One sign of a true profession is the standards it holds for those who practice that profession. Another is proving the value of the profession in accomplishing the main mission of its organization.
A Quick Historical Snapshot
For many years, NSPRA followed and adopted standards that NSPRA pioneers set — many of those pioneers were past NSPRA presidents. The standards evolved over the years, and we updated new standards in an NSPRA publication, Raising the Bar for School PR. I was fortunate to write NSPRA’s first crack at an evaluation guidebook entitled, Evaluating Your School PR Investment, based on our standards. That contribution grew into today’s NSPRA Communication Audit process.
In the same historical period when we set standards, NSPRA’s accreditation blossomed, adding another rung to the ladder of professionalism for our members. Five past presidents who made an important contribution to accreditation were on the development team, and all of the work was done during Larry Ascough’s presidency. Past Presidents Dr. Ken Muir, APR, and Joe Rowson, APR, led the accreditation effort, offering new ways to measure skill levels, judgment, and productivity. The NSPRA accreditation program eventually merged with the Universal Accreditation Board’s (UAB) program which included the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) and other public relations groups throughout the U.S. NSPRA continues to participate in this universal program today. Also, NSPRA has adopted a code of ethics and joined with other groups in adopting the North American Public Relations Council’s Uniform Code of Ethics.
Enter NSPRA’s Benchmarking Project
A bit more than 3 years ago, a Benchmarking Project Team tackled the onerous task of benchmarking the practice of school public relations in local districts. Led by consultant and NSPRA Past President Sandy Cokeley, APR, in just 2 years, the team delivered a benchmarking tool entitled, School Communication Benchmarking — Rubrics of Practice and Suggested Measures. The initial version covered three areas and we just added a fourth. The areas are:
- Comprehensive Planned Communications
- Internal Communications
- Parent/Family Communications
- Marketing/Branding Communications
How Does Your Program Stack Up?
Thanks to the work of numerous NSPRA professionals mentioned in the guidebook, you can now see where your program stands — whether your program is just emerging, already established, or considered exemplary. As my dentist notes, throughout this process, “You may experience a bit of discomfort.” But your program and your school district will be more effective for going through the process.
The guidebook gives practical examples to professional communicators, superintendents, and board members, showing them the components of a successful public relations program that ultimately contribute to student achievement. No board or superintendent should start a program without this guidebook as they set the path to achieving effective and efficient communication in their districts.
With this guidebook, now we all have solid answers to the common questions that we hear all the time:
- What does a school PR person do anyway?
- What value does PR bring to our schools?
- Where do you start?
- How do you know if your program is effective?
- What else should we be doing in school PR?
If you’re an NSPRA member, you can download the entire rubric for $20. Print and non-member prices are also available. To learn more, go to www.nspra.org/products.
Rich Bagin, APR
NSPRA Executive Director