The third annual NSPRA Presidents Summit recently convened School Public Relations Association Chapter leaders nationwide for two days of intensive learning and collaboration. Hosted by 2023-2024 NSPRA President Trent Allen, APR, at the Hilton Sacramento Riverfront Promenade on February 16-17, this year's summit was tailored to the needs of school PR leaders seeking to grow their chapters and better serve their members.
Here are five key takeaways from the event:
1. Start with Greatness
This year’s Summit attendees were treated to an action-packed presentation by Kevin Bracy, “Coach Greatness.” With a dynamic blend of passion, humor, and profound insight, Bracy had chapter leaders out of their seats and on their feet to kick off the summit.
As a seasoned executive producer, speaking coach, and advocate against bullying, he offered invaluable strategies for overcoming obstacles and actionable guidance for nurturing the potential of tomorrow's leaders. Through his transformative message, Bracy left an enduring impression on summit attendees, equipping them with the tools to cultivate greatness within their school communities.
2. Roll With It
Participants engaged in dynamic roundtable discussions in Roundtable Role-Alike Conversations. These interactions facilitated strategic networking opportunities, allowing attendees to exchange insights and best practices.
Attendees explored strategies for fostering meaningful partnerships to advance their chapter's goals. “The Presidents Summit was a great opportunity to connect with leaders from around the country,” said Renae Reedy, MinnSPRA treasurer and Forest Lake Area Schools communications coordinator. “The role-alike conversations allowed me to get ideas and affirmation from other chapters and pick up new tips on how to grow our chapter and better serve our members.”
3. Grow Membership
Providing value for members was an overarching theme of the summit, with Day 2 featuring a panel of communicators who have driven significant growth in their chapter over the past year.
The panel members shared practical tips about what worked for them and what didn’t. WSPRA Past President and Hudson School District Community Relations Director Tracy Habisch-Ahlin served as a panelist and attributed WSPRA’s 21% membership growth to the Wisconsin chapter’s diverse pool of experience and expertise, saying, “not all school communicators are ‘communicators’ by title….even if you’re not a communicator by title, you have a place in WSPRA.”
“The membership panel at the Presidents Summit was particularly valuable to me as we continue to increase our membership and offerings to CHESPRA (Chesapeake School Public Relations Association) members,” said Andrew Robinson, Communications Coordinator of Media Relations and Online Strategies at Arlington Public Schools.
“I left with newfound knowledge, strategies, and tactics to propel CHESPRA into the future. Some include providing a new member packet or letter to new members and considering adding mentors for new members. Adding a subcommittee to carve out work related to membership engagement or adding a VP of Engagement on the board are also standout opportunities to assist with chapter growth.”
4. Spark Ideas
An Idea Spark Session reflected professional leadership development on member engagement, growth, and chapter success.
MSPRA President-Elect and Clarkston Community Schools Director of Communications and Marketing Kelly Allen said, “The Idea Spark Session was one of my favorites! I really liked that we picked the topics we wanted to focus on. The groups were smaller and random, allowing me to connect to school PR experts who weren’t in my geographic area, in a SPRA of similar size, or in the same role as me. I walked away from that session with several great ideas to implement in our chapter and a larger network of colleagues.”
5. Celebrate Achievement
A summit highlight was a panel discussion on improved state and national award program alignment. With a focus on the NSPRA School Communicator of the Year Award criteria, the panel shared their processes for recognizing excellence in school PR and underscoring the importance of effective communication in education.
Finalsite Chief Marketing Officer Risa Engel said, “We are proud to sponsor this award because we believe in celebrating the exceptional efforts of the work you all do as communication professionals. This award is a testament to the impact of your work, highlighting the innovation, creativity, and strategic thinking that define the best in school PR.”
Engel continued, “Our mission at Finalsite is to help schools thrive. Supporting the NSPRA School Communicator of the Year Award aligns with our commitment to education and our belief in the power of effective communication. We are excited to honor those who excel at their craft in connecting our schools with the communities they serve, and we look forward to celebrating your achievements.”
It was a clear theme at every table, session, and conversation: NSPRA chapter leaders are passionate about bringing the best value back to their members. Throughout the summit, there was a balance between home-state pride and the connection to a larger purpose – the desire to see all school public relations professionals succeed.
"The NSPRA Presidents Summit was helpful as a president-elect for KanSPRA. I had the opportunity to learn where our chapter is strong and where we have room for growth. The people serving their state SPRAs as leaders are incredibly willing to share both challenges they’ve had and great ideas.” shared Suzy Finn from Wichita Public Schools and KanSPRA President-Elect and Treasurer.
“This is my second NSPRA Presidents Summit,” said WSPRA’s Tracy Habisch-Ahlin. “It is my favorite event for connecting with other chapter leaders. It provides incredible insight into what colleagues are doing across the country to best serve their members.”
The NSPRA Presidents Summit 2024 was a resounding success, providing chapter leaders with the tools, insights, and connections needed to excel in their roles. As they return to their chapters, they carry the inspiration and momentum gained from this transformative event, ready to make a lasting impact in school PR.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Mary Ellen Rowe is a Finalsite education sales consultant with more than 15 years’ experience directing public and private K-12 school communications. She’s passionate about helping #SchoolPR pros brainstorm challenges, engage their communities, and tell their district’s story. Mary Ellen lives in the Detroit suburbs with her husband, three teenagers, and a dog named Pete.
Elishia Seals is an Educational Sales Consultant with Finalsite. Before joining the Finalsite team, she worked in #SchoolPR as a Public Information Director in Kansas and served on the Kansas School Public Relations Board (KanSRPA). She began her education at the University of Missouri St. Louis, achieving a bachelor's degree in Photography and Art Studio. Her love for learning continued at Pittsburg State University, where she earned a Master of Arts in Communication and a Master of Science in Career and Technical Education with Honors.