By Reesha Brown
Keeping with the times, Pasadena ISD has utilized its Facebook page to be an engine of information, driving the narrative about positive news stories happening in the school district among various stakeholders including students, staff, district leaders and community representatives.
On Feb. 8, following several recent events from Super Bowl 51, the district celebrated a milestone as the number of likes on Facebook increased significantly from 17,000 in August to a whopping 20,000 in six months.
“Facebook allows us to connect with thousands of individuals on a regular basis, so we take full advantage of every opportunity,” said Troy McCarley, PISD associate superintendent of communication.
Six months ago, the district was averaging between 8,000 and 14,000 hits in a week. Since then, that number has skyrocketed to upwards of 80,000 to 100,000 hits a week due to continuous updates to the Facebook page that includes articles, pictures, videos and announcements, conveying the overall culture of Pasadena ISD.
This rapid increase in engagement is the result of trending human interest stories – some involving celebrities – that attracted attention from major local and national news outlets, extending PISD’s Facebook reach to audiences across the nation.
“I’m amazed at how quickly our online presence has shifted in the past several months. People can now actively participate in the success our entire district is having,” Kenny Fernandez, Pasadena ISD board secretary said.
For instance, when Peyton Manning called his ultimate fan – a Teague Elementary teacher -- in Pasadena ISD, a link to the story attracted attention from nearly 40,000 Facebook users who visited PISD’s Facebook page for details about the story. Several Houston area news outlets picked up the story and featured it in their top segments. The article eventually reached national wires and was featured in the Denver news.
In November, Burnett Elementary staff and a Dobie alum met pop sensation Justin Timberlake during the singer’s Trolls premiere. They were invited to walk the red carpet with Timberlake after creating a popular school-wide lip-dub video, featuring his hit single, Can’t Stop the Feeling. The story was linked onto Facebook and reached a total of 70,000 individuals.
These posts were no match in comparison to videos featuring J.J. Watt at two Pasadena ISD campuses. While the Houston Texans defensive end surprised athletes at the schools, communication staff used Facebook's FB live feature to broadcast the moment in real-time. The posts garnered upwards of about 2 million views.
During Lady Gaga’s Super Bowl 51 halftime performance, the pop idol shared an emotional hug with Dobie sophomore Ally Bellini. A screenshot of the hug was felt around the world after being posted onto the district Facebook page as nearly every Houston-area, national and international news outlet picked up the story, including Billboard Magazine, Yahoo News and a Belize online news source.
The rise in Facebook likes this school year has been in no small part to efforts by campus staff.
PISD launched a social media campaign at the beginning of the school year that involved innovative approaches to sharing news of the district, in addition to the creation of Facebook and Twitter pages at the campus level.
As a result, the district has witnessed a shift in communication, with PISD families and external audiences – community organizations, media outlets -- relying on the district and campus Facebook pages to serve as a resource for information about the school district.
“News outlets around the Houston metropolitan area actually find stories on our site that they want to cover and contact the communication office for trending news,” said Art Del Barrio, Pasadena ISD director of communication.
Based on this new approach to disseminating information, one might say that Pasadena ISD has taken a page out of Dan Rather's book. During an interview on Jimmy Fallon recently, the journalism guru talked about the importance of social media and how it can ensure an organization or individual’s relevancy in today’s ever-evolving technological society.
“I slowly got on to Facebook, being [that I am] old school,” he recalled. “I work with a young staff at my production company and news operation, called News and Guts…They came to me and said, ‘Dan, you’ve got to get on social media. You’ve got to get on Facebook if you want to be relevant, if you want to be part of the conversation, if you want to do journalism [that] matters, then you have to get on it’…there is an audience for it…”
Dan Rather’s statement helps validate the initiative the district has taken in regards to utilizing social media as a tool.
To view PISD’s Facebook page and find out about more about the school district, please visit the Pasadena ISD Facebook page through the link.