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NSPRA Hosts School PR & Communications Professionals for Biggest National Conference Yet

By July 25, 20234 min read

There was no stopping NSPRA (National School Public Relations Association) last week as over 1,500 school communications professionals gathered for the organization’s annual conference. Chapters from across the country convened for three days of professional development, collaboration, insider insights, and idea sharing. Their destination? Success. This year’s event riffed on its venue, St Louis’s Union Station and once the event started rolling, there was certainly no stopping it. Here’s a look at highlights and key takeaways from #NSPRA2023. 

Chapters Convene 

The rapid growth of both NSPRA and its national conference is no surprise–with the event itself doubling in size over the last two years. This year’s event was the talk of social media, with chapter leaders, members, and vendor partners sharing their #Road2NSPRA across major social media channels in the weeks and days leading up to seeing one another in person. Attendees were welcomed to Union Station by a range of activities, including a 3D light show, mirror maze, and ropes course, plus unique opportunities to see the aquarium’s some 13,000 creatures before some good ol’ fashioned karaoke. That’s right, upwards of 22 states participated in a karaoke battle for the ages, with the Chesapeake chapter coming out on top. 

It all sounds like fun and games (and it is!), but NSPRA’s commitment to providing spaces and experiences that help conference attendees actually connect and build real relationships takes things to another level. In building trust and community through fun experiences, members develop uniquely close ties that lead to meaningful connections and the ability to collaborate freely and vulnerably over the course of the event. 

“NSPRA’s national conference is well-known for providing incredibly valuable opportunities for members to seek, glean, and share insights directly informed by professional experience,” explains Dr. Jill Johnson, a third-year attendee from Class Intercom. “School PR and communications professionals see and manage some incredibly unique circumstances, and the association’s leadership at the chapter and national levels is incredibly adept at creating opportunities for members to collaborate in really effective and authentic ways so they can learn from one another.”

Tactical, Practical & Experience-Driven 

These opportunities included pre-conference sessions featuring a diverse group of speakers and vendors. In fact, Dr. Jill joined Finalsite’s Josh Sauer and Molly McGowan Gorsch from Rhodes Branding for a pre-conference panel aimed at helping NSPRA chapters better engage vendors, tapping into their expertise in a way that chapter leaders can use to add value for members. The takeaway? EdTech leaders and service providers can offer uniquely powerful insights from outside the realm of school PR, especially when they are deeply committed to the broader advancement of schools and the communities they serve. 

Between Amplify, Skill, and Gold Mining sessions, speakers explored strategies covering school communications from all angles with practical insights informed by their experiences. Sessions ranged from using video to market your district to amplifying student voice and from crisis communications to staff recruitment and retention. Certainly, there was no shortage of discussion on social media and its usage by students, families, and schools. In a particularly hands-on Skill session, Nixa Public Schools’ Morgan Ralls shared her unique experience as a communications intern building and growing a sustaining social media program through her transition into a full-time role with the district—and the technology she used to do it. 

In a similarly timely session, NSPRA leaders, including executive director Barabara Hunter, APR, were joined by leaders from the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) for a discussion about the unique challenges schools and students face when it comes to verification and reporting processes across social media platforms. 

Other sessions included topics closely aligned with or adjacent to social media management and execution for schools, including student voice, skill building, storytelling, crisis communications, leveraging school websites and cross-channel communications, and building trust across communities. 

Perhaps most telling of NSPRA’s true commitment to authentic collaboration and shared experience, NSPRA’s 35 Under 35 Awards honored outstanding professionals leading efforts to elevate the sector as a whole and the school communities behind it. The list of impressive rising stars included the likes of School PR Happy Hour’s Becca Latham, Grand Island Public Schools’ Mitch Roush, and veteran PR pro Elishia Seals.

Looking Back, Looking Forward 

After two full days of sessions and collaboration, the annual convention culminated in the President’s Reception, where NSPRA’s executive board members and alumni, project teams ad committee members, as well as current SPRA chapter presidents and presidents-elect were invited to connect and celebrate the hard work of another year in service to the organization. 

At the official President Installation and Gold Medallion Awards Ceremony, the efforts and talents of members were recognized and the torch was officially passed–this year by current president Cathy Kedjidjian, APR to president-elect Trent Allen, APR. 

A special thanks to all our colleagues, clients, and friends serving SPRA chapters all over the country. We appreciate and admire you. See you at the next one! 

Class Intercom

The Class Intercom content team offers powerful perspective on social media content, technology, and management for schools and districts. Our approach is one of seamless collaboration, scheduling, moderation, and archival—all backed by powerful pedagogy.