Perhaps a better title for this one would be “Parents Talk With Parents, Kids Talk With Kids, Pastors Talk With Pastors, Principals Talk With Principals, Teachers Talk With Teachers,” but it wouldn’t fit on the title line of the browser you’re reading this on.

When people in the same labeled group speak with each other (let’s say teachers talking with teachers) in a setting which fosters conversation and communication, the discussion can be lively. Whenever one of these groups of people speak to a different group of people, or if just a member of a different group is engaged in the discussion, the “power structure” of the conversation changes. Teachers instruct kids, principals supervise teachers, kids listen to their parents (hope springs eternal) – you get the idea. When one is aware of the nature of the other, the tone of the conversation can change. If you don’t believe me, watch what happens when a teacher walks into a room of conversing students. Or a principal walks into a room of conversing teachers. The same thing happens in the workplace when the supervisor walks into a space where the employees have gathered.

In the past, professional online forums used screennames rather than one’s real name and position in the marketplace.  The use of screennames rather than real names and titles took these labels away, allowing it to become truly a place of idea sharing, where each participant can practice respect for the individual because they don’t know to whom they are speaking.

If only that were the case.  Much has changed over the past decade or so years, and not knowing who people really are in an online forum is precisely the reason why online forums are now professionally run and moderated based on special interests (such as musical instruments or automobile repair questions), and there are usually criteria set forth that an individual who wants to become involved in the discussion must accept, and they must be approved for admission to the group.  Today, many professional interest groups are hosted on Facebook or LinkedIn, rather than being a separate Web site which anyone can join.  Viewers who are not part of the group but who can follow the conversations have been referred to as “lurkers” – a rather unsavory moniker.

It’s quite interesting to see the evolution of online conversations.  Fifteen years ago, articles were written about the rule of online conversations.  All capital letters meant shouting.  Spelling was critical, and thoughts had to be expressed in a structured and cohesive manner.  Then, texting came into vogue, and txtspk became acceptable with abbreviations, jargon and sometimes, jibberish.  Then, punctuation and capitalization disappeared.  Misspellings are now commonplace and acceptable.

The good news is that forum administrators and moderators are out to maintain the integrity of the group and the appropriateness of the conversation and discussion. Saint John Paul the Great called to us to engage others by evangelizing through new media made possible by the advances of technology; even Jesus Christ said to His disciples that He was sending them into the world “like sheep amongst the wolves.” Who are we to think our Christian walk in these current turbulent times would be any different?

In the previous “Parents Talk to Parents” Marketing Matter, I mentioned Word of Mouth as a most powerful form of advertising. Be aware, however, that the “buzz” that’s created can be different among the various aforementioned groups. Just because one group is speaking positively about your school doesn’t mean that all groups are. Different audiences require different conversations in order that those conversations have the most positive overall effect on your school. Children might be enthused (about technology in the school, for instance) and parents could be excited (that their child is doing things that it took them months to learn at the office) at the same time that teachers are upset (that they have to learn all this new technology) and pastors are worried (about how the school can afford all this technology). When parents talk to parents and pastors talk to pastors (etc.), others hearing conversations that cross the parallels could wonder if they’re talking about the same school!

Good marketing will make sure children and parents maintain that enthusiasm while teachers are shown the benefits of working with technology and pastors are reassured by revenues from outside businesses and foundations to help foot the bill. Indeed, development and marketing need to work together to assure that a consistent message is presented to divergent groups, since those groups will create “buzz” according to their mindsets.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2007-2022 (Original Publication Date: 20071008)