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8 Takeaways from the 2022 NSPRA Seminar
Josh Sauer

In-person learning opportunities don't happen often enough! We can learn so much online, but there's nothing quite like listening to and participating in professional development with colleagues from around the country in person. 

As a regular attendee of the NSPRA seminar each year, I’m excited to provide some key takeaways from the 2022 National School Public Relations Association Seminar. I’m sure I will miss some, but these are what stood out to me. Enjoy!

1. Remarkable attendance & excitement

The 2022 NSPRA Seminar “hit differently” than in previous years. NSPRA reportedly set a new record for attendance with more than 1,500 attendees. It was clear from the excitement that attendees were craving in-person learning and came together to share stories and best practices. 

“The remarkable attendance and the excitement of being in person highlight the crucial collegial relationships across NSPRA,” said Jason Barnes, Chief Revenue Officer at Finalsite. “These relationships inform practice and support the essential work of school communications professionals.”

2. Superintendents see value in the seminar

As school districts and their leadership navigate polarizing politics, school choice, and an increasingly opinionated community, they also realize the need for strategic and proactive communications. We see more and more superintendents find value from the seminar each year. 

Breakout session presenter and Lakota Local Schools Superintendent Matt Miller called NSPRA one of "the most positive and uplifting conferences.”

3. Recruitment and marketing are a focus

The great resignation is hitting schools hard, with 40% of school leaders describing staff shortages as "severe." Recruiting quality faculty and staff is a top priority for districts everywhere, and school districts are starting to think outside the box. 

Finalsite Vice President of Communications Morgan Delack delivered a well-received presentation on "5 Ways to Turn Your Website into Your District's Biggest Recruitment Secret Weapon." Attendees walked away with a plan to develop an impactful careers page, showcase your school's culture, tips for sharing testimonials, and how to build search engine authority. To receive a copy of Morgan’s slide deck, email her at morgan.delack@finalsite.com.

4. People need people

COVID-19 has taken an emotional and physical toll on school leaders. Many folks are struggling with burnout and internalized thoughts of being alone. The bottom line is that many people, school communicators, in particular, need face-to-face interactions to thrive, recalibrate their ideas, and bring passion back to their strategic communications work. 

Finalsite Chief Marketing Officer Risa Engel attended the conference for the first time and left feeling electrified by the NSPRA community:

"People need to hug, laugh, learn from, and celebrate with others in person. Especially school PR pros—they are so collaborative and share a collective energy. It’s an honor to support NSPRA members in their excellent work."

5. Networking is vital to the practice

Networking has always been one of the highlights for registrants who have attended the seminar, but it’s not always easy for some. Many people are introverts or weary of attending large group settings. The great thing about NSPRA attendees is that they are welcoming and inclusive, creating safer spaces for people to be themselves. 

“Networking is one of my key takeaways! Networking is an uncomfortable action with far-reaching, long-lasting results!” said Sundeep Dosanjh, Chief of Communications and Community Engagement at Rocklin Unified School District in California.

 6. Awards of excellence

One of my favorite things at NSPRA is gathering inspiration and reviewing award recipients' work. Attendees can submit their work for recognition for various projects, including printed pieces, e-newsletters, marketing materials, and websites. 

While all the entries deserve recognition, a special congratulations should go out to Finalsite clients who took home a whopping EIGHT of the 14 awards in the Excellence category for websites.

Award of Excellence - Website

Award of Merit - Website

Honorable Mention - Website

These websites represent some of the incredible work districts are doing with their online presence. A family's first impression of your school is based almost entirely on your website, both visually and for user experience (UX), and these sites nailed it — Congratulations to all of the NSPRA award winners!

 7. Valuable sessions and strategic, focused content

The NSPRA team did a great job offering sessions based on membership demands. They divided sessions into ten focus areas: crises, wellness, equity, leadership, branding/marketing, ethics, strategic planning, tactics, engagement, and educational service agencies. 

New Hanover County Schools’ Communications Supervisor, C.C. Clegg, attended sessions that emphasized the importance of prioritizing student-focused communication.

“We are all in this for the same reason. We could communicate anywhere. There is a fresh market for our skill set right now,” said Clegg. “But at the end of the day we choose education. So we have to choose to prioritize our students first. If they are not our sun, our orbit will collapse.”

8. Vendor sweet treats and swag

Lastly, let’s cover the most critical takeaway of the entire conference: Attendees LOVE sweet treats and vendor swag. A big thanks to all of NSPRA's partners for supporting the school communications community! 

Finalsite exceeded its expectations as a gold-level sponsor by shipping over 300 pounds of (website) cookies and 132 bundt cakes for current and prospective clients to enjoy!

Key Takeaway

The 2022 NSPRA seminar was the event so many of us had been waiting for — a chance to reconnect, share ideas, and be inspired by the latest in public school education with school PR pros from around the country. We can’t wait to see what next year brings!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joshua Sauer, APR, is an Educational Sales Consultant with Finalsite. Before joining Finalsite, he spent six years working as a #SchoolPR professional for a large public school district in Oklahoma and one year as a freelance webmaster. Joshua is heavily involved at the national level in school PR and is the former president of the Oklahoma School Public Relations Association (OKSPRA). In 2017, he founded the popular #ROAD2NSPRA Twitter campaign, which has raised over $5,000 for the NSPRA Foundation. Joshua is an Accredited Public Relations (APR) practitioner with more than 11 years of marketing and PR work experience. He earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications from the University of Oklahoma and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Central Oklahoma. 


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