Kris Kurtenbach, Collaborative Communications Group FounderThanks for visiting Collaborative’s blog. You’ll quickly see that we curate our content to provide to you information and tools that can elevate your work.

To start, Rhyla, Jeff, Devin and Ian, four professional communicators on our team with different skills–along with guest bloggers, will guide you through our perspective on the communications world.

Collaborative’s blog will provide tips and tricks for using digital content, branding, media outreach and communications strategies, along with insight into news in the education field. All writing is intended to share what we know in ways that can help your team succeed.

When it comes to supporting the work of education nonprofits, the team at Collaborative knows their stuff, as we focus solely on education and learning. Please reach out to our team if you need a sounding board or suggestions for improving your work.

Many thanks, and we look forward to engaging with you.

Kris, Founding Partner of Collaborative

Writing a Great Call to Action: Going Beyond “Click Here”

I admit it, I’m guilty of relying on the “Click here for more information” sentence. It’s a lazy and ineffective way of making a call to action. If you’ve been relying on “Click Here,” it’s time to step up your call to action game with the following tips.

Make it Actionable

Provide a clear next step for your user. Explain the benefit the user will get when they take action. Kahoot provides an exciting call to action that tells the user exactly what they’re getting.


Another great example comes from Stoodle.


Make it Emotional

Calls to action that include emotional appeals will lead to more clicks and more conversions. Strategize on how you can tap into a user’s curiosity, fears of getting left behind, love and anger. The call to action below appeals to a user’s sense of belonging.


Make it Short

Be direct and keep it short.


Make it Easy

Don’t make your call to action complicated.


No matter what you want your user to do—subscribe, register, download a document or provide feedback—take a step back, put yourself in your user’s shoes and develop a call to action that would compel you to act.

5 Reasons Your Organization Should be Paying Attention to Snapchat

It wasn’t too long ago that the CEO of Snapchat was spending an inordinate amount of time trying to convince people that his app was more than a tool for sexting teens. In just a few years, Snapchat has grown to be a social media behemoth that advertisers, media outlets and even the White House are taking quite seriously. Here are five reasons that organizations should be keeping an eye on Snapchat.

  1. 100 Million. That’s how many people are opening the app every day, according to Bloomberg. Snapchat is moving into Facebook’s territory by delivering 7 billion video clips a day, which is close to the number of video views on Facebook — which has 15 times more users.
  2. Forty percent of Snapchat users are 18-24, and seventy percent are under the age of 34. So yes, the platform’s demographics skew younger, but you shouldn’t dismiss the importance of the app or its future potential. The Wall Street Journal recently became the first U.S. newspaper on Snapchat’s Discover page even though the average age of a Journal reader is 50. It’s making a long-term bet according to the Journal’s Carla Zanoni. Snapchat users “share many core values with our current readers,” Zanoni said. Snapchat is likely to grow, and so will its users.
  3. More people watched the Snapchat Live Story montage feature about the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards than watched the actual awards on TV. Fast Company argues that Snapchat is bringing back the 1970s TV experience–offering limited choices to those with limited time. And that’s not a bad thing in a flooded media landscape.
  4. Snapchat is becoming increasingly appealing to advertisers. It plans to allow targeted ads based on a user’s past behavior, and may be moving towards allowing brands to target ads based on web browsing and search behavior outside of the app.
  5. The app may be preparing to add audio and video messaging features –similar to Skype or Facetime–according to the LA Times. This could be a powerful tool for organizations looking to improve on webinars and live broadcasts–which are often too long and have limited appeal.

What are your thoughts on Snapchat? Is it a passing fad? Is it worth your organization investing its time and resources into yet another platform? Tell me in the comments below, or tweet me at @chbrenchley.


State of the Union and Big Block of Cheese Day: Education Priorities in 2016

Top-line Information

Earlier this week President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address and a group of White House all-stars took part in a social media conversation that included a discussion on the Administration’s education priorities for 2016 known as the Big Block of Cheese Day. Though the SOTU lacked specifics on education priorities, themes relevant to the great work happening in education were mentioned—outlining priorities that—if implemented—could impact the work of numerous education organizations. The same goes for the social media conversation that happened via the hashtag #BigBlockofCheeseDay.

Why This Matters to Your Organization

  • The White House’s priorities tied to education, if followed, stand to impact your work. When viewed from the 30K foot level, the majority of non-profit education organizations stand to gain from having education as a top priority in the Administration. At the end of the day, regardless of the issues education non-profits focus on, most share a collective goal: to improve our education system for the sake of our kids and our economy. Thus, placing emphasis on supporting any education issue could result in improvements to our system as a whole and trickle down to support a non-profit’s individual goals. 
  • In addition, regardless if the individual priorities outlined by the Administration tie directly to your work, those that do become an actual focus could have an impact on the funding streams available from the department of education. Injecting more $$$ toward supporting your work!

Common Themes that Popped Related to Education

  • At the SOTU: High-quality education is crucial to earning a good-paying job, including increasing access to high-quality early childhood programs, lifting graduation rates, gaining more graduates in STEM fields and recruiting more great teachers into the field and making college affordable.
  • On Big Block of Cheese Day: Following the State of the Union, the White House and federal officials held their annual digital Big Block of Cheese Day (inspired by President Jackson’s 1837 open house featuring a 1,400-pound block of cheese, and made famous by The West Wing television show). Education messages that appeared in the discussion include: enhancing equity under ESSA as well as the opportunity under the new law for states to focus on the whole child. According to John King that would include: “social studies, science, arts, social/emotional.” 

Worth Noting: Guests of the First Lady

In addition to content of the President’s speech, the guests of the First Lady highlight the Administration’s priorities. Three guests had ties to education related to the importance of STEM learning and access to community college. Read more about these guests here.

What’s Next

President Obama and cabinet officials began visiting states across the country today to continue the push on State of the Union themes. President Obama stopped at the University of Nebraska early Thursday and then flew to Louisiana. Acting Secretary of Education will be doing his own tour in the coming week. He will visit El Paso and Houston, TX, Washington, D.C., Orlando, FL, Philadelphia, PA and Wilmington, DE.

Stay Tuned 

We’ll be watching how education priorities play out in the coming months and send you updates on how we can work together to achieve our collective goals!

Please Share with Your Followers

  • Learn about #education messages in @WhiteHouse #SOTU & #BigBlockofCheeseDay. @Collaborative_ breakdown: @chbrenchley
  • .@chbrenchley explains the importance of #BigBlockofCheeseDay and #SOTU in a recent @Collaborative_ blog post
  • #BigBlockofCheeseDay & #SOTU matters to your edu organization, @chbrenchley explains in a @Collaborative_ blog post 

What I learned on my first day at Collaborative Communications

I don’t know many people who look forward to the first day of a new job. Even if it’s your dream job, the first day is often overwhelming; it’s full of onboarding briefings and HR forms galore. For these reasons, I was nervous for my first day as Collaborative Communications’ newest Vice President. Yet despite my nerves, I couldn’t have been more surprised at how well my first day turned out.

In less than a few hours on the job I felt at home and realized I was part of a special team. I’m sure there are many PR professionals who think their colleagues are special, but what makes the Collaborative Communications team unique isn’t just the fact that they provide quality communication services, which they do, but it’s that the team is truly committed to improving education and learning systems across the country.

When thinking about moving on from my previous job as Deputy Assistant Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, I had diligently researched the organization—as I wanted to be sure it was the right move for me. But once I met with the team in the interview process, I knew I was making the right choice. And, I spent my first day reaffirming my choice, as I continued to learn more about the important work our team has accomplished and plan to accomplish in 2016 and beyond.

This is an exciting time to be involved in education. Graduation rates are the highest they’ve even been, more parents are engaged in their children’s education and policy makers around the country are working hard to improve equity, the teaching profession and how we use data to improve outcomes.

With my first day behind me, I look forward to the days to come and working with our current clients, as well as new clients, in moving high-quality learning systems forward through better communications, collaboration and engagement. I’ll be bringing with me the skills I’ve learned in my previous roles, including my political and policy expertise and experience as a Senior Digital Strategist at the White House.

Read the press release of my announcement here. Also, stay in touch with our team and our work by following @Collaborative_ on Twitter. And don’t hesitate to reach out to me via email.

Former Communications Staffer for U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Joins Education-focused Communications Firm

Collaborative Communications Group Welcomes Cameron Brenchley as Vice President

Washington, DC (January 11, 2016) – Collaborative Communications Group, Inc., the nation’s premier communications firm focused solely on education, welcomed Cameron Brenchley as Vice President today. Brenchley will lead the firm in positioning education organizations as thought leaders in the field and helping them accomplish their goals to improve learning for students.

“We’re thrilled to welcome Cameron to the Collaborative team and network,” said Kris Kurtenbach, Founding Partner of Collaborative Communications Group, Inc. “Cameron will help to expand our footprint in education policy as well as bring new ideas and strategies in digital and strategic communications to ensure our clients’ messages are positioned effectively in ways that help change the dialogue on certain issues.”

In his new role, Cameron will provide strategic communications support to significant national conversations on assessment, time and learning and teacher preparation, including those for such education leaders as Northwest Evaluation Association, The C.S. Mott Foundation and Urban Teachers. Brenchley will focus his attention on creating and implementing new approaches to reach and influence a variety of stakeholder groups in innovative ways.

Before joining Collaborative, Brenchley was Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications at the U.S. Department of Education, where he oversaw the development and release of all public-facing communications materials for the department and former Secretary Arne Duncan. Brenchley also created high-profile initiatives that received local, regional and national press coverage, and became worldwide trending topics on Twitter.

Brenchley has also served as the Department of Education’s first Director of Digital Strategy, where he conceptualized and implemented the agency’s strategic digital media plan. In this role he launched the Department on Vine, one of the first federal agencies using the digital video platform, and helped the Secretary reach more than 250,000 Twitter followers-becoming one of the most active and engaging cabinet officials on Twitter.

“The Collaborative team is a national leader in serving clients dedicated to education and learning, and I’m excited to build upon that work with my background in policy, politics and digital strategy,” said Brenchley. “This is an exciting time for education across the country, and I look forward to creating and expanding communications strategies that help our clients reach new audiences in a crowded media landscape.”

Brenchley also brings a wealth of political communications experience to the position. He previously worked as a Press Secretary and New Media specialist in the U.S. House of Representatives, and as a Senior Digital Strategist at the White House. He holds a master’s degree in Legislative Affairs from The George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from Valdosta State University and is an Air Force veteran who served four of his six years in the military overseas.

About Collaborative Communications Group

Collaborative Communications Group, Inc., is the nation’s premier communications firm focused solely on education and learning. Collaborative is dedicated to improving learning systems, in and out of school, for students and adults, through better communications, collaboration and engagement.

Collaborative is looking for a senior digital project manager!

Collaborative Communications Group, Inc. is looking for an experienced senior digital project manager committed to high-quality work with a passion to help improve learning systems through better communications, collaboration and engagement. The ideal candidate will be able to:

  • Lead the design and management of online tools, projects and teams;
  • Manage and sustain client and vendor relationships;
  • Remain aware of new and emerging technologies and their potential application for client engagements;
  • Demonstrate experience with requirements gathering, requirements documenting (use cases, user stories, business processes, and training documentation) and change management for web-based applications;
  • Create and execute project work plans and timelines, revising as appropriate to meet changing project needs and requirements and maintaining project documentation;
  • Manage project resources to deliver exceptional digital solutions and products;
  • Understand client contracts and billing procedures, track and report costs and expenses, and ensure timely and accurate invoices; and
  • Deliver quality products on time and within scope and budget in a fast-paced, team-oriented professional environment.

Position Overview: The senior digital project manager at Collaborative leads teams and develops creative and digital tools, initiatives and products that further the goals of our clients.

The senior digital project manager will directly support the conceptualization, planning, development, implementation, logistics and budget for individual projects and be responsible for lending digital expertise to projects and for staff capacity-building across the firm.

Specifically, this position will be responsible for creating and delivering effective digital and creative strategies that are carefully tailored for individual client needs, such as website development projects, interactive tools and data visualization, web writing projects, social media strategy, online communities of practice and other forms of online engagement, facilitation and communication.

Responsibilities: The senior digital project manager will:

  1. Work to define and create meaningful digital solutions to meet client needs within available budget and scope;
  2. Independently execute website development and related digital projects;
  3. Communicate effectively with clients to identify needs and evaluate alternative solutions;
  4. Provide digital strategy and technology subject matter expertise;
  5. Participate meaningfully in team and project meetings; and
  6. Support the development of partner and vendor relationships.

Qualifications: The senior digital project manager will have or demonstrate:

  1. Bachelor’s degree and experience managing the creation of digital tools in the service of communications goals;
  2. Exceptional communications skills, combined with the ability to work with people at all levels of an organization;
  3. Demonstrated leadership and management skills, including of technical teams;
  4. Ability to facilitate technical decision-making, both independently and in coordination with a client;
  5. Familiarity with modern UX practices and process, ability to collaborate across disciplines, and skill in proactively identifying issues and solutions;
  6. Experience solving client or customer problems through the application of appropriate technical solutions, particularly as relevant to non-profit and government organizations;
  7. Experience with and ability to explain the use of common content management systems, including Drupal and WordPress;
  8. Knowledge of graphic design, web development workflows and implementation processes, and best practices for managing websites and other interactive media;
  9. Experience with new and social media writing in a professional setting; and
  10. Flexibility during peak workload periods.

Salary is competitive. This is a full-time position based in our Washington, D.C. office.

About Collaborative: Collaborative works to improve public education within the United States and across the world through learning, collaboration, communications and engagement.

We are a learning-focused consulting firm that works to:

  • Connect networks of people in learning communities within and across organizations to significantly enhance their knowledge and capacity;
  • Create, share and use knowledge to generate new ideas and improve performance; and
  • Engage diverse stakeholders to go beyond traditional approaches, create solutions aligned to the values of the people affected by them and build sustained attention to complex problems.

For more than 15 years, Collaborative has partnered with leading education organizations, foundations, government agencies, school districts and community-based organizations that share our values and commitment.

We empower our clients by working to build capacity—not dependency—and by providing an array of strategies, systems and tools that are continuously evolving.

We provide access to and connections within a growing network of organizations, researchers, consultants, practitioners and community members whose collective content knowledge, expertise and experience supports the learning and growth of everyone in the network.

We build tools, processes and products that are intended to accelerate learning and productivity and that regularly produce breakthrough results.

To Apply: Please visit for more information about our award-winning interactive services as well as its corporate capabilities, values, philosophy, practice areas and client base.

Please combine a cover letter and resume into a single file and send via email to by February 1, 2016. No phone calls please.

The statements in this description represent typical elements, criteria and general work performed. They should not be construed as an exhaustive list of all responsibilities, duties and skills required of this position.  

Collaborative Communications Group, Inc., is an equal-opportunity, affirmative action employer. It is a strongly held value of Collaborative that power and possibility are not limited by gender, race, class, sexual orientation, disability or age. All candidates will be evaluated on a merit basis.

Think Affordable Afterschool Isn’t an Important Issue? Think Again

By Shawn Griffin

Last week NPR told the story of Jennifer Carter, currently living at a homeless shelter in Salt Lake City, Utah with her five- and seven-year old. Jennifer’s story is representative of a trend. According to The American Almanac of Family Homelessness, the typical homeless family in the U.S. includes a single mom and one or two children.

By all accounts Jennifer had done things right. She earned a degree in business management and accounting. She had a full-time job and worked during the day while her kids were in school. She had an apartment and the family was getting by. She stretched her $13.50 per hour wage to cover rent on a two-bedroom apartment and a staggering $800 per month for afterschool care for her two children.

$800 per month. Two children, two hours per day, five days per week. Four weeks a month. Nearly as much as her $900 per month rent. Jennifer was barely getting by, but she was getting by.

That all changed when her work hours were changed to evenings. There was no way she could afford increased afterschool costs for her kids.

In Jennifer’s case, the cost of caring for her children while she was at work was the tipping point. Her family ended up in a shelter. It’s stories like this—affecting families across the country—that inspired me to share my expertise at the Beyond Housing Conference sponsored by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homeless January 13-15 in New York City.

It is not okay that families make up nearly 40% of the homeless population in the U.S. It is not okay that nearly 1.3 million children in the US are homeless at some point every year (National Child Traumatic Stress Network). It is not okay that families are losing their homes because they have to choose between affordable afterschool programs and a job.

It is time to do something. So I’m joining hundreds of practitioners, policymakers and service providers to help figure this out. I want to contribute to a solution that ensures Jennifer Carter’s kids don’t have to go to school tired because they are sleeping in a loud common room with 198 other people. I want to ensure moms don’t have to lose their homes because they can’t afford afterschool programs for their kids. I won’t tolerate 1.3 million children homeless each year in the US. Join me and fellow practitioners, policymakers, and service providers to share new and effective programs, solutions, and policies aimed at reducing poverty and homelessness among children and families. Register today at