A Photographic Story

Change your lens, Change your story
Summer is a good time to think about better ways to use photography during the 2019-20 school year. As always, the key to communicating is understanding how the recipients of your messaging respond to your photography – be it homegrown or professionally produced. Here are two helpful suggestions from our friend and colleague Judah Harris.

#1 Happy Faces – a Lot of Them, and Not Enough of… People like to see themselves in pictures (usually) – and so will their family and friends. This was true even before the Selfie epidemic hit us. But don’t rely solely on the smiling-for-the-camera shots or photos of large groups to raise your school’s profile. Separate these types of pictures from more serious photography that actually documents your mission! Lots of faces prove that you have a crowd and imply that everyone is having a great time. But if that’s all of what we see most frequently in your marketing photography, we lose the details. What are the students actually experiencing? Keep in mind that photography that gets close and involved, is gripping and emotional. Viewers pay attention when they grasp a story they can relate to. They want to learn more. You captivate your students – now captivate your viewers!

#2 Don’t Leave It to the Audience – Present the Photos as You Want Them to Be Seen. Curate your photos. Take your best and most informative photographs and share them proudly with your audience. You can use individual shots (or a few) and attach a short story or explanation, or you can assemble 30-60 images that tell a fuller story (i.e., preparing for a siddur celebration or mock trial), sequence them, and offer them as a photo essay, a visual presentation that can be viewed full-screen. This will grab not seconds of attention, but full minutes of viewer immersion. That’s gold in this day and age. Edit and categorize your website galleries carefully and use nicely-designed banners and graphics on the landing pages to promote your photo essay. Tout the photo essay to your email list and on social media. You can also post images selectively on Facebook as newly-created albums to provide a photo essay experience, or use a slideshow hosting program (I’ve used Slideshare for many of mine – see example, the Education Photo Essay.)

Judah S. Harris is a photographer, filmmaker, speaker and writer. He has produced visual content for numerous educational programs in the US and Israel, and is also a noted photo educator. Judah’s narrative photography has been featured on the covers of more than 40 works of literary fiction, in advertising all over the world, and on the pages of publications ranging from The New York Times to Jewish Action and Mishpacha.

Have questions? Should you have any questions about assessing present materials, implementing a marketing plan, crafting compelling stories, utilizing data-driven research to present your case, or any of my cost-effective day school services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Enjoy the rest of the summer – and share something nice with us in the fall!
Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Good Path – part I

This Lag b’Omer, I’m heeding my own advice and stepping out of my comfort zone. I’m sharing mystical thoughts courtesy of an old Hassidic tale, Aish Hatorah and Rabbi Yonason Goldson, founder of Ethical Imperatives. Of course, since I am “all about” providing practical, easy-to-implement marketing and development content, I am still providing a link to 33 strategic suggestions.

Rabban Yochanon ben Zakka instructed his students: Go see which is the good path to which a person should cleave. Rabbi Eliezer said: A good eye. Rabbi Yehoshua said: A good friend. Rabbi Yossi said: A good neighbor. Rabbi Shimon said: To foresee consequences. Rabbi Elazar said: A good heart. Rabban Yochanon replied: I prefer the words of Elazar ben Arach over your words, for included in his words are all of yours. {Ethics of the Fathers, 2:13}

As educators, you’ll note that Rabban Yochanon did not define the “good path” for his students. Rather, he instructed them on how to discover the answer.

But why did he favor Rabbi Elazar’s response?
The best way to understand our place in the world is to look into the Torah. This was how Rabban Yochanon’s students interpreted his mandate to “go and see.” They began by rereading the creation narrative, searching for clues about the “good path.”

Each student stopped at: And God saw the light, that it was good. Each student recognized that the Torah’s first mention of the word “good” offered the most likely source for divining the good path. From this point on, however, their interpretations diverged.

Click here to read the Good Path – part II  and discover interesting insights learned through their journey and Rabbi Elazar’s response.

Have questions? Should you have any questions about assessing present materials, implementing a marketing plan, crafting compelling stories, utilizing data-driven research to present your case, or any of my cost-effective day school services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

The Good Path – part II

Rabbi Eliezer said: A good eye
To Rabbi Eliezer, the light of creation cannot refer simply to the light by which we see, for the simple reason that Hashem did not create the sun and the stars until the fourth day, whereas He created light on day one. If so, what was this light?

The kabbalists explain that since Hashem is everywhere, He could not begin to create the universe until He had first created a place where He was not, a spiritual blank canvas on which He would produce the greatest creative masterpiece — the universe, and humanity. Only after preparing this spiritual vacuum (the voidand darknessdescribed in the verse), could Hashem begin the act of creation, reintroducing divine energy into the spiritual void — an act described in the expression, Let there be light!

 Thus Rabbi Eliezer declares that to walk the “good path” requires a “good eye,” the ability to perceive Divine light and follow it through our world of spiritual darkness. Once we cultivate the spiritual sensitivity to appreciate Torah’s Divine illumination, we will be able to cling to the good path.

 Rabbi Yehoshua said: A good friend
According to Jewish law, each 24-hour day actually begins as the evening sun falls below the horizon. Just as Shabbat starts Friday evening, so too does every day of the week begin as night falls, rather than as the sun rises. The biblical source for this is the verse, And there was evening and there was morning — one day. 

Why?

Human nature dictates that we truly appreciate only those things we are forced to do without. Just as the light of creation is essential, equally essential is our appreciation of that light. Hashem created darkness before light, to enable us to fully appreciate the light that illuminates our world.

Light, therefore, became a good friend to the darkness that preceded it, while the darkness provided the context with which to appreciate the light. According to Rabbi Yehoshua, adherence to the good path requires not only spiritual perception but also a context to give that perception true meaning — not only a good eye but also a good friend.

Rabbi Yossi said: A good neighbor
The kabbalists introduce us to the mystifying idea that in the earliest moments of creation, light and darkness were not divided, but were intertwined in harmonious coexistence.

After defining the light of creation as spiritual illumination of Divine will, we can interpret light as symbolic of good and darkness as symbolic of evil. Since everything Hashem does is ultimately for the good, light and darkness, good and evil, were initially, inextricably, woven together. But since the ultimate purpose of creation requires us to recognize and choose the good path, Hashem separated the two and enabled us to discern the good we must follow. As Rabbi Yossi understands a good neighbor, the ability to recognize boundaries between the light and the darkness, between good and evil, is the key to walking the good path.

Rabbi Shimon said: To foresee consequences
The Talmud explains that the creation of light, although necessary for human existence, also presented a profound danger.

Just as nuclear technology can produce energy to sustain, so too can it produce the power to annihilate. In the hands of the righteous, divine spiritual light can elevate humanity to the level of godliness. In the hands of the unscrupulous, it can be perverted to manipulate and exploit this world’s unlimited blessings. To limit the access of the wicked to His Divine light, and protect it from abuse, Hashem concealed his light in a place where the wicked would not go: the Torah.

To truly acquire Torah wisdom, the student of Torah internalizes Torah values. Torah transforms a person’s characterand activates the ability to discern possible consequences.

Rabbi Elazar said: A good heart
“The greatest distance,” our rabbis teach, “is from the head to the heart.” True wisdom comes when we internalize what we know in our minds, so that it penetrates our hearts, and becomes part of who we are.

The first four students all identified the correct source to answer their teacher’s question, and accurately interpreted its relevance. Their responses varied because they each emphasized a different critical factor in how to adhere to the good path. Perception, context, discernment, or foresight?

They erred by failing to recognize that each of the steps they identified is an integral part of a process that is incomplete without every component.

Rabbi Elazar ben Arach expressed this understanding as a good heart: only after acquiring total perspective of every facet of the Divine light can we adhere to the good path. Once we internalize Torah values, we can refine our characters, so that Torah wisdom will serve us and we serve it.

It is the total commitment to acquiring a good heart that enables one to walk the good path.This is why Rabban Yochanon declares: I prefer the words of Elazar ben Arach over your words, for included in his words are all of yours.

Days of transformation
Between Pesach and Shavuot we count 49 days, from the korban omer (the offering of the first barley harvest) to the sh’tei halechem (the offering of the first wheat harvest). Sefiras HaOmer, therefore, represents our transition from creatures little better than animals, to humans more exalted than the angels. The freedom of Pesach, ironically, does not even begin the count. Freedom is mere potential. What we do with freedom defines who and what we are.

Gematria: a transformative Math Lesson
Within Rabbi Elazar’s formula of a good heart we find a profoundly mystical allusion. The numerical value of the word lev, heart, is 32; the numerical value of tov, good, is 17. Together they equal 49.

And so we discover that the first 32 days represent a transformation of the heart, where the final 17 days represent the application of our newly elevated moral character into the practice of true good, or tov. The transition point is day 33: Lag b’Omer. 

So now on Day 33 of the Omer, take a moment (or 33!) to salute yourselves – for the work you do guiding your students along a critical process so that they will ultimately embody all the values articulated by Rabban Yochanon ben Zakka and thus be able to cleave to a path that is good in all ways.

* This discussion is adapted from the Chassidic classic, B’nei Yissosschar. Expanded from an article originally published on aish.com.

** Rabbi Yonason Goldson retired after 23 years in Torah education to found Ethical Imperatives, LLC. He is a professional speaker and TEDx presenter, teaching professionals how good ethics is good business. Visit him here or here.

Click here to read the Good Path – part I 

Click here to access 33 effective marketing tips

Have questions? Should you have any questions about assessing present materials, implementing a marketing plan, crafting compelling stories, utilizing data-driven research to present your case, or any of my cost-effective day school services, please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

For Every Generation

Intergenerational Marketing
Many years ago, I instituted a Grandparents League at a modern orthodox yeshiva. Within days, I discovered my insensitive error: I had not considered the sad reality that fact some students didn’t have living grandparents. I apologized and moved forward with the “Intergenerational Special Person Group.”

Fortunately, I was savvy enough to realize that if the group was going to succeed I needed ‘buy-in’ from grandparents and other relatives. I formed an Intergenerational Group to act as an advisory committee. They shared that while they would fly cross-country for a Chanukah play or graduation, they really wanted to experience the nitty-gritty! What was going on the classroom?

Take away? Larger intergenerational events such as Sunday breakfasts or melave malkes included curriculum fairs or individual classroom activities. We budgeted the extra time to invite parents and extended families to be photographed with the principal, teacher, and child at siddur and chumash plays – and presented mi’ dor l’dorcertificates to these special guests. Eventually, they were happy to not only pay “Intergenerational League” dues but also to make larger contributions. Moreover, many volunteered their time and expertise – becoming our true partners.

The Learning Experience
During the past few months, I was thrilled to celebrate a chagigat chumashat Yeshiva Har Torah and an intergenerational day and chagigat siddurat Farber Hebrew Academy. While those were pure nachat, I felt quite chagrined to discover that my stellar adolescent broad jumping abilities had declined pathetically when second grader Benny measured my results at the Har Torah Math Fair.

As Pesach approaches and generations of families gather together, we all feel the mandate to teach our children experientially: B’chol dor vador chayav adam liharot et atzmo, k’ilu hu b’atzmo yatza ata, mishibud Mitzrayim…”

“In every generation, an individual must demonstrate for himself as if he himself is leaving Egyptian servitude right now.”

How do you share the learning experience with your students’ extended families?
Please use this link to share your ideas.

For a host of Pesach resources, please visit:
Lookstein Pesach Resources

Schechter Pesach Resources

Have questions? Please feel free to send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070 to learn more about intergenerational marketing, I’m also happy to discuss special projects as well as annual retainers.

Chag kasher v’sameach!
Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Let Your Message Shine

Capturing your Focus
Pictures, like word, communicate. We’re all familiar with the expression, “a picture says a thousand words.” That’s why I feel compelled to tell you about a recent email blast I received from my local yoga studio.

Discover Vinyasa Yoga
Dear Candace,

Tomorrow’s 4 pm woman only class will be taught by a new instructor, Jessica. Jessica has years of experience teaching Vinyasa flow yoga. Come and try her out!

Please note: The picture is a man, but this is a woman’s only class.

Frame your Message
Seriously?
Lest you think, this was a tzinut issue, I happen to know the women who do tree poses and downward dogs at this studio. They would never pixelate women’s faces! Even if the goal was to “lean to the tzniut right,” there are better options.

Of the yoga images featured in this eZine, which do you think would motivate a woman who enjoys yoga to try out a new instructor?

Do the pictures you choose enhance your message or do they sabotage your communication?

(I just spoke with frustrated board member of a pre-K through 12th grade school whose executive director insists on using only pre-K pictures in all their advertising because they are “so cute.” Careful: “cute” can be PR saboteur.)

Summer Objective
The summer is a great time to sift through old photos and create a compelling database of images!

Have questions? Contact me via email or call me at 516.569.8070 to schedule a free introductory chat about enhancing your communication.

Here’s Looking at You!
Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Draw, Aim, Release

Hitting the Mark

I imagine you’ve been receiving some Lag b’Omer emails – featuring bonfires. I know that I have. Those burning images make me think of two things:

1. S’mores and 2… well fires.

So, much as I would like to indulge, s’mores won’t help me shed the post-Pesach pounds. Nor could they be said to be integral to a heart healthy diet. Lighting a fire, on the other hand, can be helpful. Well… in a metaphoric, not arsonistic, manner.

Is it time for you to light a fire under your marketing materials? If they are working, perhaps not. Complacency, when you have a winning formula, may be just fine. After all, as they saying goes, if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Yet, when it comes to recruitment, retention, and turning parents into goodwill ambassadors, communication is key. Tweaking, not total “fixing” may be in order.

The summer months ahead present an opportunity to determine if your messages are meaningful, compelling, and on-target.

Look at all your print and on-line materials. Are they consistent in terms of color schemes, font, and diction?

Is it time to:
Congratulate yourself on a job-well done?

Light a fire under some of your messages?

Realize that your messaging needs an overhaul – and toss most of your stale material into the “fire?”

Watch for next week’s issue about the impact of photo choices on messaging.

Contact me via email or call me at 516.569.8070 to schedule a free introductory chat to discuss how your messages can be more compelling.

Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

Sushi, Shushan, and Speaking the Right Script – part II

Safely Celebrate

Every year we hear horrific stories that result from teenage drinking on Purim. Speak with your students. Partner with their parents and synagogues. Teens can be merry but also smart and safe!

Purim Treasure

Shalach Manot gift! Purim treasure just for you!

Be one of the first five responders and receive a free phone strategy session, which includes a review of a one or two page document.

To claim your purim treasure call 516.569.8070 or send me an email.

Dynamic PR

Ready to plan your authentic Pesach PR now? Request a consultation!

Click here to read Sushi, Shushan, and Speaking the Right Script – part I

To learn more about crafting compelling messages that will inform and influence your readers, please send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Happy Purim!
Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

A Kiwi & Some Dates Walk Into A Bar…

Let’s just say that yesterday I volunteered to do my favorite three-year-old’s Tu b’Shevat shopping. It turned out that my assignment was less then clear.

Sadly, I’ve heard parents complain that, at times their schools communicate in a confusing manner. Perhaps in attempting to have a wide appeal the administration is sending watered-down generic messages. Or, perhaps the person charged with communications  lacks clear direction. A host of reasons can be responsible for poor communication.

Be sure you don’t get dates when you want kiwis!
Be sure that all your messages are clear and compelling!

To learn more about my crystal clear Creative Communications services, or any of my other day school marketing and development services, please send me an email or call me at 516.569.8070.

Happy Tu b’Shevat! Kol tuv,

Candace Plotsker-Herman

ps. Are you curious? I bought two kiwis and a container of dates!

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