The Seminar Scoop

2021 NSPRA National Seminar – Monday, July 12

Welcome to the NSPRA National Seminar!

We are thrilled to welcome nearly 1,000 in-person and virtual attendees to this year's Seminar! And welcome to the premier edition of The Seminar Scoop e-newsletter! It will be emailed daily at 7 a.m. Monday through Thursday to all in-person and virtual attendees. We hope you find it an interesting read with helpful tips on programming, networking and more!

Wondering about how we produced this e-newsletter? We used Smore, one of our Gold Sponsors. Check out Smore's guides to food, sightseeing and nightlife in New Orleans. Thanks, Smore! And we also send a big shout out to our supporting sponsor, Volunteer Now. We couldn't have published the Scoop without you!

NSPRA 2021 National Seminar: President's Welcome

Looking for a great session today? Some sure bets

What's new at NSPRA this year?

  • This e-newsletter! If you like it, please scroll to the top and click the red heart.
  • More networking opportunities, including "Job Alike" sessions at 2:45 p.m. today. One for BOCES/ESA/IU/County Office of Education will be on Third Floor in the Borgne Room, and one for Website/Social Media/Video Managers will be on the Second Floor in the Waterbury Room.
  • Sessions designated as having an ESA (Educational Service Agency) focus.
  • Chance to win a $100 Amazon gift card by visiting vendors in the NSPRA Marketplace (open beginning at 8:30 a.m. today and Tuesday in the Grand Ballroom Foyer, Fifth Floor). Find your Passport in your registration folder to record your visits.
  • The NSPRA Member Center. Many attendees already enjoy the benefits of a NSPRA membership (like the discount to this Seminar!). But if you're not a member, stop by to say hello and find out all the benefits you are missing. We're located in the NSPRA Marketplace in the Grand Ballroom Foyer on the Fifth Floor. This is also the place to pick up books by the two keynote speakers for the flight home!
  • Virtual sessions (view them even if you are attending in person using this link).
  • Ability to chat with other virtual attendees at the virtual sessions via a chatbox.
  • A "Colleague Connections" meeting just for superintendents. (Use your time machine to attend; it was yesterday!)
  • A scavenger hunt! See "Two apps you'll want to download," below.

Two apps you'll want to download

The official "NSPRA Seminar" mobile app is available for download for use on Apple and Android devices. Please note your password is the same one sent to you for accessing the virtual platform.

You'll also want to download the Scavr app (available in Apple and Android versions) so you can participate in a scavenger hunt called Get in the Loop - NSPRA 2022 in Chicago. You'll be hunting for members of the Illinois School Public Relations Association (INSPRA), who will be wearing “In the Loop” buttons.

You will earn points by answering trivia questions (e.g., Why is the chapter using "Get In the Loop" as the conference logo?).

Both in-person and virtual attendees can participate by registering here. Virtual attendees can fulfill all the tasks in the scavenger hunt by connecting with members of the Illinois chapter members via Twitter.

Your "team" name will be your first and last name. Check the app to see who does best on the Leader Board. Winner gets a prize!

Laissez bon temps rouler!

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Hundreds of NSPRA Seminar attendees reconnected and recharged at the Welcome Back Dock Party on Sunday evening enjoying food, fun and festivities. Thank you, Blackboard, for your partnership in hosting this epic party! More pics at #NSPRA2021 #WeMetAtNSPRA #New2NSPRA

Virtual Only Pick of the Day: Communicating During COVID-19 (1:15 -2:15 p.m.)

Wichita Public Schools pivoted communication from “need to know” items to being a part of remote learning, virtual graduation ceremonies and digital message enhancements. In this online-only session, learn tips for effectively reaching your target audiences, the importance of developing an explicit communications plan, focusing beyond the crisis and more.

Saturday pre-Seminar workshops

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Tonight meet your virtual school PR friends face-to-face at the #k12prchat Tweetup

By Julie Thannum, APR

Remember when your mother warned you to avoid talking with strangers? And all those warnings about sharing too much information with people you meet online?

You can ignore that advice when it comes to the #k12prchat Tweetup, a free reception that gives you a chance to meet the online school PR community IRL (that’s In Real Life for those of you trying to keep up).

Whether you’ve been a regular in the online #k12prchat this past year or are just curious about this community, this event is designed for you. Stop by from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Roux Bistro on the second floor in the Sheraton this evening.

If you are attending the conference virtually, there is still a way to connect with everyone and hear their voices. A virtual Tweetup will be held via Zoom from 7 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, July 13.

The bi-monthly e-chat on Twitter was the brainchild of several forward-thinking NSPRA members as a way for school PR professionals around the country to connect and learn from one another. During the pandemic, while so many school PR professionals were working at home, some chat sessions moved off Twitter and onto Zoom.

Many chatters have become fast friends despite the fact they may have never actually met face-to-face. “The chat group is a fantastically generous, supportive community,” according to Bob Satnan, communications director for Sedalia School District 200 in Missouri.

The Tweetup, an annual in-person meeting, began at NSPRA Seminar in Chicago in 2016. Since then, the event has grown into a reception where communications professionals give out infamous “chattie” awards. But the real draw is meeting face-to-face with the online personalities who post all year on #k12prchat.

“The Tweetup is the place where virtual connections become real friendships,” says Cathy Kedjidjian, APR, an organizer of #k12prchat and this year’s Tweetup event. “It’s so fun to look around the room and see #k12prchat regulars the first time they meet in person. There are shrieks of joy and hugs, like a family reunion," said Kedjidjian, director of communications and strategic planning for Glenview (IL) School District 34.

"The chat continues to grow, so each year, we see old friends and new faces,” added Kedjidjian, who is NSPRA's president-elect for 2021-22.

“The chat is a safe space where I know I’ll find others who understand the struggle, can celebrate the wins, and provide helpful resources on any topic or situation that comes my way,” said chat participant Erica Chandler, APR. “And the Tweetup is icing on the cake; seeing the faces of #k12prchat colleagues and meeting new school PR friends IRL is priceless,” said Chandler, director of communications for the Affton School District in St. Louis. “There’s no better network for support!”

So, be sure to follow the #k12prchat hashtag. And feel free to invite your mom.

Bob Noyed: Break out of tactics into strategy

You're a terrific writer, photographer, social media manager and/or media spokesperson. But do the leaders of your school district think of you as a trusted advisor, as well? If not, you need to break out of PR tactics and into PR strategy, according to Bob Noyed, a school PR veteran who will receive the President's Award during today's General Session (9:30-11:30 a.m. in the Grand Ballroom on the Fifth Floor).

Noyed is Vice President of CESO Communications, LLC, a 12-person firm specializing in school PR in Minneapolis, Minn. He's worked in school communications for 35 years, including multiple districts in the Twin Cities, and was president of NSPRA in 2006-07.

One way to widen your perspective and begin to move into an advisory role is to attend meetings voluntarily, he said. He recalled a colleague who dropped into meetings, saying, "I just want to listen." But before long, she was being asked her opinion and was considered part of the team. She had moved from tactics to strategy.

Want more tips? At 1:15 p.m. today, Noyed will speak on "New Job Description: Strategic Changes to Your Work" (Third Floor–Napoleon A123).

Want to make the most of your time at the Seminar? Connect!

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By Andrew Robinson

Let me start by saying that I know that probably you, like me, are here in large part for the beignets (I'm coming, Cafe Du Monde!) and the seafood (Jambalaya, is that you?). Beyond that, there are some things you should know to make the most out of your time here in New Orleans. Here are some tips I gathered from fellow school PR pros from across the country:

Tip #1: Make connections

David Olson, communications manager for Sycamore (IL) Community School District 427, gives two pieces of advice: (1) “Don’t stay in your room!” and (2) “Walk up to strangers (with badges on).” I’m not sure if David will ever be a good parent with such recommendations, but his advice is spot on for the seminar. (We’re just teasing you, David!)

“Embed yourself in situations where you’ll build lasting friendships,” is the advice of Josh Sauer, a sales consultant for Finalsite. Sometimes those moments may happen in the hallway between sessions or over a drink at the bar in the lobby.

My two cents: Be sure to save contact information from fellow attendees and follow them on Twitter. Join in the #K12PR conversation!

Tip #2: Choose your sessions carefully

Perusing the list of sessions can certainly feel overwhelming, especially when you see two sessions relevant to your challenges during the same timeframe. Divide and conquer by asking a colleague or someone you met at the seminar to split the sessions and compare notes.

Pro Tip! NEW this year, you can watch Skill Session recordings on the online event platform, so you can attend one in person and catch the other one later through the on demand feature available for 30 days after the Seminar.

Tip #3: Build in time for breaks

Our next tip comes from Melissa McConnell, South Central region vice president. “Take breaks and build them into your schedule of events, “ Melissa said. “You’ll need to answer emails/texts, make calls, process what you’ve learned and even just grab a chair in the lobby to chat with some of the best in the business.”

Tip #4: Be prepared

Bring your laptop, mobile device or a notepad to sessions to take lots of notes. Once the session is over or you get to a point where you are ready to reflect, break your notes up into categories. What can you do right now to improve your practices? What can you do within the next year to improve your practices? What would you like to keep on the back burner but not forget? Organizing your notes in this fashion helps you pull out the main points without feeling overwhelmed.

Bonus tips

  • Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated!
  • Create keyboard shortcuts for the seminar hashtags on your iPhone. Melissa McConnell says for #NSPRA2021 she chose “nsp!” and for #WeMetAtNSPRA, she went with “wem.”
  • Download the NSPRA app and enable push notifications so that you do not miss a beat.
  • Meet new people, connect and have a great time!

That's great, but what I really need is the Wi-Fi password

Click on NSPRA SSID and enter the password nola2021.

Dig in with the new hashtag #K12PRfoodie

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Ashley Kryscynski, secretary of the Michigan School Public Relations Association, recommends you try grilled oysters while in NOLA. More foodie photos on Twitter at #K12PRfoodie

After a pandemic year, NOLA reignites school PR pros' senses

By Julie Thannum, APR

Were you a bit skeptical when New Orleans was announced as the site of the 2021 NSPRA National Seminar? I was; come on, NOLA in July? But after the quarantines and cancellations of 2020, it’s as if all our senses have come to life again, making New Orleans the perfect place for our NSPRA family reunion.


A good number of NSPRA members took the opportunity to arrive in New Orleans over the weekend so they could see for themselves what the beautiful city has to offer – so much history, art, music and culture. From street artists to elaborate murals and eclectic graffiti, the city is a feast for your post-pandemic eyes. NSPRA members have been sighted at the National World War II Museum and Audubon Aquarium as well as the Crown Jewel of New Orleans, the French Quarter. You can visit historic cemeteries, take a walk in the park or enjoy a streetcar ride. No doubt, this city does not lack for amazing sights and experiences. And NSPRA members are finding out that many of them are free!


They don’t call NOLA the “Birthplace of Jazz” for nothing. The Sheraton Hotel is located right in the heart of downtown New Orleans, and you don’t have to wander down to Bourbon Street to soak in the sounds of NOLA. We found many talented street performers right near Jackson Square and encourage you to take in the jazz on Frenchmen Street.

Take a cue from NSPRA member Randy Barber, chief communications officer at Boulder Valley School District in Colorado, who enjoyed jazz by John Lisi and Delta Funk at the Ugly Dog Saloon and BBQ. He shared his experiences via Twitter, so follow #NSPRA2021 to catch up on all the fun.

Smell and Taste

From chicory coffee and beignets at the famous Café du Monde to the shrimp and grits offered at nearly every NOLA restaurant, NSPRA members have wasted no time in experiencing the smells and tastes of beautiful New Orleans. Using the hashtag #k12prfoodie, NSPRA members have shared pictures of sweet treats, gourmet dinners and unique refreshments. (On my personal to-do list: Banana’s Foster French Toast at Elizabeth’s Restaurant, grilled oysters at Bourbon House and the healthy, but colorful fare at the Green Goddess.)

Although NSPRA member Peg Mannion, APR, community relations coordinator in Glenbard Township High School District 87, couldn’t join us in person, that hasn’t stopped her from connecting with seminar friends online to share her favorite New Orleans dinner spots like Royal House, GW Fins, Felix’s and Brigsten’s. “I’m glad you are enjoying the great food in NOLA,” she wrote to Alex Mayster, APR, Director of Communications of Evergreen Park SD124 and president-elect of the INSPRA Board. “So much great flavor,” Peg said. “It’ll make your taste buds dance.”


Our colleague Ben Fisher, director of communications of Reeds Spring R-IV School District in Missouri, got to hold a real alligator during his swamp tour on Saturday. But there are other ways to viscerally experience this city, and maybe work off some extra COVID pounds. Members took to the streets during Sunday morning’s #K12pr5k to stay physically fit, connect with other fellow runners and to enjoy the waterfront views. The event also helped raise funds for the #k12prchat scholarship for next year's Seminar.

Be sure to drop by the Fifth Floor Grand Ballroom foyer to pick up the freebies offered by our small but mighty Louisiana chapter hosts. Make sure you keep a safe distance this week, but have fun as you walk up and down the French Market, shopping and taking in the local wares. New Orleans has all the feels! That includes hugs! See me for one!

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Ben Fisher with a new friend who could probably use a PR campaign.

Annual Meeting celebrates many achievers in school PR

By Andrew Robinson

The NSPRA Annual Meeting and Celebration of Achievement took place on Sunday afternoon in the Grand Ballroom at the Sheraton New Orleans. The jam-packed celebration recognized SPRA chapters, members and candidates for the NSPRA executive board.

NSPRA President Lesley Bruinton, APR, opened the meeting along with NSPRA Executive Director Barbara M. Hunter, APR. Barbara said that as the new director, all roads have led her to NSPRA. “Serving as the new executive director is a dream come true,” she explained. Barbara has vast experience working in school districts' public relations programs through several capacities including consulting work. Barbara said that as NSPRA continues to evolve and move forward, the organization will approach every task with members in mind.

Stevie Crovetto, director of public information for St. Charles Parish Public Schools in Luling, La., greeted attendees with a welcome message. She advised seminar attendees to not only quench their hunger and thirst with the city's renowned food and drink, but to leave with a renewed sense of passion for their school PR work.

Lesley gave an update on the future of NSPRA and shared the 2021-2024 strategic plan with its newly member-approved mission statement and four goals and objectives. It was also announced that a new NSPRA logo will be revealed during Monday's General Session. Additionally, upcoming initiatives that will roll out in the coming year include a mentor match program, free PR Power Hour webinars for members, Leaders Learn panel discussions and a redesigned NSPRA website. Moreover, Joe Ferdani, APR, Southwest Region Vice President, presented an update on NSPRA’s excellent financial health.

Recognitions of chapters and members included:

  • Eight SPRA chapters received the mark of distinction for their exemplary work: Kansas, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Georgia, North Carolina, New York and Washington.
  • Twelve NSPRA members were recognized for earning their Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) between July 12, 2020, and July 1, 2021.
  • Thirty-five individuals were recognized as recipients of the 2020-21 class of the 35 Under 35 award. These individuals are making a difference in their school districts across the nation as they represent the next generation of chapter and association leaders.
  • Fifty members were recognized as being part of the first class of the APR Cohort, sponsored by NSPRA.
  • There were 824 winners in 2021 recognized for outstanding education publications, e-newsletters, digital media programs, radio/TV/video programs, social media, infographics, blogs and websites.
  • Four NSPRA front-runners were recognized during the celebration. These individuals are emerging leaders identified by the executive board.
  • Twelve members were honored by the NSPRA Foundation and received scholarships to attend the seminar or advance their careers through the accreditation process.

To close out the annual meeting and celebration, the executive board approved by acclamation Cathy Kedjidjian, APR, as president-elect for 2021-22, Phillip Campbell as the Northwest Region Vice President for 2021-24 and Cindy Warner, APR, as the Southeast Region Vice President for 2021-24.

President-elect Cathy Kedjidjian said during her speech, “This is the room where it happens – whether you’re in this room actually or virtually, this is where we reflect and plan and learn and connect – and where we start to see our future and where we all, together, can do so much to make that vision a reality.”

Congratulations to all of the NSPRA chapters, NSPRA members and candidates for their outstanding work this past year!

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The 2020-21 NSPRA Executive Board
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The NSPRA welcome wagon is glad you're here, either in person or virtually! From left: Sandra Williams, Melissa Robinette and Ashley-Michelle Thublin.
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