The Seminar Scoop

2021 NSPRA National Seminar -- Wednesday, July 14

Award-winning family!

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This year's Seminar was a family affair for two of our 2021 award winners: Susan Brott, APR (Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award) and Bob Noyed, APR (NSPRA Presidents Award). Brott, who is wearing a floral dress in the center, and Noyed, who is on the right, are married to each other.

Mentoring award goes to Susan Brott, APR

By Andrew Robinson

Susan Brott, APR, received the prestigious Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award at Tuesday's General Session. She is a senior strategic consultant for CESO Communications, LLC based in Minneapolis, Minn. (Her husband Bob Noyed, APR, who received the Presidents Award on Monday, also works at CESO Communications.)

The mentoring award is given in memory of Barry Gaskins, APR, an NSPRA past president who was known for his deep commitment to supporting and mentoring school PR colleagues.

Susan captivated the attendees by giving a compelling speech that left everyone both laughing and crying. She opened her acceptance speech by saying how humbled she was to receive this award among so many past winners who were all extremely deserving of the honor, and some people that she too, calls mentors.

In an interview, Susan said that, for her, the profession is about the idea of paying it forward. “I don’t think of myself as a mentor,” she explained. “Instead, I think it’s the way we do things. In school communications, we help each other. I am amazed when I talk to people from college or outside of the profession and they don’t believe how much we share with each other and how much we help each other.”

Susan recalled meeting Gaskins about 18 months before he passed away unexpectedly in 2003. Known for lighting up a room, Gaskins authored the iconic line the Seminar attendees often repeat: "Work hard, play hard, sleep when you get home."

“When we lost him at the prime of his career, it really revealed to many of us that the relationships we were building through NSPRA were familial,” said Julie Zwahr, chief communications officer for Denton ISD in Texas and a former NSPRA South Central VP. “His ‘work hard, play hard and sleep when you get home’ family philosophy began with the numerous conferences he helped plan. This honor and its recipients are truly the heart of our organization,” Julie said.

9 a.m. today: Gold Mine Roundtables!

Want to improve your district's photography and videography with a $59 purchase? The Beastclamp (shown at left) secures any phone within seconds, and it's easy to attach lights or a microphone for videos.

That's one tip you'll get at "Getting the Most out of Facebook Live," one of 13 simultaneous "Gold Mine" sessions being held today from 9 to 10:30 a.m. in Napoleon C123 and B123. Phil Campbell, a former TV reporter who now works for Bonneville Joint School District 93 in Idaho, has produced videos that have been viewed millions of times, resulting in a nearly eight-fold increase in his district's Facebook following.

Presenters will sit at tables and attendees will circulate three times in mini-sessions of 25 minutes each. Why are they called "Gold Mine" sessions? Because most of the presenters are winners of 2021 Golden Achievement or Gold Medallion awards from NSPRA.

Topics include:

* Communications and PR for school reopening/pivoting/COVID-19 (six presentations)

* Campaigns for diversity/teacher recruitment or bond referenda

* Communications strategy including a "State of the Schools" presentation by Angie Smith, Ed.D., chief of staff at Chesapeake Public Schools (VA)

If you are a fan of Shark Tank, look for the table hosted by Mary Perry, PIO for Desert Sands Unified School District in La Quinta, Calif. She'll describe the "Goldfish Bowl," a kinder, gentler version of Shark Tank in which community leaders and celebrities, including the retired CEO of Jack in the Box, made funding decisions on projects proposed by teachers and students in video pitches.

Virtual attendees, there are four virtual Gold Mine sessions just for you!

VIrtual pick of the day: The Non-Designer's Guide to Beautiful, Clickable and Engaging Email Newsletters

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In this session, you will learn why a good newsletter strategy is like the perfect waffle. Stacy Blaylock, communications coordinator for Douglas County School District (CO), will introduce you to tools that make newsletter design a snap and explain how to measure your success with simple metrics. Log on here. Can't make it? Then read Finalsite's 10 Proven Strategies for Amazing District Newsletters (includes tips on email subject lines), check out this Graphic Design Masterclass (25+ hours of on-demand video for $189) and follow #NonDesignerNewsletters.

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Audrey Childers, public information office for Darlington (SC) County School District, holds a book signed by Tuesday's keynote speaker, Amy Blankson.

Speaker Amy Blankson: Let's cultivate happiness

By Julie Thannum, APR

Simple activities can help busy PR professionals cultivate happiness in a digital era, attendees learned at Tuesday’s General Session.

Speaker Amy Blankson, self-described happiness researcher, challenged school PR professionals to lead by example by carving out what she called “unplugged time,” using autoresponders after hours to set expectations and turning off unnecessary notifications.

She also urged listeners to beware of “phubbing” tendencies. That portmanteau of “phone” and “snubbing” refers to the habit of looking at your phone instead of paying attention during a conversation. Blankson hit a nerve, judging from the many tweets quoting her at #NSPRA2021.

In her book, The Future of Happiness, Blankson provides modern strategies for balancing productivity and well-being in our digital era. One piece of advice: lean into social support. “Social support is the single greatest predictor of long-term success and happiness,” she said. “In hard times we tend to disinvest in friendships when we actually need them the most.” She pointed to research that confirms individuals who provide social support to others are 40 percent more likely to receive it in return.

This proves we are all better, together. Authentic relationships and personal connections make for happier lives.

The message was timely as school leaders across the country talk about the social-emotional wellness of students, and NSPRA members have begun dialoguing more openly about self-care and mental wellness under the hashtag #k12prwell.

Michael Rosier, director of communications and community partnership with Aiken (SC) Public Schools, was among dozens of NSPRA members who applauded and echoed Blankson’s message on social media. “I’m looking forward to taking better care of myself and being a more productive force in my district and community,” he posted on Twitter along with a photo of Blankson during the book-signing event.

50+ superintendents are attending the seminar; three tell us why

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