By Ariana Revelas of Bentley University, PRSA Boston’s Faculty Forum student correspondent
Michele Snyder is Director of Communications at Maimonides School, a private Jewish Modern Orthodox school, in Brookline. Michele is also on the Board of the Public Relations Society of America’s Boston chapter and serves as Co-chair of the Program Committee.
I interviewed Michele so I could learn about strategic digital communications from a professional who was not born in the midst of today’s technology, but has successfully learned to master technology in her career.
Michele graduated from the University of Maryland in 1983, the same time she first saw a computer video display terminal—a typewriter with a screen! After college, Michele worked in radio and TV marketing and communications in addition to non-profit PR. Today, Michele is responsible for all communications at Maimonides, including employee communications and external communications with parents of students at the school. Her duties include: writing e-newsletters, managing all social media channels, and producing school videos.
How is the proliferation of digital media impacting your PR job?
I had to learn about it along the way with hands-on learning and by taking classes. It adds a huge element of “how do I reach people, because I have to be able to.” I learned how to use certain platforms and researched what messaging would be right for certain audiences. I have learned a lot by talking to other communications professionals and by reading about digital media. I also have a mentor who is a communications consultant, which has been very beneficial.
What skills and expertise are needed from you now that were not needed 10-15 years ago?
It requires openness to learn, time to follow other professionals and influencers, and see what they’re doing, and a level of understanding of analytics such as interpreting statistics with a PR lens. PR used to be just gut feelings on what content people may want to see, rather than research, but now it requires skills and understanding of data.
Measuring the impact of communications is getting much more intricate and it’s constantly changing. Joining professional organizations helps professionals from straying outside of their little bubbles and allows them to learn from others who have experience in data analytics.
How do you handle earned/owned/paid media strategy and SEO strategy alongside traditional PR such as building trusted partnerships, or does someone else in your workplace handle each of these separately?
I handle all communications at Maimonides, which is typical in a school setting. Working with traditional media is still very important in building relationships. Authenticity is essential with media or internal management. SEO strategy is one aspect that I am not familiar with yet, but it’s on my radar. As for mastering earned, owned and paid media strategy and execution, I have a great mentor who helps me. It involves looking at analytics, which is exciting and does not overwhelm me! It is so important to ask for help when you need it. It is also helpful to have an understanding of HTML.
What digital communications projects are you proud of?
I did a month-long campaign in March for Maimonides. I featured many photos on social media to show parents what it is like to be at school. I focused on consistency of the brand. I received feedback along the way and I’m very proud of the campaign. In terms of increased engagement, during the campaign month and 28 days of engaged use, the daily total reach increased by 31% versus the following non-campaign month. I also love the Instagram stories that I feature on the school’s page. I take photos, videos, and time lapses to tell a story through the day.