Episode 19

With Gerry Brooks from Celebrate Educators

Overview

Gerry Brooks is a social media star and an elementary school principal. Through his popular youtube videos focused on real-world educational experiences, Gerry has amassed a social media following of over 1 million people. His most popular viral video this year was viewed by over 10 million, and received national media coverage.

Gerry’s relatable stories and tell it like it is style, combined with his passion for education, has proven to be a winning formula, which now sees him booking speaking engagements across the country, and hosting a sell out event series called Celebrate Educators.
We invited Gerry to the podcast to talk about his rise to internet stardom and what it’s like to be both the talent and the event organizer for a traveling one man show.

Available on iTunes or Spotify

Key Topics

In the podcast Gerry talks about:

  • Wearing multiple hats – Event organizer, Promoter and Talent.
  • Building a social media profile.
  • Developing authentic and niche content that appeals to a specific audience.
  • Leveraging a social media profile into a speaker event series.
  • Marketing events through social media.
  • Working efficiently by outsourcing key work and getting expert advice. 

Upcoming Events

Find Gerry’s upcoming Celebrate Educators events on his Ticketbud Showcase Page.

Interviewee Information

Gerry Brooks

Gerry Brooks is principal at an elementary school in Lexington, Kentucky. Gerry has developed a following on social media of over 1 million people, sharing humorous videos that focus on real-world educational experiences. Gerry is a passionate public speaker who has spoken to educational groups across the US. His focus is on encouraging and helping teachers improve their instructional abilities. He also helps administrators successfully lead their staff in a positive and constructive manner. Gerry hosts the event series Celebrate Educators, with appearances across the country. www.gerrybrooksprin.com

Transcript

Lisa: Welcome to Ticketbud Tidbits! My name is Lisa Carson, and I am your host, once again.

In this podcast, I talk to Gerry Brooks. Gerry is a social media star, and an elementary school Principal. He was a teacher before moving into school administration, and now has a not-so-secret life as a public speaker and social media influencer, in the education space.

Through his popular YouTube videos focused on real-world educational experiences, Gerry has amassed a social media following of over one million people. His most popular viral video this year was viewed by over six million, and received national media coverage. In it, Gerry addresses the recent college admissions scandal involving a couple of celebrities and rule-breaking parents.

I’m going to leave you with a soundbite for that:

And let me tell you how many times I’ve wanted to put a medal on a parent’s neck at the science fair, instead of on the child’s, because that parent said “Oh, I really think we should be able to help our child in academics, so I did a lot on this science fair project.” You know who else thought they should be able to help their children in academics? Aunt Becky.

Gerry’s relatable stories and tell-it-like-it-is style, combined with his passion for education, has proven to be a winning formula, which now sees him booking speaking engagements across the country, and hosting a sellout event series called Celebrate Educators.

We invited Gerry to the podcast, to talk about his rise to internet stardom, and what it’s like to be both the talent and the event organizer for a traveling one-man show. Gerry talks about how his social media following allowed him to become a speaker, and to host events across the country. He emphasizes the importance of developing authentic and niche content, appeal to a specific audience, and he shares how he markets his events through social media.

He also talks about how he has been able to outsource and get expert advice for managing his social media and events. Ticketbud is one of those partners who Gerry relies on for ticketing expertise, with our account management and support being something that he finds incredibly valuable, so he can get on with running his events.

So, here it is. I’ll leave you with the podcast, and you can have a listen to Gerry!

Lisa: Hi Gerry! Welcome to the Ticketbud Tidbits podcast. Can you tell us a bit about how you went from being a teacher and a headmaster, to having a social media following of like one million? How did this all begin, and when did it start?

Gerry: Well, it started in December of 2017, and it just had to do with a viral video that I put out, on what Principals do on snow days. It just kind of went from there, and I kept putting videos up. So, it’s just zoomed from 500 followers to over a million. It’s just been a huge blessing.

Lisa: Wow! And you say you just kept doing it, kept making them?

Gerry: Yep. I just kept going, and do one about every week, and different things. Then, have events on the weekends. It’s just been crazy.

Lisa: I think you’re a really good example of someone who is creating authentic content that’s relatable, and resonates with your target market. It’s earned you this significant following, and you’ve been able to leverage that to create your Celebrate Educators events, that have been selling out across the country.

I think your authenticity, relatability, your humor in your videos, is what makes your content so appealing. How do you feel about putting yourself out there, and having people respond in the way that they have?

Gerry: Well, it’s real life, and that’s an excellent example of the power of social media. The things that I’m doing here in Kentucky are happening in every state in the United States, in Australia and Dubai, and pretty much everywhere. So, it’s just been a real testament to the fact that the things that educators deal with are pretty much the same everywhere.

That’s why it’s blown up so much, because the things that are happening here are happening in every state.

Lisa: Yeah, and around the world. How did you start sharing your content? Was there a particular channel you started on? How did you sort of build that following out? You now have multiple social media channels you use.

Gerry: Yeah. It just all started out with Facebook, on my personal Facebook page. Then, when I got tapped out with 5,000 friends, because Facebook blocks you at – not blocks you, but you’re only allowed to accept 5,000 friends.

Lisa: I did not know that. I haven’t quite hit that yet!

Gerry: Yeah. Just on a normal Facebook page, which is what most people have, they stop you at 5,000. So, people were wanting to be able to follow and get the notifications, so I kind of went to the personality – I don’t know what they call it – the personality page. Then, that’s unlimited.

From there, it started with YouTube after that, and then moved on to Instagram and Twitter.

Lisa: Okay. Do you manage it all yourself? How do you plan and schedule all of this content?

Gerry: I have somebody that helps me with Instagram. I was brand new to it, and didn’t really know how to work it, so I have somebody that helps with Instagram, posting things. And really, the things that are a little bit more difficult, like scheduling. Then, she monitors comments and says “This is inappropriate,” or that way, so she’s just kind of a monitor.

I have a social media agent now, who works and plans with companies that want to do collaborations. Then, I also just now started a Facebook agent that just has a lot of connections, especially when something goes down or doesn’t work right. He has a lot of connections to be able to go through and check those. He works with several different groups, and Facebook is one of them.

It’s just been great to be able to have somebody to say “This video is not going very well, and it should,” or “This is frozen,” or “This is upside down.” He’s able to contact Facebook, and get things fixed quickly.

Lisa: Okay, that’s great. Because I was thinking you’re doing an awful lot, if you’re doing it all by yourself!

Gerry: Yes, a little bit crazy!

Lisa: Yeah. Your social media following has enabled you to build a profile, and then an event series. When and how did Celebrate Educators begin, and how did that evolve?

Gerry: I started speaking at conferences, and a lot of times, educational conferences are anywhere from $200 to $500. People kept saying “I’d love to see you speak, but I can’t afford a conference.” So, I just decided that maybe I could do something on my own on a Saturday, ,and just charge $20, and then people could come to that.

It’s been very successful, and pretty much everywhere. I just post an event up on Facebook, and announce it out and sell tickets, and people are able to come for just a day of encouragement and fun, without having to pay the huge cost of a conference.

Lisa: How many speaking events do you do, across the country, each year – estimate?

Gerry: I try to do as many as possible. Last year, I got 36 in, so I’m pretty much trying every Saturday, with the exception of every once in a while, we’ll have a cancellation and it will be too late to cover it, or Christmas vacations and summer vacation. So, I’m trying for pretty much everywhere, now that it’s hot. I want to try to get as many in as possible.

I probably have as many as maybe 40, 45 this year.

Lisa: Busy man!

Gerry: Yeah. It’s crazy, for sure.

Lisa: On top of your job.

Gerry: Absolutely.

Lisa: How do you keep on top of everything that you do? Because you’ve got a lot of balls in the air.

Gerry: Right. You’ve got to be very organized. I’ve got an event planner, two event planners, actually, that kind of split the organization, which is really time-consuming of emailing back and forth, and making sure things are in place.

The priority is my weekly job of being a Principal, so a lot of it happens after hours at night, and weekend planning. So, I have help for that. So far, it’s been doable, for sure.

Lisa: Nice. So, you sort of wear multiple hats, in that you’re the talent, you’re involved in the event organization, you’re also promoting, because you’re the person promoting it. How do you combine all of that?

Gerry: It’s just really organization. The hard part is making sure that I can get a video in during the week, and traveling on Friday to Sunday, and trying to make sure that I have the fresh content. I try to break it up. When somebody asks for a collaboration, I don’t want to do so many things that I’m constantly advertising things.

I also have to advertise my own events, so it’s really just organizing and keeping track of what you’re offering, and making sure that you’re not overloading on one or the other, and making sure that you’re getting content out there as often as possible.

Lisa: For other people who are like the big people who do speaking tours, or performers, where they have to promote and organize things themselves, what sort of advice would you have for someone like that, who is maybe starting out?

Gerry: Facebook is excellent, because it allows you actually to advertise in specific areas. So, I can put up a post, and people will read it, but they really won’t share it. Somebody is not going to share an event in Alabama, that lives in California. So, Facebook allows you to actually go in and target specific areas in a 25-mile radius.

So, if I’m going to Birmingham, I’ll go in and I’ll target Birmingham and all of the cities around it, so I’ll have about a 75-mile radius of people that like my page, who are the people that are most likely to come in.

Then, I give away things. I’ll say “If you share this, you’ll get a chance to win free tickets. If you tag your friends, you get a chance to win tickets for all of those people.” Sometimes, I’ll give away t-shirts. There’s just a lot of things for incentives.

The more likes and shares there are on Facebook, the more likely they are to allow it to have a bigger reach with their analytics. So, I just try to get the word out there and ask people that are hosting the organization, “Make sure that you tell all of your people to like it and share,” and it just kind of goes from there.

Lisa: I was going to say, do you have – I guess you’ve been doing it a lot – do you have people in different locations, that you have connections with, that might help you share it, or other teachers or educators?

Gerry: One of the things Facebook does, too, is you are able to send it just to the people that like your page. So, when I go in there, I can click “people who like my page,” and those are the main followers. So, that advertisement goes directly onto their feed.

I can also click “people who like your page, and their friends.” We always ask and require that those that are hosting, because we always have a school that hosts, and we ask them to make sure they get the word out with not only their teachers, but possibly the district, too, to make sure they get that word out, too.

Lisa: What are some of the event logistics that you have to manage, or did you, in the beginning? Things like booking venues or finding venues, or audio setup?

Gerry: We will advertise on saying “We’re looking for venues in spring,” and then we sometimes list the largest areas, because we kind of have a certain population we want to go to. Once somebody contacts us, it’s a fundraiser for them, so they get 10% of the sales. And we send out a contract that kind of outlines everything.

It has to be in an auditorium, it has to seat this many, there has to be a tech person on location, that type of thing. Once they sign off on that contract, we’ll check with them a couple times, just to make sure we’ve had – sometimes they book a gym, which we don’t go to.

So really, it’s just kind of outlined in the contract, “This is exactly what we need.” Then, once they sign off on that, we double-check a couple times, and then kind of go from there, to make sure that they’re following up on the things that are needed for a successful event.

Lisa: I didn’t realize that it’s also a fundraiser for them, when they host your events. That’s a great idea.

Gerry: Yeah. We were renting hotel rooms and conference centers, and we just thought “You know, this would be much better if we could get a high school auditorium.” Most districts have high school auditoriums. They can waive the rental fees, and then we can give 10% of the cost of the tickets directly to those schools, so it ends up being a fundraiser for them.

Lisa: A much better idea. I love it! Do you collect the – I mean, I know you’ve got access through Ticketbud, like the attendee information from the event. Do you follow up with people who attend your events, or do you just build relationships with them on social media?

Gerry: We use kind of both of those. We always tell everybody to make sure you follow on social media. We have email addresses, so through Ticketbud, we can go through and email each event, or however we want to do that. Ticketbud also allows us to download that, to have an Excel document, so we’re able to use a mass email system, and enter those emails that we have generated through Ticketbud, when they purchase.

And we can send out mass emails to, at this point, I think we have 28,000 email addresses, just from people that have purchased tickets. That all comes from the spreadsheets we get from Ticketbud.

Lisa: So, Ticketbud has been your provider, I think for about two years now. You work with the lovely Layla, who is your Account Manager. Does having a personal point of contact make things easier, as an event organizer, that you’ve got that person that you talk to?

Gerry: It’s absolutely amazing. There’s a lot of things that I probably could do myself, but she may roll her eyes at me, I’m not really sure. But it’s amazing to be able to say “Can you refund this person? Can you answer this?”

A lot of times, it’s probably at least once a day that I forward her something and say “Can you help with this?” She always checks. I email the day before, and say “Can you check this?”

Because probably the first two events, I had an issue where I put the wrong time zone in. It’s just good to be able to have somebody that she knows exactly what I’m looking for. She knows how to check it. She knows how to say “Okay, this is California, and that’s Mountain Standard time.” So, she corrects those.

She’s even stayed after. When I had an issue with one of the events, she stayed after. I said “I need to be able to get a hold of somebody,” because if freaks me out if something goes wrong. She even was willing to stay after the closing of 5:00 or 6:00, even if it’s just ten minutes, to say it’s up and running.

That has been the most amazing thing, is knowing that I can get a hold of anybody. She’s never questioned and said “Okay, you can do that on your own. We don’t do that for your service.” It’s just been a great collaboration, and something that’s been tremendously helpful in my business.

Lisa: You host events across the country, and the ticket sales are between sometimes 500, sometimes 1,400 attendees. They often can sell out, the day of release. So, I would imagine having a ticketing provider helps manage all of that, the volume of that.

Gerry: There’s just no way I could do it. Originally, we were just trying to figure out what did. I did a lot of research, and Ticketbud had such good reviews. They do everything. I love that it comes directly to my email, so I can get dings every time somebody purchases a ticket. I can check it live.

Sometimes, the meet and greets will sell out in three minutes. So, I actually go in, I’m able to click live, and I’m able to actually see how many people have purchased tickets, where we’re at. I can send out an immediate email, saying “These are sold out. You need to make sure you call your friends that are going, too.”

It’s been a great collaboration, and fantastic for business.

Lisa: Awesome! I’m really glad to hear that.

I have a couple of final questions to ask you, which is, is there any advice that you wish you had been given, at the start of your career?

Gerry: Well, I wish I had had somebody early on. I was not and I’m still not in this for the money. That has been a benefit, but I’m really in it for the ability to be able to support educators and have a platform to be able to support the stress that we’re having. So, I’m probably a little bit different than a lot of the people that are trying to go out on social media.

But I think if your goal is to financially make this something for you, then I really feel like you need to jump into it, and get help. There’s a percentage – everybody takes a percentage. There’s a cost to Ticketbud, there’s a cost to my agents. But again, those things, it’s a hard swallow at first, thinking “Gosh, I’m giving up 5%, 10%, 15%, 20%.”

But if your goal is to make it a financial windfall for you, especially maybe not working full time, then you’ve got to have the expert help that you get. So, I would say if somebody is coming in, if they just want to do it for fun, for social, I would just say be authentic. Find what your niche is, and whoever it is that’s following you, then that’s what you need to gear to.

If you put it out there and you’re thinking “I’m going to be a fashion expert,” and all of a sudden you realize you’re getting teenage girls instead of the 20-somethings, then you need to drop it down and focus on the teenage girls. So, you really need to know who it is that’s following you, and switch your content up, so that it’s authentic for those followers.

Lisa: Are you looking at what videos are more popular? Does it surprise you sometimes, which videos are more popular than others? Does that help you?

Gerry: I can usually guess. I have a friend that always helps, and he previews. I’m always surprised at the huge number the serious videos get. Those have been the most popular.

So, when I’m supporting the situation here with – just the negative situations that we’re dealing with, with politics, those –  one of them has 14 million views. If it’s very timely on something, my one on Aunt Becky and the college scandal for admissions blew up, and I got CNN coverage and all that, because it was so absolutely timely.

So, the videos that are geared toward teachers kind of average probably 300,000 to 800,000. But when they hit a bigger social issue, such as strikes or college admissions scandals, or anything that’s really up to date, I try to get those out right away. Those are geared more toward larger audiences, so they just blow up.

Lisa: And expand your audience. I saw the Aunt Becky one. That was really funny!

Gerry: It was fun. It was a good one.

Lisa: It was done really well. And I saw the news coverage for it, as well. We were in our office, and we were like “Look! He’s on the news!”

Gerry: It was great!

Lisa: As part of the show, I was going to ask if you could tell us about a great event you’ve attended. Seeing we’re talking about events, what’s something that you’ve been to, that you thought was wonderful?

Gerry: The Wright Stuff Chics do a conference called Teach Your Heart Out, and it’s absolutely amazing. They did a great job early on, of watching Instagram, you know, very good Instagram educators. So, they got a lot of these early on Instagram educators that had 10,000 followers on Instagram.

They kind of cherry-picked the ones that they felt like had excellent content, and they created a conference directly around those people. It’s just kind of blown up everywhere. Now, those people have 100,000 followers plus.

It’s fantastic, because I’m in the room with the most popular and the best, in my opinion, Instagram educators who are offering content and real-world things to do in your classrooms. So, the Teach Your Heart Out series has been just absolutely amazing.

Lisa: I love the title, as well. That’s awesome! Okay, that’s the last of my questions.

You can find out more about Gerry’s Celebrate Educators events at CelebrateEducators.Ticketbud.com, and you can follow Gerry on his social channels, which I’ll make available.

Upcoming Celebrate Educators events are in Virginia Beach, Los Angeles, Seattle and Dallas.

Gerry: Yep, absolutely!

Lisa: Thanks for chatting with us today, Gerry. It was great to have you!

Gerry: No problem. I appreciate everything you guys do, and it was nice talking to you.

Lisa: Wonderful! I’ll talk to you soon.

So, that was our interview with Gerry Brooks, from Celebrate Educators. I’m going to finish by leaving you all to listen to one of Gerry’s most viewed videos.

For event organizers who think that their job is stressful, or sometimes like herding cats, have a listen to this. Gerry thinks that he’s got you beat:

People often ask me what the most stressful part of the beginning of the school year is. That’s an easy answer. It’s Kindergarten lunchroom duty. See, kindergarteners have never been together in a big old group, trying to eat lunch. It’s like trying to get a bunch of kittens to do something!

You get one seated down, and then the other one’s under the table. Then, the one you seated down is gone, and they’re licking your hands, and they’re all over the place. It’s just crazy!

Then, there’s these… Lunchables. I know these are tasty treats in little compartments, but they are a lunchroom duty nightmare. Now, if parents bought these ones you just open up once, and there’s little circles of bologna, and the kids eat them, that would be fantastic. But unfortunately, they get these fancy ones.

And then, I get “Open my Lunchable! Will you open my pizza sauce? Will you open my pepperoni? Will you open my Capri Sun? Can you open my Nestle Crunch?” It just ends up being crazy.

Then, kindergarteners get very excited to talk to you, and they do this; “Um, um, um, um, um, um, um, um!” And you sit very patiently, waiting. Then, they say something so off the wall and random, you don’t know how to answer. “Um, um, um, my grandma’s got six toes on one of her feet!” True story.

I just say “Your grandma is so fancy!”

And lastly, kindergarteners want to be your best friend. They are so wonderful. I love them, but I do not have time to debate whether a pony would be a good inside pet, while I’m trying to open 47 Lunchables. If you want to know stress in your life, come volunteer for Kindergarten lunchroom duty!”

To collaborate on a podcast please get in touch.