35 Under 35 Class of 2020-21: Conor Laffey

Conor LaffeyConor Laffey

Communications Officer
Oak Harbor (Wash.) Public Schools

Twitter: @OakHarborPS

What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership has always been about serving others, and I feel very fortunate to work in a profession where I have the opportunity to serve every day. I believe that talk is cheap and that leadership is indeed demonstrated in our everyday actions.  Great leaders guide their team by what they do and not by what they say.

What was the most fulfilling professional moment you have experienced?
I love the little moments in life and try to recognize them in my daily routine.  During my short commute, I have the same thought at usually the same location each morning: I genuinely love this job and the community I serve. There have been several instances where I have felt great pride in what we accomplished as a district or what I have been able to contribute as the communication director. Still, the most fulfilling moment is that I work for a place I love and walk into my office with a smile.

What are the most challenging and rewarding parts about working in school PR?
Every job has challenges and rewards. The harder the challenge, the more rewarding the outcome. I have the privilege of wearing many hats in this district.  Doing a little of everything allows me to tackle challenges that help me understand our parents’ experiences from kindergarten enrollment through their senior’s graduation. I am always problem solving, listening to our families and determining new ways to make processes more efficient.  It’s in creating those efficiencies and removing barriers for our families that I feel most rewarded in this work.

How have NSPRA and your state chapter guided you along the way?
NSPRA is incredible.  I am a big advocate of professional development. Each year I attend the Seminar, I return home with terrific ideas that have directly impacted our students, staff or district.  Being able to hear from my counterparts from around the country and pulling them aside to pick their brains has allowed me to create relationships that last the entire school year.  After four years of attending Seminars, I now have an incredible network of industry professionals whom I can reach out to whenever I need ideas, guidance or advice.

What are your favorite work and personal apps?
When I am not working, I love to unwind with sports.  As a huge sports geek, you’ll either find me on the ESPN App or The Athletic App.

What book has inspired you professionally?
Simon Sinek’s Leaders Eat Last has been the book I often reflect upon during challenging situations.  It’s easy to lead when things are going well, but how we lead in difficult times speaks volumes about our true character.

What is a recent communications/media campaign you enjoyed, either one of your own or one you saw nationally?
In my second year, I worked on a project featuring students with parents in the military. For context, our district is roughly 50 percent military-connected, and this campaign launched during the Month of the Military Child. Students from all ages talked openly about their experiences with deployed parents. It was jaw-dropping for me. The video campaign was well-received by our community, got people talking about a subject not openly discussed and served as an opportunity for students to share and discuss their emotions.

What emerging trends in school public relations get you excited?
I love technology and how new tools are being created daily that help me connect with our families. Yes, social media can be a necessary evil. Still, the fact of the matter is I can effectively communicate messages and deliver campaigns in a variety of methods. Instead of viewing social media as a problem child, our district has chosen to accept it as a gift and treat it as such. I have a team of site editors responsible for their individual school's website, and I love giving them the tools to accomplish more than they ever have before. They are now excited to do a better job and spend time looking for new tools to share with me. It’s a great two-way street and gets me even more excited for the future in our district.