Posted tagged ‘school PR’

Delivering Beyond the Normal and Expected


Pages from Draft-NSPRA 2017 San Antonio Monday General Session--0628017

In the year ahead, consider stretching your thinking about solving school community issues or expanding your district’s opportunities by using great, creative school PR.

I often say that because of NSPRA’s award programs, we have a cat-bird seat to see the very best tactics and strategies throughout the US and Canada.

As I reviewed this year’s winners, I was struck by the content choices of the programs that went beyond the normal-but-critical accomplishments that many of our professionals provide.

Let me share just a few stellar examples:

PSJA Votes Campaign

This Golden Achievement winner for the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD in Pharr, Texas, tackled a community issue of low voter registration with their school employees and greater community.33

Through great engagement and marketing of voter registration campaigns, employee voter registrations went from less than 25% to more than 72% in the 2016 presidential election.

From Here You Can Go Anywhere

People often ask us at NSPRA:

What can we do with nearly 80% of our residents who no longer have connections with our schools?

After two defeats in capital bond measures, the Traverse City Area Public Schools in Michigan knew it was clear that parents were in favor of the measure, but the total community — not so much.tcaps

So a Golden Achievement award-winning campaign was born to demonstrate the terrific results earned by Traverse City graduates. Entitled From Here, You Can Go Anywhere, billboards, kiosks, website banners, and other social media applications carried the message out to the community so people could see the real achievements of graduates.

Marketing in Our Increasing Era of Competition

We all know that we are in an era of increased competition — a major issue many of us are facing. Some see vouchers and other initiatives — Education Savings Accounts, Opportunity Scholarships, etc., that are really “vouchers in sheep’s clothing” — as solutions. Others see them as another way to bash education and steal and reduce funding for public education.1

As the choice movement continues, we see members turning up the flame on their marketing efforts. This year, the Garland Independent School District in Texas, one of our Gold Medallion winners, began marketing its new Montessori schools that the district offers.

The effort certainly opened the eyes of some people. They now realize that plenty of choices are within our public schools to meet the increasing needs of all our students.

Communication to Combat Health and Safety Issues

And finally, this space does not permit me to sufficiently discuss these three Gold Medallion winners except to praise them for their results and effort. Their communication focus dealt with testing water for lead, a “Be Well Campaign” supporting youth mental health issues, and opening communication about the severity of opioid and heroin crisis in local communities.3

You can learn about these Gold Medallion Winners and 8 others by going to Gold Medallion winners.

Stray from Your Lane

All of these examples prove that our school PR profession should stray at times from our normal lane of what is expected of us for our schools. Every once in a while, we need to jump from our normal lane, and go down another path to enlighten and help solve major community issues in your school community.

It takes courage to take these steps and you will undoubtedly receive push-back from colleagues and others — like “Why in the world is the school district’s communication director mucking around in this community problem?”

But you know better than most what a communication effort and campaign can do to bring focus and solutions to the key issues that your school community is facing.4

So muster up the courage to begin persuading your district’s leaders to look at school PR beyond the “good news” function we continue to provide. Use your talent and insight to help your students and staff succeed by going beyond the normal and the expected.

We encourage you to drive out of your lane — speed bumps and flashing yellow lights and all — to make a new difference in your school community.



Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director



Demanding Jobs and Great Performance Earn Respect


boy 1Great school communication professionals always have too much to do. It’s just the nature of our business.

We never totally catch up because we see opportunities that need our help or other assignments are tossed in our laps because most PR people are known as the “go-to” resource when bad things happen to our schools. And most of us see reputation management as one of our key contributions we make to build support and understanding when they are most needed.


Being the Most Helpful When Your Expertise Is Needed the Most

All this converts to a 24/7 demanding lifestyle that can take its toll on the motivation and physical and mental well-being of our colleagues. Some NSPRA members seem to thrive on being the most helpful person when their expertise is most needed. And from our NSPRA cat-bird seat, that’s when many professionals are extremely valued as their bosses and boards realize just how bad things would be without the talent, work ethic, judgment, and results generated by NSPRA professionals like you. It’s in these situations that you earn your leadership stripes in school administration.


Avoiding Burn Out Becomes a New Priority

So, just how do you avoid retreating and doubting that you will ever get it all done? From personal experiences and observations of some our leading members, here are a few points to consider:

  • Developing a positive relationship with your superintendent is at the top of the list. In many ways your job is very similar to the superintendent’s job — or at least you should be worrying about and acting on the same issues day in and day out. Opening a dialogue with your superintendent about the key aspects of your job will build more support for both you and the PR function in the days ahead. Your superintendent will know that complaints from a principal about the student travel club’s not getting publicity easily takes a back seat to the task of passing next month’s bond election. It’s critical that you do all you can to strengthen the relationship with your top boss.
  • Create an operational plan that has a bit of wiggle room. Every year you should hammer out a plan with your key leadership that demonstrates how the PR function is helping your district achieve its annual goals and objectives. Often when things beyond your control are tossed your way, you can refer to the plan so that key leaders understand that some parts of the plan will not be accomplished or will be delayed. Always add some new proactive approaches to the plan to keep you and your staff fresh in doing new things and adding to your own professional growth. An operational plan can also serve as a shield from having too many extraneous assignments being piled on throughout the year.
  • When pressure mounts, walk away from the situation to clear your head and remember why you are in the education business. Years ago, I used to walk form the central office to a next door elementary school where I would “observe” kindergarten classes and remember the joy of just being a kindergartner. Smiling with 5 year-olds can do wonders to relieve the political stress of your office just 50 yards away. Some members use those times to grab their cameras to take photos and capitalize on those moments to stockpile productive results they can use later.
  • Get away for the NSPRA Seminar or an NSPRA chapter meeting. It is always good to interact with experienced and friendly people who fully understand what you do for a living. And in our world that means primarily just two spots — either at a local chapter meeting or at NSPRA’s Seminar. Each year, Seminar evaluations are full of comments like, “total recharge,” “these people totally understand me and I learned so much,” “I learned in 3 days what would normally take 2 years on the job,” and “I now have a new network of colleagues to chat with throughout the year.”


Through these meetings you learn that you are not in this alone, and that collaboration goes a long way of getting you through your next year of triumphs and opportunities. So, if you need to recharge your battery, remember, it’s not too late to register for NSPRA’s National Seminar, set for July 17 -20 in Chicago. To learn more, just go to:  2016 NSPRA National Seminar.



Rich Signature-bold cropped

Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director


Photo by Jim Cummings, APR, Glendale Elementary School District


You Will Want Another Child So She Can Go to School Here


“Come Visit. You Will Want Another Child Just So She Can Go to School Here.”

“Come Visit. You Will Want Another Child Just So She Can Go to School Here.”

The upcoming April issue of NSPRA’s PRinicpal Communicator carries the above quote from Darcy Whitehead, principal of Mary G. Porter Traditional School in Prince William County,Virginia.

Darcy hits a bulls-eye with her quote and that quote could even be turned into a slogan or tagline for her school and school districts everywhere. The rest of us come with up taglines like, World-class education, Shaping the world one student at a time, or First Class Achievement for First Class Students. But Darcy’s statement strikes an emotional and light-hearted chord because it recognizes that all parents want the very best for their kids. And she does it in a way that even challenges parents to see her school for themselves. Urging parents to have another child also triggered a smirk on my face, but after just topping off two complete college tuitions, my wife and I are poised for some other less-expensive adventures!

Compete or Not to Compete

The April PRincipal Communicator is about marketing your individual school at a time when competition from private schools, charters, net-driven home schoolers, and open-enrollment public school programs are all knocking on our parents’ doors. Capturing new students at the kindergarten level can translate into more than $75,000 per child if you track state funding of $6,000 per student for 13 years. The flip side is that $75,000 is what you potentially lose if new students choose another school or transfer from yours.

Often principals are frustrated because they know that their staff and programs match up and usually are more comprehensive in their offerings than their competition. Parents are often lured by the newest school or by the promise of individual attention. When one of our sons was making the transition from middle to high school, I guess I became a “mystery shopper” by attending a private school’s open house to see how it was handled.

Say That Again?

 Before a packed setting, the headmaster of this very fine school noted that every child meets with an adult teacher or counselor every day for 5 to 10 minutes to “check in” on their well being. I watched other prospective parents relishing that type of individual attention. But, on the tour that followed the presentation, I asked our bright and articulate student guide about the 5-10 minute individual counseling time. He gave me a puzzled look and said he was not aware of it. I asked, “Do you have any 5- to 10-minute unstructured time with a teacher other than lunch in your day?” We both concluded that the headmaster was only talking about the school-wide home room period each day. Yes, I guess that time could be used for individual counseling, but we all know that the percentage of that happening every day was very low.

So we need to help all of our principals improve their open houses and share with them what their competition is saying about their own schools. We need to learn about the timing of open houses and just not offer them months after the private school recruitment period. We must play more aggressive offense when we talk about the caring and comprehensive programs we offer.

Competition will only continue to grow. Your marketing, communication, and engagement efforts must grow to meet the demands of the competition.

Start your own See for Yourself marketing efforts and more of your parents may recognize what a great bargain and comprehensive program you offer.

Rich Bagin, APR

NSPRA Executive Director