Friday, May 1, 2009

News Travels Fast: UIL Delay on Twitter

When TEA officially delayed all UIL events through May 11, it was fascinating to watch the news spread on Twitter. Over the next day or two, I spent some spare moments gathering data to show how fast it happened.

As best I can tell, the news broke on Twitter at about 11:07AM, when KXAN Austin News tweeted "UIL is postponing all competition until May 11 due to swine flu fears" to well over 4000 followers. From that message through 3pm, tweets about the announcement had about 430,000 followers:

# of followers of UIL Delay-related Tweets

A majority of those were the 300,000 followers of @BreakingNews, who are spread all over the world. If I remove that one tweet ("Texas is postponing all high school athletic and academic competitions until May 11 because of swine flu outbreak." at 11:26 AM), there's pretty constant growth reaching over 125,000 followers by 3pm:

# of followers of UIL Delay-related Tweets, not including @BreakingNews

Mostly this is just for fun, but it does lead to questions about timeliness and source of communications: How many affected parents heard about the delay from an unofficial source before any district employee contacted them? Is that a bad thing? (Please share your thoughts in the comments!)

More about the data: I used the Twitter API to search for UIL related tweets and download the results as XML files, then I recorded the number of followers each account had. I did my best to build an accurate picture, but the numbers can't possibly be perfect: Since these follower counts were gathered later, they are definitely higher than they were when each account made its UIL tweet. Not every follower of an account will have seen the UIL tweet. Although I gathered data on over 300 tweets, I certainly missed some.

Monday, April 27, 2009

TSPRA members on Twitter

This is a list of members of the Texas School Public Relations Association who are on Twitter. If you are a School PR/Education Foundation Pro who would like to be added, email me at with the following: Name, Title, School District/Organization Name, Twitter name.

Boykin, Alicia - Web Specialist, Mansfield ISD, @adboykin
Brown, Tommy - Public Information Officer, Alvarado ISD, @tommylbrown
Cantu, Jerry - Multimedia Specialist, Mansfield ISD, @davidjcantu
*Domitrovich, Brad - Director of Comm/PR, Bandera ISD, @braddomitrovich
Escovedo, Richie - Comm Spec/Webmaster, Mansfield ISD, @vedo
LaGrone, Charlotte - Dir of Comm Relations/Ed Found, Weatherford ISD, @clagrone
Morawski, Terry - Director of Communications, Mansfield ISD, @morate
Nielsen, Dave - Assistant Webmaster, Hurst-Euless Bedford ISD, @davidnielsen

Also see Texas School Districts on Twitter.

*Former TSPRA President.
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Saturday, April 25, 2009

OCC Week 3: Twitter

This week, we will take a look at Twitter. Honestly, Twitter is a wide open opportunity for our organization. Because the tool is so simple, building strategy around Twitter is much like discussing a strategy for how to use the telephone. Our Twitter recommendation will very likely evolve as those of you who are just trying out the service become more comfortable.
Mon/Tues: (If you already have an account, skip to #2.)

1.Go to and register for an account. I'd get a personal account, just to play around if you are new to the service. Find 10 to 20 people to follow. There are some suggestions below. You can use the basic Twitter interface or get an app.(Desktop:Twhirl,Tweetdeck,Tweetie(Mac only); iPhone: Tweetie, Twitterfon; Blackberry:Twitterberry) The experience is much easier and more fun via apps, although the basic Twitter interface at adds features everyday.

2. Find examples of professional organizations, corporations or other organizations using Twitter. You can follow them or just make note in the comments. Note anything you like or dislike about their Twitter presence. (If you don't feel you are a good judge of this yet, that's okay.)

Quick word of warning: Once you get a little comfortable on the service, it's easy to feel like posting any thought that pops into your head is appropriate. Twitter is public and can be easily searched. So, just basically be smart. I always follow the general rule that if I hesitate in posting something, I probably should not post it at all. That said, have fun!



A few lists of people you might want to pay attention to:

TSPRA Friends on Twitter
Texas School Districts on Twitter

Media Outlets on Twitter
Media People on Twitter

Nuts and Bolts of Twitter Pres, Common Craft Vid other and Possibly Helpful Stuff:

Twitter in Plain English by Common Craft

Photo gracias: Flickr user ~aorta~
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Become an RSS Super Hero in 3 Steps

Are you trying to monitor news, but just can't keep up? Have you realized how much information is available online but felt overwhelmed trying to keep track of it all? RSS is the secret weapon you need to become a news super hero.

RSS news feeds let you view news from many websites in one place. The potential is amazing! Anyone can monitor news from parents' blogs, other school districts, updates to specific Twitter and Wikipedia pages, and nearly any other website, all in less time than it would take to visit a handful of sites and check if they have anything new. And, it's so easy that you can get started in just 3 steps:

Step 1) Sign up for a Google Reader account. - You need an "RSS reader" (sometimes called an Aggregator) where you can choose news feeds you want to subscribe to and read their contents. Google Reader is great: it's free, it's easy, it's web-based (so you can log in from any computer), and you can use an existing Google account if you want.

Step 2) Get the web address of an RSS file. - Go to almost any site that posts news items and look for a small orange square with white radio waves in the middle. That icon is the universal symbol for RSS. Right-click on that icon, copy the link or web address. That is the web address of an "RSS file" -- a special file setup by the website that contains all the information your RSS reader needs to know about new items being posted on the site. Sometimes, instead of the icon, there might be words like "RSS" or "Subscribe to this site".

Step 3) Paste the web address into Google Reader. - Go back to your RSS reader and look for a button or link to add a subscription or feed. Paste the link you copied into the space provided.

Done! You've subscribed to an RSS feed. Keep finding and adding feeds from sites with information that's valuable to you. Remember, you don't have to read everything -- a big part of reading RSS feeds is skimming and just reading the items that are actually relevant to you (and then impressing everyone around you with your vast, cutting edge knowledge)!

Monday, April 20, 2009

OCC Week 2: Blogs

Thank you everyone for your participation in Week 1's study of LinkedIn. Your thoughts and recommendations will be part of the final proposal that goes to TSPRA in June. On to Week 2...

We will take a look at blogs. More specifically, we are interested in how a blog could possibly help TSPRA. Since I am(ahem) a little late getting the first day's info out there, it will be for Monday and Tuesday.

MONDAY/TUESDAY: Find an example of a blog that you like. Provide the URL for us and tell us what you like about it. (You will be awarded a few extra points if it is a blog for a professional organization, but it's not required.) If you're not sure how to tell if a site is a blog or just a garden-variety Web site, look for these tell-tale signs: users can make comments, articles (called "posts") are stamped with the date and the most up-to-date content is front and center and generally(not always) the writing is a bit more informal and less "newsy".
Want to search blogs only? Try Google Blogsearch.
Here's one I like (from PRSA San Antonio):
Here's the one for our district:

WEDNESDAY: Please review the section below, "Ideas," and offer your comments. Then, go find a mirror, look in it and say, "You're awesome!" That was from me. Enjoy your day.

THURSDAY/FRIDAY: Let's continue the great discussion on the idea of the TSPRA blog. A few details are listed below. I added one related to promotion today. Otherwise, I think we are working toward a solid recommendation.

*Regular posts would feature a group of regular authors(about 10). These authors would be required to write on a regular basis. A TSPRA staffer would be responsible for administrative duties related to the blog. A TSPRA member would serve as the Editor-in-Chief for blog content.
*The TSPRA president, EC and blog team would be responsible for encouraging subject-area experts to blog on related topics, i.e. bond elections, special event planning, online initiatives, etc.
*The TSPRA blog would need to secure an appropriate domain. This is inexpensive and will aid with credibility. (The other option, which is also fine, would be to use free hosting via blogspot, wordpress or typepad.)
*The TSPRA blog should be promoted in every possible venue. As the blog will serve as a showcase for the knowledge and talent within our organization and our field as a whole, it should be strongly promoted. Some outside(and inside) TSPRA will choose to interface mainly with the blog because that is where they are comfortable, so it deserves a strong focus.

A Great Video and Some Helpful Links About Blogging:

Thursday, April 9, 2009

OCC Week 1: LinkedIn

For the first week of the TSPRA OCC, we will tackle one of the greatest current online networking tools - LinkedIn. The base of LinkedIn is like an online contact manager. It's also a great place to share work experience/expertise, and to make connections with others with similar interests. TSPRA, as an organization, currently has no representation on LinkedIn. Our executive director, Judy Farmer, is a member and several other TSPRA members are using the site, but there is no formal way to connect as TSPRA members.


TUESDAY - Sign up for LinkedIn here. At the least, enter your current job information. Then search for and connect with three other TSPRA folks.(Hint: Judy Farmer and I are members. If you can't find a third, email me.) Then, please click on the comment link below and share your thoughts.(Remember, this is a public blog when commenting.) That's all for today, but feel free to click around within the service if you like.

WEDNESDAY - Today we will look at groups. Please join the newly created TSPRA group on LinkedIn. (I will have to approve you before you can get in there and play around, but I'll do it quick.) Feel free to invite your contacts. Also, if you'd like, add a topic of discussion in the group. Share your thoughts of the potential for this TSPRA group and how it can be used. Also, if you have any experience with other LinkedIn groups, what worked best for them or didn't work so well? Thanks again. Tomorrow we'll talk about real implementation of LinkedIn.

THURSDAY/FRIDAY - Today and tomorrow, we will discuss the real application of LinkedIn for TSPRA. Please answer the following questions in the comments. (I'll use your feedback to develop our official recommendation for LinkedIn.)
1. Who should manage the TSPRA LinkedIn group?
2. How much time do you feel will be required?
3. Where/how should TSPRA advertise its presence on LinkedIn, if at all?
4. Do you see LinkedIn more as a tool for communicating with members or for recruiting new members/promoting the organization? Both? Neither?
5. What role and/or regular interaction should the TSPRA Executive Director and Board have with the service, if any?

Lastly, thank you very much for your participation this week. We'll tackle blogs next week and go from there. - Terry

Helpful LinkedIn videos, posts, etc. -

How to Use LinkedIn by Jake Swearingen on

TSPRA Online Communications Committee

Welcome to the home of the TSPRA Online Communications Committee(OCC). This blog will host the work of the committee for the next six weeks(or longer, if needed). Each week, we will explore a new tool for our organization as we work toward a recommendation for the organization.
The work of the committee officially begins Tuesday, April 14(2009), but feel free to jump ahead to the first assignment.
Please direct any questions to Terry Morawski(, the Chair of this committee.