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Top Picks for #NSPRA2023

This year’s highly anticipated National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) Seminar is set to take place in St. Louis, MO from July 17-19, 2023. It is widely regarded as the foremost professional learning event for school communications. Now is the perfect time to calendar a few great sessions.

“Prepare for an enriching experience at the NSPRA seminar by strategically planning your sessions in advance,” says Andrew A. Hagen, integrated communications coordinator at CEL. He suggests selecting two or three high-priority sessions each day that are tailored to your professional growth goals or offer fresh perspectives for learning. This proactive approach ensures you maximize your learning opportunities and make the most of your time.

Undoubtedly, the seminar’s keynote speakers stand out as highlights not to be missed. The breakout sessions offer a diverse range of topics Monday, July 17, and Tuesday, July 18. Finally, Wednesday, July 19 offers nearly 100 Gold Mine Sessions, where participants can choose six topics of interest and engage in small table discussions that rotate every 20 minutes.

The CEL team has curated a must-see list to provide a glimpse of the compelling sessions awaiting you at the seminar. These sessions encompass a wide array of subjects, from digital marketing to equity and inclusion. Moreover, they feature presentations by a host of our esteemed clients, colleagues, and friends. Regardless of the sessions you choose, we are genuinely enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn and grow alongside you in St. Louis.


APR Prep: Get Ready for Universal Accreditation

Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Christy McGee, APR and Shawn McKillop, APR

Want to advance your public relations role from tactician to adviser? Now is the time to earn your accreditation in public relations (APR). This in-depth workshop will help you prepare for the accreditation process and the computer-based exam by providing a solid grounding in the knowledge, skills and abilities tested. Learn which topics are assessed and how to plan and prepare for the various exam components. During this workshop, you’ll also build a new network of school PR colleagues to join you on the APR journey.


Photography: Let’s Focus on Communicating

Monday, 8:00-9:00 a.m.
Karl Weinrich

How can a photo enhance your stories and make your messaging more impactful? This session will cover: storytelling through photos, audience engagement, visual signifiers and image composition, all while reviewing and discussing examples pertinent to school public relations. Develop and improve upon your own photography skills.

Wish You Were Here: The Relationship Strategy of Enrollment Marketing

Monday, 8:00-9:00 a.m.
Jennifer Camien and Kristin Magette, APR

Has your enrollment declined since September 2019? You’re not alone. Since the pandemic, neighborhood schools face competition like never before. 

This CEL client’s Gold Medallion campaign harnesses the power of personal relationships to bring families back to their schools. Leave with practical steps that a school district of any size can use.

10 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Copy 

Monday 1:30-3:00 p.m.
Beth Francesco

Your readers demand quick, sharp writing that gets to the point – fast. But brevity isn’t easy. In this hands-on Amplify Session, discover 10 things you can do in 10 minutes to refine your writing and create more space for the details that matter. From news releases to social media posts for the public to internal communications, all writing will benefit when you apply even one of the tips.

How to Breathe New Life Into Your Annual Content Calendar

Monday 1:30-3:00 p.m.
Melanie Deziel

A new school year means a new batch of content about familiar milestones, events, and holidays. This interactive session is designed to help you find new perspectives and new inspiration for all the stories you tell. Using a simple and repeatable framework, this session will get your creative juices flowing,, even when the subject is the same. 

Marketing Your District with Simple Video Basics

Monday, 3:15-4:15 p.m.
David Stephenson

Through weekly superintendent videocasts, high school intern video projects, and highlight reels, Alpine School District set out on a path to better market their district as a best choice for families. Come collaborate about fun, informative, and inspiring projects using simple and basic video production techniques.

Consultant Services: When Is It Right for Your District?

Monday, 3:15-4:15 p.m.
Andrew Hagen, Brian Nicol, Julie Thannum, APR, and Kim Case

There are times school PR professionals, superintendents and district leaders reach their capacity to take on projects. Need advice on a ballot issue? How about a rebranding project? Is a website redesign and launch up for discussion? A panel of NSPRA Professional Partners will be on hand to talk about reasons and moments to consider hiring a consultant to support your efforts. Bring your questions and come away with ideas that might be the right fit in helping alleviate some of the pressure placed on you in your role.

From Short-Order Cooks to Strategic Counselors: Establishing and Growing an Effective Team

Monday, 4:30-5:30 p.m.
Dirk Tedmon

In this must-attend session, learn from a school PR leader who grew a team from 4 to 8 professionals in under a year. Whether you’re a one-person shop or an established team, this session will help you convince leaders to invest in your department as you take your team to the next level and establish it as a critical component of the district’s success. Create a clear vision, showcasing exceptional work, and proactively advise on strategies to impact all areas of your district. Join this insightful session and gain new tools to become a sought-after strategic advisor!


Rev Your Brand: Driving User-Friendly School Websites and Communications

Tuesday, 11:40 a.m. – 12:25 p.m.
Joshua Sauer, APR and Justin Elbert

Are you eager to enhance your school’s online presence? Join us for a session that dives into the user experience (UX) world for school websites and communications. We’ll share simple yet effective ways to design your website for optimal UX, ensuring it’s easy to navigate on desktop and mobile platforms. We’ll also provide insights on enhancing your outbound communication, enabling you to use your communication toolset fully. Don’t miss this chance to boost your school’s or district’s online reach and engage your audience through an improved user experience.

APR Brown Bag Networking Session

Tuesday, 11:45 a.m. – 1:15 p.m.
Christy McGee, APR and Mellissa M Braham, APR

If you hold accreditation in public relations (APR), bring your lunch to this exclusive networking session for current APRs hosted by the NSPRA Accreditation Committee.

A New Benchmark for Equity Communications

Tuesday, 1:30-3:00 p.m.
Brian Graves M.A., Royal Gurley Ed.D., Music Watson, APR, Erica Chandler, APR, and Kimberlee Armstrong Ed.D.

In June 2023, NSPRA will release a new section on equity and diversity communications for its Rubrics of Practice and Suggested Measures benchmarking publication on school communication best practices. Listen as NSPRA’s School Communication Benchmarking Project Team discusses the importance of approaching school communications with a focus on equity and how communicators can use this tool to increase the effectiveness of their messages and strategies. Following a panel discussion, attendees will work in small groups to reflect on their districts’ equity communication practices in light of the new rubric.

Don’t Make C.R.A.P.: Principles of Graphic Design for Everyday Use

Tuesday, 3:15-4:15 p.m.
Dr. Christopher Villarreal Ed.D.

Participants will learn four key principles of graphic design to enhance handouts, presentations, flyers, brochures, and more. If you are wondering if you have the software skills to benefit from this session, don’t worry! Everything shown in the session was made with Google Docs or Google Slides. See the four principles in action, and all materials will be shared with attendees.


Discover precious ideas and valuable insights to enrich your school’s public relations arsenal at these Gold Mine Roundtables. Explore a range of topics and engage in three 20-minute mini sessions during a 70-minute breakout session. Participants will rotate among tables, switching to a new topic every 20 minutes. Seize this chance to gather a wealth of proven, practical ideas in a time-efficient format.

Greatness Grows Here

Chelsea Janke and Jennifer Camien

2023 Gold Medallion Award Winner: Learn about this award-winning Marketing Communication Campaign, in which the district employed an internal and external marketing campaign to: establish Salina Public Schools as the schools of choice for families within district boundaries; position Salina as the leader in providing whole child education with unmatched opportunities for exploration, enrichment and acceptance; and build community pride and equity, that every school in the district is a great place for students.

Elevating Student Voice: Empowering Students to Share Their Stories

Derrick Williams

Too often we try to tell our students’ stories for them. Imagine what would happen if we let them tell their own story. In 2022, in an effort to celebrate the district’s diversity, Robbinsdale Area Schools began a video series featuring middle school students who shared information about their cultures, families and experiences. From national heritage months to Black History Month, the videos have been an engaging way to elevate student voice.

Stability and Excellence for our Future: Eden Prairie Schools Referendum 2022

Dirk Tedmon, Brandon Mitchell, and Grace Becker

2023 Gold Medallion Award Winner: Learn about this award-winning Bond / Finance Campaign, in which the district asked taxpayers to consider renewing the capital project levy and revoking and replacing the operating levy. Many internal and external factors influenced the course of the campaign, including changing Communications Department leadership and steeply rising inflation. Nevertheless, a commitment to ongoing evaluation and innovation led the project to overwhelming success.

“As you review the guide and plan your seminar experience, remember this list is only a few picks—sometimes, the most memorable session comes as a surprise,” advises Andrew. He encourages attendees to schedule a few sessions in advance, ensuring they leave room for at least one networking event. “Come to NSPRA ready to learn something, meet  someone, and connect with old friends and colleagues.”

Engage with the NSPRA community by following the seminar hashtag on Twitter (#NSPRA2023) and connecting with fellow attendees there. The NSPRA community is known for its warm and generous spirit, and the annual seminar provides the perfect opportunity to expand your circle of knowledge.”

While the week may be filled with abundant learning opportunities, remember to take a moment to relax and have fun.

No matter your previous NSPRA experiences, you will undoubtedly acquire new knowledge, forge meaningful connections with supportive colleagues, and ignite relationships that will fortify your work in the upcoming year.

When you get home from the seminar and have questions about how to implement everything you’ve learned, give us a call!

Published on: July 12, 2023