Social Media

It used to take a day or two for gossip to spread. Now thanks to social media, it’s instantaneous!

My friend Ari Katz recently shared this article with me. As the director of Camp Mesorah, he had summer camp in mind. Clearly, his message applies to schools as well. Social media can be dangerous for campers, students, their parents, and institutions.

Today, hundreds if not thousands, of parents feel free to comment about perceived insults, challenging assignments, gross fish sticks, or annoying new policies. In the past, an upset parent might have commented to a friend, “My child had too much homework tonight – it was just busy work!” Or… “I thought the school trip was disorganized.” Perhaps the parent would have put a note in their child’s knapsack or called an administrator.

Channeling negative social media is a challenge. First, you need to point out the possibility of a culture that promotes negativity, snarkiness, and a lack of ownership. Mot important, you must create an alternative, open communication environment so that parents know their feelings and needs will be heard and addressed.

I remember the day I introduced my grandmother to the Internet. She asked, “Is this a good thing or a bad thing?” I replied, “both.” It’s up to us to ensure that it is a good thing.

Click here for more insights and helpful advice from Ari Katz.

To learn more about crafting compelling mission statements, creating memorable narratives, or any of my other day school marketing and development services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Authentic Face – part I

Buzz Words

Buzzwords come and go. We could dismiss them as passing fashions or recognize that they reflect societal concerns. Last week at two different professional conferences I attended, the word that dominated all conversations was: authenticity.

In today’s politically charged climate, the thirst for authenticity is not surprising. As Purim and its themes of masks, unmasking and Jewish identity and survival approach, I invite you to consider how authenticity applies to your school.

That might seem strange. After all – how could you not be authentic if you are a Jewish school? Isn’t honesty a core value? Sure, but… from a messaging perspective, you might be surprised.

Let me “share.” During the past month I’ve spent too much time perusing “Jewish women’s” Facebook sites. The wildly divergent responses to posts inquiring about schools committed to specific priorities in specific areas shocked me. (Of course, as a person who has been labeled yeshivish, modern-machmir, and left wing orthodox on the same day, I know that labels are in the mind of the labeller.) Yet, it seems clear that, in an effort to be all things to all people, many schools are not getting a clear, authentic message out.

Click here to read The Authentic Face – part II

To learn more about compelling video marketing tools or any of my other day school marketing and development services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Authentic Face – part II

Unmasked, Authentic Face

So – what should a school do? Be transparent! Explain your priorities. How? Well, I know of two single sex-schools that proclaim their Zionism proudly. One prides itself on the floats that students spend months creating for the Salute to Israel parade; the other excuses students who cut school, with parental permission, to attend the parade. To use Facebook vernacular: what’s up with that? School number two does not want its boys to socialize on Fifth Avenue with the girls from school number one (or any girls from any school). That core value surpasses attending the parade. Both schools should have marketing messages that make their priorities clear. One pluralistic school I worked for professes its inclusive welcoming of all families. Yet, it schedules mandatory family activities on Shabbat – granting shomrei Shabbat students who don’t live in walking distance of the school a pass. Authentically welcoming?

Your messages must be honest. It is not disingenuous to highlight certain priorities to specific parents and stakeholders. Of course, you need to address each parent’s concerns. In terms of unmasking, one constituent may need to see your eyes, another your mouth and a third – your ears (or your Ivrit b’Ivirt, STEM, and learning disabilities program). But, ultimately everyone must see your whole unmasked, authentic face.

Explore Purim! 

A few links to Purim Resources.

Lookstein Center

JTeach, (You may need to register.)

Jewish Agency

Click here to read The Authentic Face – part I

To learn more about compelling video marketing tools or any of my other day school marketing and development services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Lights, Camera, Action! – part I

Lights, Camera, Action!

“You’re ok live on camera, right?” This simple question makes many uber-confident heads of school, principals, and executive directors shudder!

Chances are, like it or not, you will be asked to do live interviews. Some might be the softball variety – requiring perhaps a few nice words as an honoree, some may be for local TV stations seeking color about Jewish holidays or your social action leadership program, while others may be interviews with reporters whose agendas are not clear-cut.

We’ve all suffered through dinners featuring normally vivacious educators and leaders looking stiff and uncomfortable. Worse, we’ve seen articulate people deliver memorized words in drab monotones. Since you don’t want to be THAT person on camera, take some time to prepare!

Click here to read Lights, Camera, Action! – part II

To learn more about compelling video marketing tools or any of my other day school marketing and development services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Lights, Camera, Action! – part II

Set the Stage

Except for circumstances where you have no advance warning, it’s best to prepare by practicing your message and your presentation style. These tips from photographer/videographer Judah Harris should help.

  Be sure that you know, to the greatest extent possible, the intended purpose of the video, where it will be seen, and why you’re the person being asked to appear on camera.

  Think not only about what you want to say, but also – especially if this is a marketing message – what the viewers might want to hear. Connect the two as seamlessly as possible. Stick to your message, but consider your audience.

  For a more natural (and believable) presentation, DO NOT memorize your text. Of course, you need to remember select ideas and specific key words so that you remember to incorporate them.

  Don’t be afraid to stop talking and look directly into the camera. Pauses can be very effective.

  Let the interviewer lead the way. Refrain from answering before the question has been completed… even if you are sure you know exactly what the question is.

  How are you doing on camera? If your school is producing this video, ask for the producer’s candid feedback. Are you coming across as interesting, believable, and clearly understood? If not, request a retake. (You certainly have this luxury when your school, not a TV station, has commissioned the interview.)

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Judah S. Harris is a photographer and filmmaker whose photography documenting Jewish life has been exhibited at the Jewish Museum and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum in New York City, Beth Hatefutsoth in Tel Aviv, and the Klutznick National Museum in Washington, D.C. To learn more, visit his website.
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There is a classic tale from the Talmud (Ta’anit page 23A), of Honi Ha-Me’agel, the circle maker, who came upon an old man planting a carob tree.  Honi asked the man, “How long will it take for this tree to bear fruit?”  The man replied, “Seventy years.”  Honi then asked, “And do you think you will live another seventy years and eat the fruit of this tree?”  The man answered, “Perhaps not. However, when I was born into this world, I found many carob trees planted by my father and grandfather. Just as they planted trees for me, I am planting trees for my children and grandchildren so they will be able to eat the fruit of these trees.”  Trees help us focus on the next generation… on a meaningful future.

On Tu b’Shevat (and every day) we applaud the Jewish educators who focus on the next generation day in and day out to ensure that our legacy continues mi’dor l’dor. I extend a personal mazal tov to our next generation: Bella! Of course… a hearty yashar koach to her parents and all her morot at Yeshiva Har Torah.

Click here to read Lights, Camera, Action! – part I

To learn more about compelling video marketing tools or any of my other day school marketing and development services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Attract with Pictures – part I

Lag b’Omer is around the corner. I recall it as being a fun filled day – when the dress code – and the mood were relaxed. (Yes: we got to wear our sneakers all day.) This away from the classroom day always yields bright, sunny, smile-filled pictures. But, as we all know, pictures can just be there or they can engage viewers, evoke emotions, and tell compelling stories. So, I thought that before you snap away, I would ask photographer and photo-essayist Judah S. Harris for some easy-to-implement tips guaranteed to add extra excitement, emotion and meaning to your Lag b’Omer photography.

Here are some quick ideas that will help students, teachers, staff, and volunteers return to school with a collection of more meaningful imagery!

  1. Show what’s happening – not just who’s there. Smiling faces are nice, but the activities are the real story. Strive for literary and not literal. Consider if someone looking at the photos later will be able to glean any unique details of the event. Ask your “photographers” to put their own stamp on the pictures. Perhaps they can choose a different viewpoint than the obvious, a different moment in an activity. Turn the camera or phone to vertical to vary the natural composition (we see horizontally).

  2. Emotion – look for and capture students’ and teachers’ reactions and involvement. Four people tapping in unison on their smart phones won’t produce emotional photographs, but documenting engagement with Lag B’Omer activities will. Human drama presents itself all the time; we just need to know where to look for it. Then we need to wait (so try to be patient as the photo opportunity unfolds – and if it doesn’t move along to the next subject).

Click here to read Attract with Pictures – part II

To learn more about crafting compelling mission statements, creating memorable narratives, or any of my other day school marketing and development services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Attract with Pictures – part II

  3. Aside from composition, look at light. Sunny is helpful, but not always. Dark shadows will hide the face and look unattractive. Cloudier is also fine, with less contrast, but make sure that the camera or phone can record in the dimmer light. Always hold the camera as steady as possible. Brace your arms as you hold the phone away from you, to avoid blurry images. When using a camera, brace it on the face for extra stabilization. Press the shutter slowly.

  4. Tell a picture story. One photo can tell a story, but four, five, 10, or more can amplify it. We call it a “photo essay” and each image tells another aspect of the story, in a way that one image can’t convey. Look around for a subject that lends itself to this. Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Photo essays can cover some or all of the sequences of a given subject. Experiment: try to do create something quick and intriguing during your Lag b’Omer outing.

When back at school, ask students, teachers, volunteers, and staff to submit some of their better photos. In class, students can write short notes to accompany and explain their pictures and, equally valuable, their motivation for taking it. These can be used on your school website, to accompany press releases or in end of the year montages. Classroom teachers might be so thrilled with the results that they will want to involve the children in creating a montage just for their class.

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Judah S. Harris is an accomplished photojournalist and fine art photographer. His photo essays have been published in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, New York Newsday, and Country Living Magazine. Judah’s photography documenting Jewish life has been exhibited at the Jewish Museum and the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion Museum in New York City, Beth Hatefutsoth in Tel Aviv, and the Klutznick National Museum in Washington, D.C. To learn more, 
visit his website or to explore Judah’s evocative photo essay about the educational process, click here.
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Click here to read Attract with Pictures – part I

To learn more about crafting compelling mission statements, creating memorable narratives, or any of my other day school marketing and development services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Masks We Wear – part I

Mishenichnas Adar! Even though we celebrate Purim in Adar II, we’ve certainly had Purim and simcha on our minds for some time. Other than all the fun and calories, Purim makes me think of two themes: overcoming obstacles and masks/hiding.

Sometimes, the obstacle we face is actually the mask we wear. Certainly, we all know the importance of “putting on a good face.” But when the school day, or term, is over – it’s important to shed the mask and look in the mirror. If the public image you portray is not in keeping with the school you run, it may be time to make some changes.

Some schools profess to be pluralistic, but they really aren’t. One school I worked with wanted to be both a mesivta and a college prep program but their college advisor didn’t know the deadlines for the SAT. Others proclaim that parents are their partners but don’t really know that more than half the parent body not only feels disenfranchised but publicizes this discontent to present and potential parents.

Click here to read The Masks We Wear – part II

Should your masks need a re-haul or just some tweaking, please reach out to me. Feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Masks We Wear – part II

Purim Resources: Many wonderful Purim resources are available to you at no cost.

As always, the Lookstein Center provides remarkably
in-depth Purim resources.

Gateways is a Jewish Education site which features several Purim resources specifically designed for children with special needs and educational challenges.

The Jewish Agency for Israel offers a comprehensive menu of resources including activities, history and geography, feminist perspectives, a summary of specific Purim customs practiced in different countries, and innovative educational activities.

The National Library of Israel’s Purim resource pack contains historical gems from the time of the British mandate – Purim celebrations, pageants, discounted railway tickets to encourage attendance at holiday festivities, and a somber cancellation of a Purim party due to the Warsaw Uprising. It also features personal insights from a collection of letters home from Jerusalem and activity suggestions.

Click here to read The Masks We Wear – part I

Should your masks need a re-haul or just some tweaking, please reach out to me. Feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Ready, Set, Go! – part I

Five-year-old Bella’s stream of consciousness remarks upon returning home from kindergarten: Savta – do you know the parsha? It’s Va’eirah. Do any parshiot that rhyme with it? We made three pages in our Hagaddah today. Pesach is not until three months from now, February, March, and April when it’s my birthday and Jett’s. But the story is in the parsha, so we are making some pages now and maybe more next week for ten plagues, even frogs. (And we sang Pesach songs, and the frog songs, but not dayenu… what other Pesach songs do you know, Savta?) Then we will not work on our Hagaddah but we will start again before Pesach. Our Hagaddah will have lots of pages and I will bring it to your house for the Seder and will we spilt the sea and will cousin Alex dress up as Eliyahu again?”

While digesting this information, I thought about the teacher’s time management brilliance. After all, those haggadot, afikoman bags, Kiddush cups, jumping frogs, baby Moshe baskets, and matzah covers do not rain down from the shamayim like man! The multitude of projects is only one part of any kindergarten teacher’s pre-Pesach to-do list. Teaching the Exodus narrative and the story of nation building, on a kindergarten level, takes dedication, creativity, and time!

Click here to read Ready, Set, Go! – part II

As you look ahead to Tu b’Shevat, Purim, and Pesach – I wish you a calendar full of dynamic learning experiences. Should you wish to discuss ways to plan effective, creative, marketing calendars – or even a pitch or two, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman