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Takeaways from School PR Day — A Virtual Conference for School Communicators
Connor Gleason

Thousands of school PR professionals from all over the country — and the world — recently tuned into Finalsite’s School PR Day, a day-long virtual conference designed for school communicators to connect, collaborate, and communicate.

With 20+ live sessions of practical tips and advice from school PR pros, this year's event focused on the big ideas of supporting district enrollment, AI policies, school leadership, and making sense of the communication tools needed to build trust and engage school communities.

We know you’re busy, so if you missed the live sessions and keynotes, the good news is that you can still collect your free All-Access pass and catch up on all the recorded sessions and resources!

Adapting to shifts in enrollment and embracing trends & new digital platforms

To kick off the event, NSPRA Executive Director Barbara Hunter, APR, Cortez Strickland of Birmingham Public Schools, and Madeline Curott of Norfolk Public Schools spearheaded a panel discussion with Finalsite Chief Marketing Officer Risa Engel on enrollment marketing in public schools.

While the group analyzed the decline in enrollment in public schools as a core issue, the panel stressed the power of effective marketing and communication strategies to counteract the trend.

As Cortez Strickland, the Marketing and Communications Manager of Birmingham Public Schools, pointed out, competition from alternative education options, such as private schools, charter schools, and homeschooling, brings a new level of complexity.

To stay competitive, Strickland encouraged districts to carefully adjust their enrollment process cycles in line with those of the competition and the need for an engaging, user-friendly website, a tool indispensable for any institution looking to attract new enrollments.

According to Strickland, a school's online presence is a selling tool but also a customer service platform, offering convenient solutions to families navigating the enrollment process.

Despite the challenges, Madeline Curott, the communications, marketing, and media relations coordinator from Norfolk Public Schools, highlighted her district’s successful campaigns, which have increased participation and reduced chronic absenteeism.

Schools aren't just about the students, said Curott. Staff morale is another important aspect of successful schooling, and a well-designed campaign can turn the tide and support a positive school culture.

Drawing from data, the session “Understanding and Adapting to Shifts in District Enrollment Trends” detailed the far-reaching implications of student enrollment. Finalsite K12 Consultant Rory Berg recommended defining a unique value proposition and maintaining a competitive edge by creating an impact through effective website design and email communication.

Inspiring Change to Make a Difference

In a powerful keynote session, Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist of Canva and creator of Guy Kawasaki’s Remarkable People podcast, shared how and why it’s possible to make a difference in your school community.

He presented eight holistic steps to becoming “remarkable,” each signifying an essential aspect of leading a successful and fulfilling life. These included adopting a growth mindset, embracing vulnerability, making yourself indispensable, and, above all, striving for quality.

Kawasaki emphasized that true success lies in executing and delivering results efficiently, that growth comes from combating our fears, and that treating others with kindness are all crucial elements of being a remarkable leader.

These principles, Guy shared, are not only pertinent to school districts seeking transformation but also to anyone aspiring to lead a remarkable life filled with growth and contribution.

screenshot of Guy Kawasaki's session

The Dual Roles of Superintendents and Administrators as Community Leaders

Jessica Martinez-Brooks, a committed community leader and senior director of strategic communications and engagement at Metro Technology Centers, discussed the importance of building relationships and understanding that they have challenges and triumphs. 

Relationship management means mutual trust, engagement, and understanding. She stressed that school PR leaders should develop networks to better understand their community's needs and bring about change, and they have to be willing to bridge the gap, reach out, and establish connections.

In the session, “Inside the Mind of a Superintendent: Unveiling Key Insights for Effective School Communications,” Dr. Neil Gupta, superintendent at Oakwood Schools, discussed the essential role the superintendent and the PR/communications team play in forming the district’s narrative.

Dr. Gupta focused on effective communication's role in education, adding, "We are community servants. How we communicate our story... it all matters." For him, communication goes beyond simple discourse and becomes a medium to share the district’s story and create a strong community identity.

Dr. Gupta also stressed the need to incorporate students into the information-sharing process, adding that students are part of any district's fabric; their voice matters.

Adapting to the Evolving Digital Landscape

Several School PR Day sessions showcased the significance of adapting to the digital landscape by discussing the latest trends in digital tools, social media management, and the implications of bringing AI to a district.

“Revamp Your District Website: Lessons from Chappaqua Central School District's Transformation” retraced the district’s website redesign with the partnership of Finalsite Advantage, from initial considerations to launch and how an impactful redesign sets their district apart.

“Unified Messaging: Coordinating Effective Mass Notifications Throughout Your District” focused on the versatility and importance of mass notifications for sharing essential updates and how communicating quickly and effectively with your school community requires a thoughtful balance of speed, clarity, and relevance.

Key takeaway

School PR Day may be over, you can now register for a free, All-Access pass and watch all the recorded sessions. Catch up on all the inspiring sessions and keynotes, and see for yourself how you can leverage the latest strategies and tools to advance your district’s online presence.

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Connor Gleason Headshot


Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.

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