Continuous learning is a common concern for just about every school communicator I know!
Well, you work in a school. Professional Development (PD) is pretty much a given for all educators and education professionals. You’re surrounded by colleagues who are constantly attending PD events, earning additional credentials, and upping their game when it comes to new approaches in education.
On top of that, you work in a demanding field. Communications best practices change quickly, not to mention all the technologies you’re asked to juggle on a daily basis. Between crisis communications, social media, internal communications, and external communications…there’s a lot to know!
That’s why Professional Development for School PR professionals is absolutely critical!
I recently had the privilege to sit down with Janet Swiecichowski, APR, Fellow PRSA, and Vice President at CEL for a conversation all about PD for school communicators. Janet has made a lifelong commitment to professional development. She’s been in school PR for over 20 years, in various capacities, and is a fierce advocate for continuous learning.
I encourage you to listen to our full chat on the podcast, right here:
Today’s blog includes highlights of that conversation, plus additional insights into the best PD opportunities for school communicators. Let’s dive in!
State and National PD Programs for School PR Professionals
Janet earned her undergraduate degree in communications but when she started working at a school, she realized she needed to learn more targeted methods. Her superintendent connected her with Rick Kauffman, who encouraged her to join the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA).
Getting PD at the national level is important, but it’s equally critical to make local connections with like-minded professionals. For example, every state has its own mandates when it comes to COVID and many media outlets contacting schools are regional, so it’s helpful to have colleagues to bounce ideas and questions.
That’s why NSPRA also offers regional and local opportunities for PD and networking, through state chapters. Janet started out with the Wisconsin chapter (WSPRA) and later joined the Minnesota chapter (MinnSPRA).
You can find your local chapter right here on the NSPRA website!
To strengthen her public relations chops, Janet also joined the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), which offers a vast archive of webinars, courses, and certificate programs.
Janet also earned her Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) – a certification that requires rigorous coursework. She describes it as the “gold standard” in the public relations field!
The APR is worthwhile for any school communicator who wants to move beyond the tactical and into the strategic, within their school PR role, according to Janet.
Public relations is about building mutually beneficial relationships with the people upon whom our success or failure depends for any organization.” – Janet Swiecichowski, APR, Fellow PRSA, Vice President at CEL
Higher Education Opportunities for School PR Professionals
Janet didn’t stop there when it came to her professional development. She took graduate classes in public relations to augment her general communications background, later earning her Master’s Degree in Strategic Communication from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.
In fact, to this day, she is still investing in her own higher education! Janet is currently earning her Doctoral Degree in Organizational Change and Leadership from the University of Southern California’s Rossier School of Education.
Yet don’t be alarmed – you don’t have to commit to a full-fledged higher ed program! You could take classes at your community college or local university that are practical, hands-on, and teach you the latest techniques in digital communications and tactics, such as video production.
Other PD Opportunities for School PR Professionals
Janet stressed the importance of taking care of yourself and your well-being before pursuing these programs and memberships. You work in a high-stress environment with many pressures coming from all directions.
#K12PRWell, a movement co-founded by Kristin Magette, APR, and Shawn McKillop, APR, connects the school PR community through wellness and self-care initiatives, intended to avoid occupational burnout. Take a look at this blog to learn more about the #K12PRWell best practices! Kristen and Shawn also lead webinars to help school PR professionals learn how to invest in their well-being.
Professional development should be ongoing. There’s value in a “one and done” certificate or degree program, but I recommend that you pair it with some sort of ongoing membership or PD program.
At #SocialSchool4EDU, we’ve developed two programs to help school communicators improve their skills – specifically, in social media. Our virtual Membership Program includes 12 months of training and support so you will stop being overwhelmed and start enjoying your job. And our 5-week Social Media Bootcamp is designed to jumpstart your learning and turn you into a rockstar storyteller! Most of our bootcamp graduates go on to join the ongoing membership program, too.
Join me in thanking Janet for her insight and expertise into PD opportunities for school communicators! If you like content like this, make sure you subscribe to my podcast – Mastering Social Media for Schools – where we talk about tools, tricks, and tactics to help you become a rockstar social media manager for your school.