How CTOs Can Share Success with a Wider Audience

Charlene Blohm and Dennis Pierce led our first CETL Summit at the 2015 Annual Conference. This is the third post in a four-part series reviewing communications strategies discussed during the Summit.

How can you share your ed tech successes and build support among parents, community members, the media, and others? That was the focus of a recent summit for school district chief technology officers.

During the CETL Summit in Atlanta on March 19, we co-presented on how to maximize your value as a school district CTO by communicating more effectively with both internal and external stakeholder groups.

Here are some ideas for communicating externally with parents, community members, and the press:

Consider how to frame your story.

What story are you trying to tell? You’re probably doing many terrific things in your district—but how can you communicate that succinctly and effectively to a wider audience?

To develop a concise “elevator speech” that clearly summarizes your district’s story, start by stating your district’s vision or mission. Then, explain how technology supports that vision, using one or two sentences. Finally, describe the results you’re seeing (or you hope to see) in a single sentence.

An example: “In the X School District, our mission is to graduate students who are independent thinkers, creative problem solvers, and effective communicators, ready for success. We have given every student in grades 4-12 a digital device, and we’ve redesigned our curriculum to be project-based and grounded in an authentic context. Consequently, we have seen a 20% increase in math proficiency and a 32% rise in ELA proficiency on our end-of-year state exams.”

You can use this model to help introduce your main district story—but also to describe each individual component or success within that larger story. This format (challenge, solution, results) underpins many case studies.

Get to know the ed tech trade press.

You’re probably reading many ed tech trade publications, such as eSchool News, THE Journal, Tech & Learning, District Administration, and Scholastic Administrator.

These publications are hungry for content, and they’re always looking for articles bylined by educators and administrators in the field—which offers a great opportunity to showcase your successes to a national audience. (And, in turn, boost your credibility within your district, making it easier to gain buy-in and support for your ed tech vision.)

Consider introducing yourself to editors at these outlets and volunteering to serve as a source for any stories they are working on. Become familiar with their editorial calendars as well; if you know a publication is planning a feature on mobile learning, and you have some experience with this topic, you might pitch your district’s story.

Collaborate internally.

If you have a communications department in your district, leverage the expertise of these professionals to help you tell your district’s ed tech stories. Work with your curriculum department to share curriculum-related stories with a wider audience.

Keep it simple.

Know your audience. Avoid jargon, acronyms, and over-used buzz words. When writing, adopt an informal, conversational tone.

Participants’ advice

During the CETL Summit, we led a group discussion in which participants talked about how they approach their biggest external communications challenges. Some suggestions:

  • Make the time to share your ed tech success with the wider community. “If you don’t tell your story, no one else will,” one participant said.
  • “Keep your comments short to increase the chances that your point comes through.”
  • “Give the media and community good things to say about you on a regular basis. This will build relationships and reputation.”
  • “Keep communication channels open at all time. Practice authentic transparency. Build credibility in everything you do.”

The Certified Education Technology Leader (CETL) program is a CoSN-led initiative to certify the skills and qualifications of school district CTOs. There are 135 CETLs from 22 states. To learn more about this designation or to register for the exam, go to http://www.cosn.org/certification.


Charlene Blohm is President and CEO of C. Blohm & Associates, a public relations firm specializing in the education and special needs industries. The former Editor in Chief of eSchool Media, Dennis Pierce is now the owner and Chief Content Officer of Pierce Publishing, a freelance writing and content marketing consulting firm.

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