Last week, I had an incredible opportunity to participate in a KC-135 aerial refueling flight mission out of Grissom Air Reserve Base in Indiana. First of all, you’re probably asking how in the world did this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity fall into my lap? Grissom routinely offers KC-135 flights to the media and civic leaders, but for this flight, they asked a local PR professionals association to invite a group of people for a special social media flight. Myself and a dozen other people jumped at the chance.
In exchange for this amazing experience, our group easily agreed to flood social media channels with the story of Grissom ARB and the 434th Air Refueling Wing (@434ARW). I could have taken several items with me to tell my story – notepad, digital camera, Flip camera, DSLR camera, laptop, etc. – but instead I took one thing with me. My iPhone 4.
With nothing but my iPhone, I had a tool to take notes about all of the important facts and information I was learning. I had a camera and videocamera to record my experiences. And I had an arsenal of apps to publish directly to many social media channels – Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Flickr, YouTube and more.
Think about how many students, parents and faculty have iPhones, smartphones, or really, any kind of mobile device. Think about the kinds of stories they can be telling on behalf of the school through social media. Each school has unique programs, study abroad opportunities, summer exchanges, service learning opportunities, athletic and academic contests, fine arts events and more. We have to tap into the potential that already exists — the people involved with each and every one of these programs and events can be our storytellers with nothing else but a mobile phone.
Students traveling abroad can take pictures and write blog posts about their experiences. Fans sitting in the bleachers can tweet the results of the game immediately after the buzzer sounds. Proud parents can upload a YouTube video of their child performing at the holiday program. Student ambassadors can write short blog posts about daily life at the school for prospective students. Any story or message you can think of can be told online by anyone, and with mobile technology, content can be both shared and viewed anywhere, anytime.
The one caveat to this new world of communicating in real time through social media is that we, as the “official” voice of the school, have to be willing to let the “unofficial” voices of the school tell their own stories. Trust the people who are part of your school community, and in return, your school’s story will become a living, dynamic and interactive story that will continue to grow on its own. Grissom ARB was willing to let 13 civilians come into their base and fly on their aircraft, and not only did they allow us to blast social media with our content, but they wanted us to do just that. Our small group received a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and by sharing that experience, Grissom and the 434th ARW received a dynamic story that reached hundreds, if not thousands, of people.
It’s so easy to apply this to our school communications efforts. Just invite your students, parents and faculty to be voices for your school, and watch your school’s story unfold.