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Hernando County schools — gotta love 'em

School district to roll out new marketing plan.

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando School District: Learn it. Love it. Live it.

That’s the message that school district officials seek to convey as they get ready to roll out a new strategic marketing plan aimed at winning community hearts and minds.

“Love is a very strong word. It’s a very passionate word. It’s an emotional word,” said David Voss, president of Voss & Associates, the Sarasota-based marketing firm that specializes in helping schools. Voss and his team unveiled the marketing plan and a proposed logo at a Dec. 10 School Board workshop. “Bringing emotion into branding a school district is tough.”

The logo features a large white H with the right side higher than the left. Voss said the committee, comprised of the creative team and district staffers, chose the design to distinguish it from other county organizations. Committee members chose soft hues of blue and green as well as a plum shade to take the place of the maroon currently being used.

“The H is incredibly versatile,” Voss said. “You can do a lot with it.”

School board members expressed support but wanted to make sure there was no confusion with the city of Hernando in Citrus County. Board member Gus Guadagnino asked why the word “County” was omitted from the logo. District officials explained that sometimes the word causes people to get Hernando confused with the Hillsborough County School District. They wanted to avoid that.

To show the community what goes on in the classroom, a new website watchusliveit.org, will capture videos of students and educators in action.

“Materials are a driving force to letting people see it, because that’s the way you need to tell your story today,” Voss said.

Teachers will be enlisted as content producers.

“We’re going to be asking teachers, in the middle of a lesson, to pull out a cell phone and iPad, (and) take a two-minute-or- less video,” he said. The goal is to “show them the robotics class, show them the phonics song and post it by uploading it and displaying on your ‘watch us’ video page.”

Only those with a Hernando County School District email address will be allowed to post to the site. Students whose parents or guardians have signed opt-out forms will not be shown. District communications staff must sign off on all postings before they appear.

Voss said the plan also includes social media, a brochure, as well as posters that can be displayed in establishments such as restaurants and shops. The district will train a group of high profile community members to act as influencers who can highlight the positive and dispel “bad rumors.” A speakers’ bureau also will be trained to spread the word to civic groups, and officials will start a citizens’ academy to create “school champions.”

The plan was based on research, including focus groups, which showed a need for better branding and community awareness through proactive communication and storytelling, Voss said. Extra emphasis will be placed on schools with declining enrollments or low letter grades to highlight the positive things that are happening inside the walls.

The district paid Voss just over $20,000 for the plan, according to spokeswoman Karen Jordan.

The plan will be unveiled to the public in January, with a re-launch in August when the new school year begins. Principals already are being trained. Voss said some pushback is inevitable, as some employees may see the initiative as more work, and say “it’s not my job or it’s the communications department’s job.”

“It’s everybody’s job," he said. “Everybody needs to see themselves as a key communicator. This is doing what we’re already doing more efficiently and consistently.”

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