Our answer: Let the officials who
were there tell the story in their own
We also asked, “Given Columbine’s
significance, how can we use this story
to help us broaden the magazine’s
brand and provide readers with additional tools they need?” Our answer
was to partner with another education
association for a free webinar, timed
four days before the anniversary of
the attacks and just as the May issue
Our approaches are not new, but
what we did is an example of how different associations can collaborate and
make a difference for both readers
PLANNING AND REPORTING
Our magazine planning occurs three
to four months before publication, so
we started looking at May’s issue in
January. Going in, we knew the focus of
the other Columbine-related stories
would be on the teenage victims, the
killers, and the greater societal issues surrounding school shootings. We also knew
that certain school officials, such as the
principal, would be overwhelmed by
media calls in the weeks prior to the
anniversary, so we needed an early start.
Starting in January, Managing Editor
Kathleen Vail asked those she interviewed
about their interest in being a webinar
speaker. Around this time, we also reached
out to the American School Counselor
Association (ASCA), which has 25,000
members, and asked if they would serve as
ASCA agreed, and provided us with
additional sources to interview. The
organization also promoted the webinar
on its website ( www.schoolcounselor.org) and
through electronic communications (blast
e-mails and social networking sites).
The story, as you can imagine, was very
emotional for all involved. In the interest
of structure, the managing editor asked
the same basic questions of each person,
and received some very frank responses.
Quite simply, each person involved has
stories to tell, and by focusing on them,
QUITE SIMPLY, EACH
PERSON INVOLVED HAS
STORIES TO TELL, AND BY
FOCUSING ON THEM,
WE PROVIDED SOME
PROFOUND INSIGHT TO
READERS WHO ARE IN
SIMILAR POSITIONS IN
THEIR OWN DISTRICTS.
we provided some profound insight to
readers who are in similar positions in
their own districts.
A WEBINAR SUCCESS
Webinars are relatively new for our magazine. We have held a handful over the past
18 months, usually drawing 100 to 150 registrants with a 30 to 40 percent participation rate. We do, however, see them as a
tool that can be effective for a segment of
our audience if used and marketed properly.
Also, we knew the interest in this story
would be strong, especially if our panelists
resonated with the potential audience.
Having a counselor on board was crucial
to ASCA, while we needed the board
member and either the former or current superintendent, all of whom
Kathleen Vail interviewed. Also,
because communications is an area we
cover in the print magazine, we felt
that was critical as well.
Fortunately, four agreed to participate. About two weeks out, we had the
lineup finalized. ASCA continued to
e-blast its membership, and we promoted the event on our blog (http://
leadingsource.asbj.com). Within days,
registration outnumbered anything
we had done previously.
As major media reports started
trickling in about Columbine and the
anniversary, more and more readers
signed up. The final count: 792 registrants and 325 participants (including
multiple visitors at some sites).
The speakers were terrific. One
hour into the session, 303 were still on the
line. We also received 43 questions from
the audience, and many of ASCA’s members asked the association to offer additional webinars for CEU credit.
After the event, we archived the content
and put it up on our website ( www.asbj.com)
for all to access, as did ASCA. The story
also is available free to all readers—
normally we charge non-subscribers—on the
two sites as well. The speakers agreed to
collaborate and answer the audience’s
questions, and both organizations posted
those as well.
Our only regret is that we did not get a
paid sponsor for this session, not a surprise given the nature of advertising these
days. However, as we look for new ways
to collaborate with other groups and
leverage new technologies to provide content, we believe we may have found a
model that works.
Glenn Cook is editor in chief
of American School Board
Journal and director of publications for the National School
Boards Association. He also
serves on SNAP’s board of
directors and is the editorial