Leveraging Social Media to Share School Meals that Rock with Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Full Transcript

Welcome to episode 9 of School Nutrition Dietitian. This is a really exciting episode. Today I have Dayle Hayes on the show. If you have been a dietitian for a while or you have been in school nutrition for a while you are already familiar with her work. Whats really exciting about this show is she gives us look into how she started out building her skill set in traditional media and how that later grew into her becoming the go-to person for social media when it comes to communicating nutrition messaging clearly and when it comes to advocating for the school nutrition program. This episode we discuss where we are as an industry and how we can improve as individual districts and individual professionals when it comes to leveraging social media to break down negative stereotypes about school meals. Maybe I’m a little biased but one of my favorite parts of the show is when Dayle dispels the myth that millennials are the absolute worst. Stay tuned.

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

I have been a consultant for a very long time.

Dalia

Okay, that's awesome. Well, maybe we can start right there. There are so many people who are interested in working for themselves or doing something more entrepreneurial, where they can reach more people. But a lot of people are afraid to do that, even though now, with all the technology that we have to reach a wide audience, from home or from anywhere, it's a great time to do it. How did you find yourself doing so much freelancing back in the 90s? Were you always interested in working for yourself, or how did that come about?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

In 1982, I moved from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Billings, Montana. And in Cambridge, I have been working for the neighborhood health centers associated with Cambridge hospital with who is one of the original pilot WIC programs in the country. So it's been a wonderful job to have as a nutritionist. I did work from nine to five, I had a boss, a wonderful boss, but then I moved to Montana. And the situation in Montana in terms of jobs was very different. In other words, in terms of jobs available in nutrition or dietetics, there were primarily jobs at the two local hospitals. At that point, I was just ready to take- to sit for the exam to be an RD. I had completed a master's in public health, and through my work at the WIC program in Massachusetts, I had completed a couple of years of experience. At that point, there existed a path to an RD which no longer exists, but that was, say, internship, excuse me a master's degree plus six months experience. So I did not do an internship, and I sat for the exam when I moved to Montana. So, then I was living in Billings, Montana, not really knowing the situation very well; I had a two year old child, I had an RD. And there really weren't any positions open, especially any positions that I might have been qualified for. So, I went into business for myself. It was as simple as that.

Dalia

Wow, that- that's really brave, I would think that would require a lot of resilience, since people maybe weren't familiar with the concept at the time, or were people used to working with RDs on a part-time basis or for specific projects, or did you pretty much have to develop that path for yourself?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

I pretty much had to develop that path for myself. There were- there was another dietitian in town, actually, she came up with a, quote "friend referral" from somebody I knew back in Massachusetts, and she had- had sort of more traditional training than I had had, and she started to do some consulting for nursing homes. I think that was the only type of consulting that people in Montana were familiar with, at that point. However, I felt pretty comfortable with the idea of doing individual counseling. Because in the Cambridge neighborhood health centers where I had worked, I've had the opportunity to do quite a bit of counseling, outside of the WIC program. So, with clients and patients of the neighborhood health center. At that point, my husband was also a clinical psychologist was just and he was starting to make connections in the community, as the mental health community, and there seemed to be a need for people to work with folks with eating disorders. So, I took some additional workshop training, in terms of eating disorders, put to use some of the counseling that I had already done. In the beginning, that was my basic clientele, if you will. Very shortly though, I met people and networked and begin to get some other kinds of work. I remember that one of the first jobs that somebody offered me was to give a class for the railroad workers for the Burlington Northern Railroad. Pretty much I just said yes. "Yes," led me to interesting opportunities and sort of what we would now call worksite wellness. They've led me to opportunities and doing some PR for work for the local hospital, like doing grocery store tours. And I also immediately got involved with the Montana Dietetic Association. I have to say that I think from the beginning of my career through and this very day, I have made a lot of the connections that I have and have taken advantage of opportunities, through my volunteer work with Dietetic Association.

Dalia

And how- it seems like not everyone has the same understanding of what the value of the Dietetic Association is. How was it being presented, then, just as if you're an RD, if you're being a responsible professional, you should be part of your professional organization or were they stressing networking benefits?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

I think, at that point, it was- it was very much, it is your responsibility as a professional to belong to a professional organization. And then if you're going to belong to that association, then to be active. Honestly, the other thing is that then and now there are only a couple of hundred dietitians in Montana. So, immediately the opportunities to volunteer, to - I think the first thing I did was work on a newsletter. But there really is a sense of that there if we want to have a functional Association. And if we want to get done some of the things that we want, then we all have to work together on those. Two opportunities actually happened in the 80s, which I think had a great deal of influence on career and on dietitians in Montana. And one was that in, I believe it was 1985, I was the among the first media reps that were trained by then the American Dietetic Association, so that the ADA established a spokesperson program and there were national spokespeople, but they also trained one person from every state, or maybe two, if you are a big state. So I got to be the first media rep for the state of Montana, which meant I got to go to a meeting in New Orleans. I went through some pretty arduous media training, but immediately started to come back and do interviews, and, again, you know, network and make opportunities. So that was the first big thing this happened. The second was that in 1987, Montana dietitians were among the first to get licensure. So, that means- meant that, again, very small state, well, actually big state, but very few dietitians is that I immediately got involved with sort of policy and networking around licensure, which we received in 1987.

Dalia

Oh, wow, I did not realize any of that. I really should know more about the progression of dietetics in this country. But it is a relatively early field, I've already understood that food science, in general, is kind of young. And it sounds like you are on the cutting edge of a lot as far as media goes. What forms of media were they using at the time? Was it just print and TV? And when did the internet become part of marketing, nutrition, basically, evidence-based nutrition marketing and getting our messaging out there?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Well, when I first started, the interwebs did not exist. There were not trying to force roaming the earth, despite some report to the contrary. The first things that I started doing were very traditional media, in other words, TV. I very soon after I had my media training, before too long, I was writing a regular column for the newspaper, and also did a fair amount of radio interviews, as well. Radio was and it is popular, out in the West, especially agricultural radio. That's what farmers and ranchers listen to when they're out on the range, although probably now they listen to podcasts. So part of my early work was completely involved with what we would consider to be traditional media. I can't cite the date when I started working online. I do remember some ancient computers along the way. But I do know that I was the first that myself and one other dietitian, were the first people to request a computer to be online at FNCE (Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo.) So, at a national ADA meeting, we were the first people, must've been somewhere in the 90s. We wanted to do a presentation and actually show people websites. And it caused great consternation that we wanted to go online.

Dalia

I was going to ask that because you seem like you must be an early adopter. Because even now, it seems like you're the fir- you're clearly an influencer when it comes to nutrition, and I don't really see anyone else standing out the way that you do when it comes to using technology to support school nutrition in particular. So were you always an early adopter? You just like technology? Are you just a flexible person?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Some of all of the above, I like technology. I like using technology. And it just seemed immediately that there were so many benefits to communicating that way. I suppose I have been an early adopter. But the- I did when I was- so then in mid-90s, I got elected to the, still then the ADA board of directors and in my position, as a director at large I chaired a technology task force. So, the first time that people- that people at the dietitians at the academy level were beginning to think about using various forms of technology- technological communications, you know, I was able to be on the ground floor and to meet some of those people. I was actually thinking about it the other day, because I was looking for other early adopters, I- we're looking for people who think thought outside of the box. And I remember that I kept saying I wanted a dietitian with a ring in their nose. And- and really what I meant by that was my daughter I had just gotten her, you know, a piercing. She had just gotten their nose pierced and I wanted somebody of an age and an interest to, you know, to bring that- that quote "youthful perspective" to talking about technology because we don't need a bunch of old fuddy-duddies talking about technology. And I think some of that is still very much my- my perspective. I think sometimes our profession has been slow to adopt technology. And that is to our detriment. And that's the way that everybody's communicating. The school part of it was just, you know, I, I had a gradual shift into school nutrition. Again. I don't- I can't, I don't have that stuff timeline solidified in my brain, but I got involved in school nutrition because my daughter came home and complained about school lunch. My son had been eating it for three years and never said a word. But my daughter started to complain. And so I went in and said, "What's going on?" You know, "What's happening? What is school lunch, like in Billings, Montana?" I think I took a very different path than some other folks at that time that was really looking for ways to work with people in the profession, as opposed to, you know, being an activist or an advocate. So I joined- I joined FNA, I got to know a lot about it, I started doing some training in the state of Montana, and then in, might have been 1990, or very close to that I did a workshop for Team Nutrition in Washington, DC. And at that point, they had people from all over the country, state-level people who are working with, I think it was the NEK program at that point. But what it did, is it got me introduced to a whole lot of really top-notch school nutrition people and some of those people are still my friends, and many of them have retired now, but some of them, I'm still working with.

Dalia

How did that opportunity come to you? Was that something you pursued or because of all of your work with the Academy, you sit out and someone reached out to you?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Honestly, it was because somebody reached out to me, my- my career has- my career path has not been a, a well-planned. You know, this is where I want to be at this point. I admire people who have those sorts of visions. Mine has been much more about serendipity. And saying yes. I really, I think that it is, you know, from when somebody asked me to go talk to the guys who were on the road about nutrition, when somebody asked me to come to Washington DC and, and at that point for USDA, I was talking about teamwork, helping people realize the benefits of teamwork in terms of school nutrition, but then I happened to meet people and to be on task for committees, all those kinds of things. So that as new, you know, wellness elements for wellness committees came in, first of all, because that was before Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act was just being well positioned. And, and being open to and excited about working with a lot of different people. I mean, that really has been the story of my, of my career. So yeah, it's great to have a plan and, you know, marketing plan, that business plan, know where you want to go. But I also think it's really important to be open to serendipity and opportunities that present themselves to you.

Dalia

Yeah, that is excellent, professional advice that you don't hear off. And there's so much stress on knowing where you want to go. But there's so many variables and so many things you can't control in life. It sounds like it might also be a good idea to open yourself up to opportunities and being as prepared as possible, and like you said, positioning yourself well, because life is full of surprises. How do you stay fresh with technology? Because like you said, we have this ongoing issue with maybe being surrounded by slow adopters? Or how do you stay connected to young people, since we all age so quickly, we just can't seem to keep young people around us because you know, no one stays young forever. So what have you been doing to keep up?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

I think one of the most important things I've done is asked my children for advice. I'm curious about that, you know, since they were especially well, my son definitely. And my daughter when she was younger, more, so were early adopters, and you know, wanted not in a not in an annoying way. I mean, you know, I'm, I'm really glad they didn't, there weren't smartphones when they were teenagers. But, but we always had computers. And we had well, of course, weirdly shaped Apple things that came in the Mac things that came in the bright colors. And then really quickly went from that to having a laptop. So I was always looking for providing my kids with that, with my children with those opportunities. And even today, I mean, I'm trying to decide when to you know, bump up from my iPhone seven, excuse me, iPhone eight to, you know, to a 10 or, you know, 11. And so I have conversations with my son about so you know, what's kind of the optimal timing and price points and all those kinds of things. So, my children are one significant influence on my adoption of technology. However, I just saw something the other day that said, if you're over 40, and I am well over 40, you need to have a mentor who's under 30. So, I think that's a really interesting concept. Because I believe in general, when we've thought about mentor and mentee, we've always pictured the mentor as the older, more experienced person. But in fact that what's really important is to have mentors who are younger, not only for the technology issue, but for how they approach the world, how their, their worldview, whether it be dietetic or school nutrition, how that looks to them is very different than how it looks to me. So, I think staying in touch with younger people like yourself, but also just, just finding ways and again, a professional association is such a convenient way to do that, because there are, you know, members of either the academy or SNA along the whole age fan. And we should be looking not just to folks who might mentor us who are older, but who are younger.

Dalia

That makes so much sense. And I, it's funny, I've never heard anything like that, anywhere else. Because I constantly hear at trainings, that millennials are such a nightmare to work with. It's always framed like people are just tolerating us. Not that they're getting anything out of the interaction. Whereas in my office, even though they give us a hard time about being younger, and I'm an old millennial, so I don't know when it's going to stop, but they really do exchange things that only they could know from having done the job for so long, and understanding the history of the program and history of the community that we live in. But they also take advantage of the knowledge that we have because of being digital natives. I'm not really a digital native, but I'm close. So it's interesting that people are finally putting that into words. I wonder how long it'll take for that to spread? It may never spread. I don't know.

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Well, I just think it, to me, the strength of almost anything in our world comes from embracing diversity.

Dalia

Yes.

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

And, and making sure that diversity is included. And I absolutely believe in diversity related to culture and ethnicity, demographics, all those kinds of things. I mean, that, that's sort of the traditional views of diversity. With ages the same thing. I mean, age, it is the diversity that we need to, to embrace, to include, to explore. And it seems to me that if we, you know, think it's only top-down and or even think of bottom-up, you know, young up. I mean, neither one of those provides the benefits that looking at the different kinds of wisdom and expertise that come from a variety of ages.

Dalia

Right.

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Several people have told me that perhaps I'm a millennial. I'm just a really old millennial, or I was millennial before millennial was, but I don't find millennials difficult at all. I think that they're fascinating, they have so much to offer. And besides that, millennials are the parents of customers in school nutrition, so you better understand the parents if you want their kid to be your customer.

Dalia

Yeah, and if you hold any group of people in contempt in your personal life, it always comes across. No matter how much you try and suppress it or no matter how much you convince yourself that you know how to behave in certain contexts, how you really feel it kind of just seeps out of your pores. So, if you don't like your millennial co-workers strictly because you just have decided you can't gel with the values of the whole generation, I'm sure it comes across when you interact with the parents, as-as well. And it's just funny to me, because all the complaints that people have, I was watching something on PBS, where they played a clip of somebody describing a baby boomer, I can't even remember how old, what the generation was right before the baby boomers but all of their complaints sound exactly like what baby boomers say about Gen Xers and millennials. So, people always do that. And it's just, it's not helpful. Like you said, it doesn't strengthen your organization to close yourself off to age diversity.

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

I have told people for years, and I think it's still pretty valid, that if you don't understand something about technology, or you don't understand something about social media, or you don't understand what Reddit is, or you know, whatever it is to find a teenager and have them help you understand it. It's probably better if they're not your teenager, you know, if they, if they're a nephew, or, or you know, a random teenager in the neighborhood, but they're the ones who can, especially now, who've been digital-native parents who were born digitally on, you can take advantage as long as you are open and listening, you can take advantage of what they know really well and put it to work for you. I think if we create barriers because of age or because of color, or because of cultural backgrounds, it doesn't serve us in any way. And in fact, it does it harm. The things that in this society that seems so that, that are good and that are working well, it seems to me are real mashups, they're mashups of, again, cultural background. But they're mashups of ages, too. I mean, I think that we can learn so much across generations and, and things that have a lot of technology and, and things that don't have a lot of technology. So, you know, being open to the possibilities feels like the right thing to me.

Dalia

Right? Absolutely. So, how do we amplify our voices as evidence-based practitioners? And, as public health advocates, we know there's a lot of conflicting nutrition messaging out there. How do we make sure science is in the forefront?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

I think this is a critically important issue and public health right now. I recently attended a committee meeting of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and there was testimony from a broad spectrum of professionals and individuals, but it also was like this huge disconnect between actual science-based information and people's personal philosophies, and what they thought Americans should be eating. I think in terms of school nutrition professionals, it's very important to emphasize the fact that school meals are plans based on scientific information. And although you know, we know that science is always gradually evolving, what we're working with is something that is based on facts, not in people's personal preferences, or philosophies about eating. I respect those, but those aren't the kinds of information that we should be basing feeding programs for children on.

Dalia

That absolutely makes sense. Because if we're just using anecdotal information, or things that are based on one person's experience, there's no way to know whether or not that can be applied to the general population, which is the difference between evidence-based nutrition and everything else that's out there, it can actually be applied to the general population and benefit the general population.

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Absolutely. I do think we need to provide options. For example, a vegetarian diet is an option that we should make available to students in schools who prefer to, whose families prefer that as an eating style. But just because that's a food preference or a philosophy for some families, doesn't mean that we should apply it to everybody.

Dalia

Right. That makes a lot of sense. So, we know you're an expert in helping organizations market themselves or districts or entire nutrition departments. Are there similarities between how you promote an organization and personal branding, or how we promote ourselves as professionals?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

I think the real key to whether you're branding yourself as a professional, or whether you're branding, say a school district, or a nutrition program, the key to branding all of those is to be very clear about several things. The first thing is to be really clear who your audience is. Who are you trying to reach? If you try to reach too many audiences, sometimes, the messaging of that brand is not so clear. I always suggest that when people are working on their branding, whether it's school districts or a person is you don't create your brand in a vacuum. You ask your audience, you ask your customers, you ask the people who you're working with, what, whether your brand means something to them. So, if I'm talking about School Meals That Rock, I need to make certain that the people who I'm speaking to and in fact, I have a couple of different audiences, but that they understand what that means. That they don't think I'm talking about rock music. That they understand that I'm talking about excellence in school meals. So, I think it's really important, whatever you're doing to be clear on the audience, and to engage your audience when you're creating your brand.

Dalia

So, how did you do your research before you landed on school meals rock?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Well, actually, I started out with some colleagues who were working in the area of school meals. And you know, I said, I really want to create a brand and, and I was specifically going to do that in the social media space. I was honestly upset about some of the other conversations that were going on that really portrayed negative images of school meals. So, I wanted something that was in direct opposition to that, that positioned a positive place for school meals. So, I started out with colleagues who I knew personally, and I said, what does this mean to you? And we discussed what School Meals That Rock means. And then I expanded that out to some sort of a very brief informal survey to several other people, several other programs around the country who were working in school meals, and I said, what does this mean to you? And how would you respond, you know, to a Facebook page, for example, that was class, called School Meals That Rock. I got a very positive response to that. People thought it was a little bit edgy, but not too sassy, and understood what exactly I was trying to get to. I first establish the name and the brand and used it online for several years, before I ever developed a logo. I think sometimes when branding themselves, people think you sort of have to do the whole package at the same time. Maybe you're at a place or your program was at a place where it's appropriate to get a name, a logo, a tagline, to do all those things at once. In my case, it wasn't and I waited for several years before I felt like, before I felt that I had an idea of what I wanted the visual for that brand to look like. And then I went to a graphic artist and had to work up some options, and again, went through that, the process of sharing and getting reactions to that.

Dalia

Okay, so you have multiple audiences, you said. So, did you have an idea about what kind of content you would be putting on the page, around the same time that you were putting feelers out for how people understood the brand itself?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Yeah, my goal at that point, and, and essentially, my ongoing goal is to change the perception of school meals in the United States. Some days, I feel like I've, my job's done. Well, on a good day, when I'm scrolling through social media, and I see so many wonderful examples of school meals and of logos, for that matter, of names for programs. When I see that I think, "Oh, okay, you know, I have helped to change the perception." And then, of course, something happens. And I think, "No, no, there's still a lot of work to be done here."

Dalia

Right.

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

I'm still willing to do the work. But yes, I, the content that I started with was really for two audiences. One was for school, people who work in school meals themselves. I wanted to know that, them to know that they had a cheerleader, that I understand the challenges and the obstacles that people work with every day, and I also am so aware of the incredible successes that people have had. So, you know, I wanted people in the biz, so to speak to know, to know that they had a cheerleader, and also that there were ways that they could successfully promote their own programs. Beyond that, I wanted to just get out the information that, you know that school meals aren't, aren't the negative, nasty things that is sometimes portrayed in the media. And I wanted my colleagues to know that who aren't in school nutrition, by colleagues, I mean, other registered dietitians. And I also wanted, you know, basically, the general public to know that. And just today, I had the opportunity to provide a few sentences for a blog that one of our colleagues, a registered dietitian, is going to write for a national magazine. And when she first reached out, not to me, but she had a sort of general request, she was asking for ideas on what families could pack for meals, you know, to take to school. And I said, that's a great thing to do. However, would you also be interested in a few sentences about why families should take a fresh look at school meals? And she said, "Oh, yeah, of course." And she said, "Oh, yeah. And I know that that's your wheelhouse. And I'd love to see what you wrote, so, what you would put together." So, I put a few sentences together and sent them off to her. So, I think that the brand of school meals that rock has given me a lot of opportunities to help change perceptions among my professional colleagues, as well as the general public.

Dalia

And you have a massive reach in the dietetic community in areas where you would think people maybe have no exposure to food services, school nutrition, because a lot of people do their food service rotations in a clinical setting. But it feels like pretty much everybody knows who you are. So, how do you effectively reach two audiences at once? When we're trying to market our individual programs, we're usually trying to reach parents, children, employees that work within the department, and then employees in the district and stakeholders in general. Is that too many groups to attempt to market to?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

I don't think it's too many groups to attempt to market to. I mean, I think you create an overall brand that you can use with all those markets, then you may have different strategies to reach different people in different ways. In other words, the strategy that you might use to reach middle school students might be different than the administrators in your district. But if you are set, I mean, a brand, I think is an overall umbrella under which you can or but let's, let's turn that metaphor on end. I think it's the foundation, and then on that, you can build different strategies that, that target a specific audience in a, in a specific way. And I also think you can use it to market a specific program or event in a different way. In other words, once you, once you have an overall brand, I'll just do School Meals That Rocks, I don't focus on anybody's district or program in particular. But under School Meals That Rock, I could talk about school breakfast that rocks, I could talk about school lunches that rock, I could talk about, you know, snack programs that rock. So, on that, on that one brand and platform, I can, I can do different programs and different events. And I can also use different strategies to reach different audiences. I've never really gone after, I mean, the work that I do, and the platforms that I work on are not aimed at students themselves. They're really aimed at adults. And, and, however, even within adults, I talked differently sometimes, for example, when I want to reach administrators, so when I want to reach educators, versus say, when I want to reach the families themselves, the folks who are making the decisions about where a child eats.

Dalia

But you use one platform to reach multiple audiences. You don't dedicate say, like Twitter to one audience and Facebook to another.

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Not in my case, I think that... so a choice to dedicate a particular channel, a particular social media channel to one audience, I think it's possible. In my case, it's not necessary. In my case, use those various channels to reach, to basically, to reach the same audience. I do think that, you can pick up or research, who's using which platforms more often, and see what different types of people tend to be there more often. One of the things that I've found really interesting, though, in, in doing some research with a particular district is finding out that even though students may not follow a Twitter account, for example, or lunch, school lunch Twitter account, even though they may not be following that, they may go and take a look at it on an occasional basis when they're making decisions about what to eat. So, I don't always think that numbers of followers or particular demographics of followers, may, may not give you a complete picture of who actually is paying attention to that social media.

Dalia

Okay. And so in that same vein, do you use analytics to see what's going on with your Facebook accounts? Would you recommend that districts look at their analytics? Or because of what you just said, are they not very useful?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

I think they're, they're one piece of information. Absolutely, I go and I look at my analytics, and to help figure out, you know, who, who is following me, best time of day, best days of the week, you know, when I'm, when I'm getting the kind of pickup and engagement that I want. On the other hand, I think all of those, all of the metrics that are being used by social media are so variable that do, you can only, by variable, I mean that they change over time, and that we don't always know how they've changed. So, you see analytics, yes, but also get a sense of, from your own work of what things work, what topics work best, what formats work best, a poll versus just a picture, you know, get, get a sense of that, and, and keep your finger on the pulse of, of how things are changing in your social media engagement.

Dalia

What resources do you recommend for us learning how to use platforms we're already on to their fullest extent, or keeping up with the changes? So, I know most of us, everybody knows how to use Facebook. But not everybody knows how to post a poll, for example. Where should we go to learn more?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

I think everybody should become very familiar with help. I'm actually serious. I think one of the things that people do is they, they don't take advantage of what the platform itself has available for you. For example, if I see somebody doing something cool on Facebook, or having a poll, and I'm wondering, how are they doing that? I go to Facebook, to the Help Center, and I say Help. I don't say help, I say, "How do I make a poll? How do I utilize the poll? How can I post the poll on Twitter?" I think that's a very effective way, is to use the platform itself. I go out and Google what my question is and I follow a few blogs, probably on a regular basis, but from my work, I find it more effective to, to just ask a question, Google a question and see what comes up in terms of the answer. That's my style, which, which is more sort of organic and bound to when I have a question, how I like to learn is when I need to know the answer to something. So, then I'll go out and search it, and probably find an example from two or three different blogs. For example, one of the things I've been looking at now recently is the different ways that people are using video, I think it's become really clear, and, and I think most people on social media would agree that video is, is the name of the game. You know, if a picture's worth 1000 words, then a video is worth 1000 pictures. So, beginning to think about how people are using video, what, what length video do you want to use? What about user-created content? You know, students creating, for example, some video content. I just go out and I search on those topics, and I read what a variety of people are saying about it.

Dalia

Okay, that's a good tip. And I know you were giving tips about how to use Google more effectively at pre-con, and we had technical issues, and I had technical issues at my table. So, I wasn't able to do all the exercises in real-time. But I've been working my way through them. So, even though I use Google literally every day, I don't even know how many times a day, some of those search functions, I didn't realize we're clickable in Google, because some of that I remember from university libraries, like those search conventions, I didn't realize those same rules were applicable in Google.

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

That whole thing is a really good example. Say your question is, "How do I use Google more effectively? How do I, what search terms can make my searches more effectively," that's the kind of thing that I search on. And then, and find two or three different sources who are saying, and then pick the way or the style or the presentation, that's most, that teaches me the best. I mean, I guess I think that one of the advantages that we have today is that we can individualize our learning, not everybody has to learn in exactly the same way. And you know, there are, there are plenty of great blogs out there. I mean, a lot of the platforms have their own blogs. Hootsuite provides a lot of information about how to use social media effectively. Sprout is another blog that I follow. So, I follow them, because I find them useful. They just had a recent piece about, how- What are fake influencers? And how can you spot them. They've had some effective- They've had some effective things on creating social media videos, that kind of thing. It's how I learned and then, not sure if it's the best way for everybody to learn, but when I need to know something, I go out and search for what I need to know. And I think that's a positive way, at least for me, to approach learning about these things.

Dalia

Okay, perfect. That's insightful. And I'm going to post all those resources, so it's easy for people to find. So, you've done so much getting us to where we need to be as far as changing the public perception of the National School Lunch Program, like you said, sometimes you feel like your job is done. But of course, we have off days. So, there's plenty more work that we could be doing. What do you think we are doing well as an entire field? And where are there opportunities for growth that you can see?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

I think that the real issue at this point is, is the numbers. In other words, I think a lot of the people who are on social media regularly, yourself and the other prominent districts, they're doing a great job, and they're doing a great job within their communities. But I think there is, I don't think we've reached the tipping point in terms of the numbers of districts that are actively promoting the great things they're doing on social media. You know, I think that the people who are on social media are doing a great job, I just think we need more people to do that. And on the days when I think my job is done is when I noticed that there are three or four more districts on Twitter, or that there are more districts on Instagram. That makes me happy. But I think we don't have the numbers, yet. The other thing is, I think that, that we could do a better job of coordinating school nutrition, school meals, promotions, on social media, with the districts themselves. So, in many cases, the district has been using social media for a longer time, really has a very high level of engagement in terms of families and is using that as the primary way to reach out to families in their district. And then, there's the social media account for the school nutrition program, but it seems like an entirely separate thing. I think those work the best when the school district and the school nutrition program are really coordinating, or reinforcing, or amplifying the messages. And quite frankly, when, when school districts are, are integrating messaging about school meals into their promotional, their marketing, their activities, that's when people will begin to see school nutrition as essential to the education process.

Dalia

That's an excellent point. I could see making an effort in our district to see if we could start working toward that because right now we are pretty separate, will occasionally get a repost, but yes we appear to be two separate entities.

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

That's not an uncommon situation. But, when you see districts beginning to not just repost but to post something about their school nutrition program. I just happened to have an example which came across my screen today from Gwinnett County in Georgia and, their Twitter account for their- This, this is huge, but they have some enormous number of followers, and an enormous number of followers on Facebook, as well. But what they were doing was they were posting some pictures from the school nutrition program, and Gwinnett has branded itself as Cafe Gwinnett. Then I happen to see that Gwinnett Schools wasn't just reposting something, but it was really talking about what was going on in the school nutrition program and how important that was to education and posting that as a separate post. And that I think, is really effective.

Dalia

And they look like they have a lot of engagement, as well, not just a lot of followers. And I see that you have that, too, with School Meals That Rock. What does it take to get an engaged audience, not just grow your numbers?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Pay attention to your audience. Pay attention to things that work and things that don't work. I'm rarely surprised when a post is really engaging, because I've been watching carefully, and I haven't been just thinking about what it is that I want to post. I've been thinking about what it is that people want to read and know about, what are people curious about what are things that are trending so that I'm not just posting what I think is important, or what I want people to pay attention to. I'm thinking about it from their viewpoint and sometimes asking, I mean, one of the things that we've been doing on tips for School Meals That Rock is really asking people, their opinions and what they're doing, and sometimes it's formal like it's a poll. I think polls can be very effective because people like to express their opinions. But over the summer, we also just did a feature on the weekend called hashtag weekend wondering. We're wondering what you're thinking about, you know, X, Y, or Z. And that, I think, especially if you do it regularly, and that people are really responsive to that. I think that engages folks, it engages them beyond just clicking that they, you know, like something or love something. But you know, really asking.

Dalia

Yeah, okay, that's a good tip. These sounds obvious, and yet, I don't necessarily think that they are, I guess we forget the rules of communication when we go into a different platform. But this is basically what it takes to create relationships in real life. The same rules apply, it's just a matter of finding a way to get that communication to go back and forth. That's how you keep your audience. Now, if you are in a district, and of course you're assigned to other duties, would you recommend that districts assign multiple people to make sure that their site is responsive? And if so, how do you make it clear what the voice of your department is supposed to be so that everyone can kind of write in the same voice?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

I think that's a really interesting question and dilemma. I do think it's very helpful to thread the responsibilities a little bit. To not make, you know, I, it's an enormous job to take on to create a really effective social media presence, for anybody, for any brand, travel, nutrition or otherwise. I mean, I realized that I have a lot, I have a luxury and, that sort of is my job. And that is what I do. So, I have a lot of time to think about it and focus on it, and that your average Child Nutrition Program Director, or Registered Dietitian, rarely has that as a significant job description. I mean, I think there are a few people who have that as their responsibility, and a few people who love to do it, so it doesn't feel like their job. But I think if you don't have that situation, that actually creating a social media presence can also be a really good way to build leadership within a department. So, say you've got a director and you have, you know, a number of supervisors or manager-type level people who are working in a, in a, in a program that, you know, maybe one manager, one supervisor, one person can take responsibility for a platform, like posting on Instagram or something like that. I think, and often some of the younger people have, are much more intuitive about working with social media than some people. You can grow leadership by assigning those responsibilities to different people, and how do you, how do you keep a coherent brand or image? I think you do it like you do anything else; you decide on, on what the, what the key messages are, on, you build a social media calendar, so you know what you're posting about. And then you, you know, make sure that you're staying on top of people following, you know, the policies, the procedures and the calendar. But I think when you do that, effectively, you can really establish a cohesive social media presence, that doesn't have to be done all by one person.

Dalia

So, for people who've never tried to develop a social media strategy before, would that meeting be where you discuss the strategies for your different target audiences, and when you want to address them, and with what kind of content?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

I think that establishing a strong social media presence in the school nutrition program is like anything else that you might do in that program. It's like menu planning. It is like, establishing a training schedule. You get the folks who are involved in the issue together, you brainstorm, you have a conversation, you make some, you prioritize some decisions about how you're going to do things. And then you make assignments, and you get them done. And I think that applies whether you're making some menu changes that applies whether you're training people how to cook more from scratch, and it also applies to social media. So, that if you decide you want to work on that, you get a group of people at a manager or supervisory level to get together and to think about who you want to reach. What platform is potentially the best way to, to reach that, to get to those people? What assets do you have? What is possible to do in your district? And it probably is impossible to do any, to do everything all at once. But it is possible to pick out a couple of achievable things, that you can do well, and to focus on that.

Dalia

Perfect, thank you so much for coming on. I know that we've probably just scratched the surface. But, all of those tips are extremely useful and actionable. So that people who maybe aren't using social media yet will feel like maybe they're ready to get started. That gives us good ideas about how we determine who our audience is and how we go about structuring a plan.

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Well, thank you for inviting me to talk about it. I do want to say one other thing, and that is look around your entire staff to see if you have an untapped resource. In other words, I always encourage people to look and see whether they already have a staff, a person on their staff, it may not be a kitchen manager, it may be someone who works as, works on the line, it may be a very young person, but it might be somebody who really knows how to use Twitter has, has really, you know, focused on that, used it a lot, learned a lot by being on something like Twitter, it might be somebody who really has the ability to take some wonderful photographs. So again, it's an opportunity to build some skills and build some leadership in those areas. And you don't have to jump right in and give somebody access to your Twitter account and worry about what might be posted but again, like anything else, people can be trained and, and can be taught leadership skills in that area. So, look broadly in your program to think about who might be a great resource for social media.

Dalia

That's a great tip. I recently had a manager volunteer to help with social media in our district. And it's like a million times better now that she's involved because she has the type of personality where it's easy for her to elicit information out of people and get support from people. So, she's got way more contributors for content, and between the two of us, we're doing so much better than last year. It's pretty exciting. But, she wasn't on my radar, at all. She just does social media for her church and has built up that skill, even though it has nothing to do with what she does during the business day. Had she not brought it to my attention, I wouldn't have known she was that strong with her social media skill. So, I'm glad she volunteered, but that's a good idea to cast a wide net and to really look beyond the people that you may first consider approaching. That could be anyone really.

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

That's the perfect example. It could be anyone, really and they could have developed their social media skill in a whole different subject matter. It could be something with their church, it could be something with mom, mom's group. Social media is being used so widely these days.

Dalia

And you're, I know you're already internet famous and school nutrition and dietetic famous. But, for people who don't know, where do we find you online?

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Basically, now anything that's branded with School Meals That Rock, or, in the case of Twitter, School Meals Rock, because I couldn't use all the characters, that is a channel that I'm in. Basically, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, are all places where I have a presence. Some of them, I'll be honest with you, are areas where I focus more at one point than another. But, all of those channels are places where you can find me.

Dalia

Excellent. Thank you so much for coming on.

Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

My pleasure. And best of luck with the podcast. The podcast is a great way to reach people. And again, it's just one of those channels that's developing over time. So, congratulations for using it.

Dalia

Thank you.

Dalia

I'm so glad you joined us for another episode of School Nutrition Dietitian. Remember, we all grow by sharing. The only fee for this show is that you share it with others when you hear something useful. Hopefully, that will be every episode. Also, be sure to rate and review the show on iTunes. That really helps us out with visibility.

Resources Mentioned

Tips for School Meals That Rock Facebook Group

https://www.facebook.com/groups/177286602996832/

https://hootsuite.com/

https://sproutsocial.com