aside work without feeling anxious is picking up a book (or putting on headphones and listening to the audiobook like School Comms Lab founder Amanda Holdsworth likes to do) where you can learn professional tidbits without feeling like you’re at work. Though there are many great reads out there, we have narrowed down the list to some of our favorite books for school communicators.
“Success in dealing with people depends on a sympathetic grasp of the other person’s viewpoint.”
By Dale Carnegie
If you haven’t read it, what are you doing? Though published in 1936, Carnegie’s bestseller never goes out of style. “How to Win Friends and Influence People” (linked to the new, “Digital Age” version), is a guide for every person on how to become successful in any social setting or interaction. For education professionals, the book serves to help strategize your communication around an understanding about appealing to basic human social psychology. This book will be helping you communicate long after you retire!
“Remember, teamwork begins by building trust. And the only way to do that is to overcome our need for invulnerability.”
By Patrick Lencioni
Teamwork makes the dream work…. If the team works well together. As a school leader, some of your responsibility as a communicator entails the facilitation of a healthy and effective dynamic among employees. “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” is a compelling book for leaders of any kind. Lencioni gets to the bottom of what makes a group of talented individuals struggle as a team. Readers are equipped with tools and models to lead a successful team.
“This was one of my first assigned books as a doctoral student in Organizational Change and Leadership,” noted Amanda. “It’s a quick read and almost everyone I know was able to identify with at least a couple–if not all–of the ‘team’ members.”
“As content strategist Jonathon Colman, who works for Facebook, told me: ‘Start with empathy. Continue with utility. Improve with analysis. Optimize with love.‘”
By Ann Handley
Like her title states, seasoned marketer Ann Handley believes we are all writers these days. Despite technology, writing matters more because it has the power to drastically shape how people view us. “Everybody Writes” will help you step up your content and communication with expert insight on how to master making compelling and memorable content.
“What stories do you need to tell? And how do you tell them?”
By Kindra Hall
“Stories That Stick” sets the stage for your school’s story. As The School Comms Lab community should know, storytelling has been all the rage in the world of PR and marketing. And this is not a stage. Storytelling is here to stay. With that said, how do we actually determine as school communicators which tale is worth telling and how? In her book, Hall guides readers through the answers to these questions introducing four key types of stories.
“I heard Kindra speak at a past NSPRA Seminar and, as a professional storyteller, her message resonated with me, so, of course, I had to get the audiobook version since I enjoyed her session. This book helps school communicators and leaders understand the power of a good story and how, by telling your (or your school’s) story in a compelling way, it can positively impact your brand. It’s not as difficult as you think,” shared Amanda.
“Focus on the stories behind the logo—create current positive experiences and long-lasting ‘wows’ to delight and move your market into comfort and loyalty.”
By Scott Stratten
No one likes change. Or at least, Scott Stratten and I don’t. Many of us may feel the discomfort of this change in our careers. As technology and innovation continues to transform business communications, those of us working in the field feel like we are in a race to keep up. Like any change, this constant demand to re-learn can be daunting. In “Unbranding: 100 Branding Lessons for the Age of Disruption,” Stratten challenges this with 100 stories which take us backwards, serving as a reminder that our brand’s core values should withstand this “age of disruption.”
“Scott Stratten spoke at an NSPRA Seminar years ago and boy, was he a phenomenal presenter. Unbranding is a great book and aligns well not only with what Scott speaks about, but what I discovered in my post-doc research which led to the CultureComm Model. In essence, if your school’s culture is poor, your employees’ engagement and morale is most likely low and that affects your customer (i.e. families and students). You cannot ‘brand away’ a crappy reputation…you have to fix what’s inside first and then work on effectively communicating your brand,” Amanda said.
“Brand styling is about aligning your identity with your business aspirations and helping you get where you want to be, faster.”
By Fiona Humberstone
“How to Style Your Brand” is a guide for every kind of professional in entrepreneurship, marketing or communications. You don’t need to be a fashionista to understand the ins and outs of styling. Similar to The School Comms Lab, Humberstone advocates for branding that effectively creates connection between you and your audience. As we all know, digital media has called for school social media and online communications. The design of your school’s identity is in itself sending a message. After this read, you will have an eye for sending the right one!
“I win or I learn, but I never lose.”
By Marie Forleo
After this past year, everyone needs some words of encouragement…school leaders, maybe a bit more. In her The New York Times bestselling book, “Everything is Figureoutable,” Forleo reminds us that at the end of the day, the only thing standing in our way is us. This book challenges our perspective of the complicated and impossible by helping re-instill a belief in ourselves.
“All I can say about this book is that there have been many times since I listened to it where I’ve whispered, ‘It’s okay…this is figureoutable.’ Cheesy? Sure. But for me, it’s a great reminder,” Amanda shared.
“Giving people room to make mistakes doesn’t mean excusing bad behavior, ignoring poor decisions, or avoiding the feedback they need to hear to be better. Teaching people to problem-solve on their own is important, but so is helping them grow from their mistakes.”
By Kristen Hadeed
This one is for the perfectionists. For those of us who feel that anything less than perfect is unacceptable, the aftermath of making a mistake or leading someone who makes a mistake can be hard to face. “Permission to Screw Up” is a reminder that without mistakes, we would never grow. Hadeed’s laugh-out-loud writing tells her own story of succeeding as a CEO because of her own failures.
“Here’s the gist: building a business is hard,” Amanda said. “Having a career you care about is hard. No one is perfect…it’s important that we all remember that and author Kristen Hadeed shows readers how to learn from situations where things went seemingly wrong and move on.”
We’re curious: what books should we add to our summer reading list? Leave a comment below and let us know!
Brand Journalist Gabby Esposito is a student at the University of Connecticut pursuing a degree in journalism and philosophy. As a Brand Journalist with School Comms Lab and Holdsworth Communications, she works to tell the stories of brands and businesses, including schools.
Her articles are an organic form of PR, branding, and marketing. She is passionate about sharing the stories of others—big or small—and learning about lives and ideas that are different from her own. She has written for publications including Her Campus and UConn.
Gabby is from Connecticut and enjoys spending time with her family, dog, and two cats. Aside from writing, she enjoys cooking, traveling, watching Tik Toks, and listening to podcasts.
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