Greater Johnstown School District was not receiving its fair share of positive media coverage. The real story about the good things going on in the district was not being told. Negative word of mouth, often exaggerated or completely untrue, spread more than it should have.
Storytelling is easy when there are plenty of good stories to tell. We started with an external newsletter we named “The Trojan Times.” Focusing on academic and athletic achievements, the newsletter is mailed to more than 18,000 students and households.
Social media is very cost-effective tool for storytelling. It is also a powerful tool that must be used correctly to prevent damage. We were concerned that the district had no social media strategy or guidelines to let them maximize the good and minimize the risk. We worked with them to institute sound social media policies and to develop content calendars that spell out what should be posted, when and by whom.
The storytelling campaign—via The Trojan Times and social media—has been extremely successful in changing the school district’s reputation. As always, the “packaging” itself helps to convey the message. In both 2009 and 2011, we were pleased to learn that the newsletter earned the print newsletter/newspaper award of excellence from the Pennsylvania School Boards Association and an award of excellence from the Pennsylvania School Public Relations Association.
"We're doing a lot of things in terms of making sure our brand is recognized, we're doing things to make sure that parents get the stories that we have, the image of the Johnstown schools, our children is real. And when it's real, people start to respect it a lot more."