Success Stories

Relationship Marketing Weekly: School Principal Edition

Ronanda Liberty has been a school principal in the Spokane, WA area for over six years. One of the challenges she experiences is finding qualified applicants for her open positions, and keeping quality teachers for her school. Today Ronanda is using relationship marketing in her own way to ensure she stands out among the competition in the highly competitive arena of finding and retaining quality educators!

Kody Bateman: Hello everybody. This is Kody Bateman. Welcome to a very special edition of our Relationship Marketing Weekly show. We missed last week. So we’ve had a week off and we’re back out at full action today and very excited about the guest that we have on today, a very unique industry if you want to call it.

Typically on this show, I interview people from different business industries, profit business industries like insurance, real estate, different sales type of industries. We’ve had some incredible guests on there.

Today is a little bit different. We actually have a principal today, a principal of a junior and senior high school. It’s Lake Roosevelt Junior/Senior High School based out of Ritzville, Washington. Please welcome to our show Ronanda Liberty. Ronanda, welcome.

Ronanda Liberty: Hi Kody. Thank you for having me.

Kody Bateman: Now, are we in the principal’s office right now?

Ronanda Liberty: You are in the principal’s office, yes.

Kody Bateman: Wow! It has been a long time since I’ve been in the principal’s office. I was one of those students that half the time I was there for good reason and the other half was challenging reasons. So I was kind of one of those students way back in the day.

But listen, we’re excited to have you on here today. You’ve got some very unique things that happened. First of all, I want to talk a little bit about what you do and I want to congratulate you Ronanda for what you do. On behalf of everybody listening, you’re one of the true crusaders. You’re educating our youth and making a contribution to our society that is just so highly needed and underappreciated.

So I just want to take my hat off to you and all of your teachers and all of the staff and all the efforts that it takes to run a public junior and high school. I just think it’s a wonderful thing. So thank you very much.

Now, talk to us a little bit about what you do because one of the things that I was – that’s very interesting is the first thing I noticed when I read your notes is that you do a lot of recruiting and I never really envisioned principals actually recruiting teachers. So tell us a little bit about how that works.

Ronanda Liberty: Yeah. Well, so my job is to make sure that I have the best qualified people in front of our young people. The students are our main priority and so I need to find qualified people who want to be here with students who are a good fit in our school. I also happen to be in a rural community, which means it’s harder to attract people to want to come out here, especially people who might not be familiar with rural communities.

So you might not think of it on the surface but that’s a big part of what I do. I have to make sure that all operations are running in all spots …

Kody Bateman: Wow, that’s amazing. So where do you do your recruiting at?

Ronanda Liberty: Well, there’s – the main places that we redo our recruiting are job fairs. So come spring time is about when all the movement happens and the postings because we know kind of our anticipated needs for the next year. We might have some retirements or some changes in programs, so that starts to open up what we’re going to have available or we start [0:03:15] [Inaudible] student numbers.

So we will have our anticipated openings and we go out to job fairs. There’s one relatively close. It’s about an hour and a half away from here that’s a big one and then we might even go over to like Montana for example, a couple of states over or over in the Seattle area if we’re really having to search far and wide for those applicants because there are times in a small school you might not get applicants for a position. So you have to go get the word out there and you have to meet people.

Kody Bateman: So when you go to a job fair, obviously there’s a lot of other principals and other educators that are at those job fairs doing the same thing you’re doing. What kind of things do you do when you go to these job fairs to set yourself apart or to keep you top of mind with those that you’re trying to recruit?

Ronanda Liberty: Well, I want to make sure that we stand out. Being at a job fair is kind of like in a trade show. So all these schools have these different booths and they’re starting to get fancy posters and swag and doing these things to get people to come over to the tables to talk to them and what I want to do is go beyond that.

I want them to remember us because at my little booth for my school, I get people that kind of walk by and stop and visit. I will look down the row and for a big school district in an urban area, there will be a line of people waiting to talk to them. So how do I get them to come over and then how do I make it memorable?

So I needed a follow-up strategy. After I meet with people, I take time to visit with them and I collect their information and then I follow up with a “Nice to meet you card!” and in that card, they get a little bit of a glimpse of more who we are and we welcome them to come in and visit with us and take a tour because we want them to realize that after they’ve left us, we are a community of people and we’re really a big family. We want them to feel that.

I’m pretty certain that all of the other booths around me are not doing follow-up meeting more than an email or a phone call to some top candidates. It really stands out. We have pictures of us in there. So they remember our faces, our contact information. Kind of make a brand about ourselves on that.

Kody Bateman: So do you – like when someone comes up to your booth and you talk to them, you end up sending them a real physical greeting card as a follow-up. By the way, you are right. Nobody else is doing that. If statistics – you know, statistics share in the tradeshow industry and I’m sure it’s no different with the job fairs. You know, less than five percent of trade show participants actually do any kind of follow-up. So it’s the craziest thing in the world that you spend all of this effort and money and everything else and you don’t have a systemized way of follow-up. Now not only do you have a systemized way to follow up, but it’s very personal.

Ronanda Liberty: Absolutely.

Kody Bateman: Yeah. So tell us a little bit. Like what would you say in a follow-up card to somebody you visited with?

Ronanda Liberty: Well, first of all, I want to make sure that what’s on the front of the card represents our school. So that’s why we do the branding. I might put something that shows our community or it might have our logo on the front and the back of the card. On the inside, like I said, I put in a picture. So they remember what our faces look like. It has our names. It has our contacts. When I say us, I’m usually doing this in conjunction with other administrators in my district. So we will go together and kind of look at the pool of different people that come to our booth.

In that, I give them where I met them at, at which job fair and I make sure that they get a very clear invitation to come and spend more time with us and then make easy access to our information and contact details.

Kody Bateman: So what kind of results does this give you?

Ronanda Liberty: Well, what I have found is that I’ve had people respond to it. They’ve called me up and want to come and take a tour of my school and it has resulted in people [0:07:03] [Indiscernible] for it and being offered positions in my district. I know that the card is making an impact when I do this follow-up with them because it gets mentioned. That it’s sometimes one of the first things they say. I received this from you and I would want to come and spend more time with you.

Kody Bateman: OK. So that’s one way that you use a tangible greeting card system. There’s a lot of other things that you do. I’ve noticed on here on my notes communication with your staff and your teachers. So you actually use this method to do certain types of communication with staff and teachers. Could you share some of those stories with us?

Ronanda Liberty: Well, I do. Again, I wanted to stand out. I want my staff to know that this is our family and our community because not only do I need to recruit teachers, I need to retain teachers and I need to retain people who are really invested in our mission together. So anytime I can put a personal touch, because it’s a busy world. We’re on the go all the time. We’re always very responsive to everything in our way. So how can I disrupt that with a tangible way of saying I appreciate you and this is part of who we are?

So I have a campaign that’s actually ready to go out here soon that is going to illustrate our theme for the year. We’re kind of focusing on a theme. It keeps us focused on something. So it brands that. It makes it visible.

I do it for a back-to-school letter. So anybody who works in a school, come August, about the time school is going to start, they receive a letter in the mail that says, “Welcome back. I’m excited to see you. Here’s our schedule of events for our pre-service, in-service days that we have.” I put that in a greeting card where I can make [0:08:43] [Indiscernible] like I said, be part of our branding and then I have that message on the inside and I find a lot of times those are hung in the classrooms.

Kody Bateman: Wow.

Ronanda Liberty: It says something about our school on them.

Kody Bateman: People crave recognition and it doesn’t matter what field you’re in, people crave – people want to be noticed. They want to feel like that they’re making a difference and that somebody is paying attention.

So it’s great that you do those things. You actually do a lot of – like you have mentioned, you do a lot of recognition above and beyond efforts even with your students, which I think is really cool. In fact, do you have any stories about sending a card to a student? I know that teenagers receiving recognition from an adult, especially an adult in authority, it’s a big deal. I mean it’s a big deal for these kids. So do you have anything to share about that?

Ronanda Liberty: I do. From November, it’s a real popular time to do a gratitude challenge and we want to get more of a certain kind of school’s thought or behavior we want to pay attention to. So I did a gratitude challenge with my students and I challenged them to once a day to extend gratitude somewhere and we kind of had to put it in sticky notes and we had it visible on posters. So that when people walk in the door, they could see the gratitude that was going out there.

Then I leveled it up a little bit and I asked them to respond. How did this gratitude challenge impact you? Then selected winners. It was kind of a little contest and took it from the people who wanted to rise up to that.

I was able to take a picture of their essay and put it in a congratulations and thank you. It’s kind of a combo message card and send it to them at home where they could – their parents could see that and they could have that copy of it and then I got to keep the copies that get turned in to me.

Kody Bateman: Wow, that’s cool. Yeah, I want my grandkids to go to your school. I think that will be –

Ronanda Liberty: We would love to have them here for sure.

Kody Bateman: Yeah, that’s super neat. That’s so important for these kids. I want to go back to the job fair real quick. You got a story that you told about somebody that you had met a job fair and you followed up with a card. Can you share that with us?

Ronanda Liberty: Sure. So this is a candidate who was interested in a rural community in where they wanted to teach and so we had spent some time talking and I think she came around and visited a few times and so I knew that she was one of those top priority people. So I made sure that she got our thoughtful card and I followed up in a few other connection ways with her too.

She applied for a job and received a job. She commented on receiving that card and really how that stood out, that was definitely an indicator to her and we were able to build that relationship from the beginning and that piece helped us stay in contact with her and I had the same thing happen with a few other people who – not everybody sticks around as well. Things change and people’s lives change. But I’m still in contact personally as an administrator with those people which then fits me if I’m ever in another role and I might be in their area and be needing them. That helps me with my connections down the road. A lot of educators don’t think of networking as important and it’s absolutely critical. So, that’s something I can [0:12:14] [Indiscernible] and maybe serve students in another way finding another school.

Kody Bateman: OK. I’m going to – that’s super. That’s super good stuff. But I’m going to put you on the spot here for a second.

Ronanda Liberty: OK.

Kody Bateman: I’m acting on a prompting. I’m going to put you on the spot here. We live in a challenging time and especially our kids growing up are living in a very challenging time. They’re on social media all the time. They see. They’re exposed to so many things on social media in a negative way. It’s just kind of a crazy world right now. It’s a crazy world to be raising our kids in. You as an educator and somebody that cares deeply about these kids, ages – what? Is it seventh to twelfth grade? So you would be ages what? Eleven or 12 to 18?

Ronanda Liberty: Oh, 13 up through 18, 19.

Kody Bateman: So 13 to 18. Here’s what I’m going to ask you. In your mind, what is the most important thing that we can teach our kids to help them get through that phase of their life?

Ronanda Liberty: I think – well, I like to say we’re in the business of raising great adults and the way to help them get there is to be great adults. My number one priority is to make sure that they know that they are important and they have something that they’re supposed to be serving with their life.

So to really be open to growth and connection and being a good person and appreciating them, so that they’re looking for opportunities to pay that forward. I have those conversations all the time. It’s building themselves so that they can give themselves to others.

Kody Bateman: Well, the fact that you do a gratitude challenge with your students, I mean that alone is just phenomenal. In my mind and in my line of work where I see everywhere I go, the value of a gratitude challenge is imperative for anybody, especially today, especially today because there’s so much focus on negativity and what’s wrong with everything, that a gratitude challenge – and to explain what a gratitude challenge is, is that you just challenge people to share gratitude with other people for a certain period of time, several days or whatever, and I just think that that’s so important today, especially our kids, and what you send out in life comes back to you.

So if you are – if you appreciate people, then your relationships will appreciate. They get bigger and better. So great stuff that you’re doing there. Any final words? I always like to close the show with final words of wisdom from Ronanda Liberty. So the floor is yours. Take it away.

Ronanda Liberty: I think my final words of wisdom, whether we’re dealing with adults or students, is to put relationships first. Making sure that people know that they matter is number one and that causes them to invest in themselves, invest in other people and that raises the tide. So just when you’re caught up in the busyness of everything that’s coming at you and all your to-do lists, just take time to make sure that people know you care.

Kody Bateman: There you have it everybody, coming from the wisdom of Ronanda Liberty from Lake Roosevelt Junior/Senior High School. She’s the principal there and that was a delightful time in the principal’s office today. I really enjoyed that and thank you very much for being with us today.

I really appreciate it and if you want to find out how Ronanda does some of the things she does, get back with the person that shared this show with you and I’m sure they can share with you the systems and things that will help you do what Ronanda does as far as sending cards and gifts out to people and stay tuned next week for another great version of our Relationship Marketing Weekly show. Thanks everybody. Take care now.

Ronanda Liberty: Thank you.


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