Coach Lasso is playing darts with Rupert, the ex-husband of Ted’s boss, in a local bar known for being the home of all AFC Richmond Futbol fans. Ted, the obvious underdog, delivers a riveting speech as he takes his final turn at the line. As everyone in the bar listens intensely to Lasso’s story, we learn that Ted is in fact, not the underdog by any means.
Moments or storylines, like this scene from Ted Lasso, often confirm, change, or challenge our way of thinking.
These moments can define a show’s story arch and overall theme. Likewise, these moments can define and shape the story and reputation of the districts we serve as school communicators. These stories are undeniable. In an era of miscommunication and mistrust, we must tell stories that show the undeniable impact that public education has on the students, staff, and communities we serve. Equally important, we must also be strategic about how we go about telling that story.
1. Finding and Telling the Undeniable Story
Some stories will always be the present, low-hanging fruit: test scores, state championships, etc. We must challenge ourselves to search out stories that have the power to change the face of our district. For me, that was Hayden’s story. Early in the school year, we planned to share stories and accolades about our fine arts programs with a focus on showcasing the impact that the former Director, who had recently passed had on the department. Hayden’s story honored that legacy, but also shined a light on the possibilities in our district for all kids.
According to the book Story10X by Michael Margolis, an “undeniable story is more than just an antidote about people”. An undeniable story frames the bigger picture and shares what is possible. The storyteller needs three things to tell these stories successfully: the setting or challenge, the character or “hero”, and the proof. We all understand setting and character, but the proof is where this story becomes powerful. The proof is where the storyteller can show the possibilities. In Hayden’s story, the possibilities were endless for this kid who many counted out early in his journey. Find and show the proof
2. Sprinkle in Some Strategy
This post isn’t long enough for a deep dive into the four-step process RPIE, but we should be using this in our strategic communication approaches daily.
Research, Planning, Implementation, and Evaluation.
In the words of my good friend and podcast co-host Erin McCann, CPC from Allen ISD in Allen, TX, “All too often, we just skip the first two steps and dive right into the fun stuff!” As
communicators, we cannot live in a world where we throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks. We must do the early work to research our audiences and how they receive their information. We must plan a strategic approach to the various types of stories that resonate with that audience.
In a recent episode of Brene Brown’s Dare to Lead Podcast, Brene spoke on the relationship between storytelling, research, and impactful change. She says, “If you don’t have the data, and you don’t have the story, you don’t have what it takes to move people.” If we aren’t doing the work upfront, it does not matter how powerful or undeniable the story may be. Without a strategic approach, there’s always the possibility of the story impacting people the way you had hoped.
3. Tell the Stories YOU Believe In
Identifying the audience of Hayden’s story was easy. It was our Fine Arts, SPED, and overall GCISD community, but the real audience that needed this story was ME. After two years of a pandemic, social unrest, and constant change, I was at a mental low and needed a story that filled my bucket. Through telling Hayden’s story, I was recharged to continue to search for and tell more of these stories.
Hayden’s story is a story of possibilities when even just one person believes in you. If we, as storytellers, can tell strategic stories that we believe in, I truly think an impactful change in how our students, staff, and community view our district and education is more than possible, it’s inevitable.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Justin Dearing has been telling stories since he walked into his first Media Technology class as a junior in high school. After teaching film and radio for seven years, Justin made the jump to school public relations and currently serves as the Director of Communications for Grapevine-Colleyville ISD in the DFW metroplex. He also serves as the Regional Vice-President for the North Central Texas region of TSPRA. Justin also is the co-host of the award-winning podcast School PR Happy Hour. When he isn’t at work, Justin enjoys spending time outdoors with his wife, Caty, and daughter, Kinleigh, watching the Dallas Mavs on TV, and participating in the most over-the-top fantasy baseball league around.
Justin can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org