35 Under 35 Class of 2020-21: Jada Jonas

Jada JonesJada Jonas

Communication Specialist

Iredell-Statesville Schools
Statesville, N.C.

Twitter: @jadajonas@isschools

What does leadership mean to you?
I believe leadership focuses on two things: people and results. In order to be a successful leader, you have to have the correct balance of the two. Leadership is an opportunity to serve others and to help others succeed. A good leader does that without the promise of recognition or profit. By fostering a culture of respect and trust, a great leader clearly communicates and promotes the goal while removing barriers to help everyone be successful. While the leader is helping equip those he or she leads, a great leader continues to grow alongside and build those up around them.

 I love this quote by John Quincy Adams that states, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.” I strive each day to inspire others in this way.

What was the most fulfilling professional moment you have experienced?
The most fulfilling professional moment I have experienced is leading and facilitating the migration of 37 websites and over 10,000 pages to a new CMS. The real challenge was retraining our staff to understand and use their school’s website as one of their communication tools instead of a place to just house files. As this migration occurred, many hours were spent meeting, designing and seeking feedback. Our team supported each school’s webmaster to help clean out over 12 years worth of old files and pages. I’m proud of what the migration team was able to accomplish in such a short time frame. Our new sites have enhanced our web communication strategies and brand.

What are the most challenging and/or rewarding parts about working in school PR?
The most rewarding parts about working in school PR are those moments that you get to witness firsthand. Being able to capture excitement on a student’s face when they are experiencing something new or the pure joy that comes from a well-deserving staff member being recognized for selfless service to the students in our system makes my job worthwhile. 

Over the past year, the most challenging part about working in school PR is finding the balance. We want our students to remain safe, but we also want them to continue to grow and learn. Being able to navigate this alongside county, state and national politics has created a veil that masks the successes in our system. The challenge is to continue to tell our story and continue to foster trust in our community.

How have NSPRA and your state chapter guided you along the way?
I do not know how I would still be involved in school PR without the support of NSPRA and NCSPRA. I have felt welcomed since attending my first NCSPRA/SC-SPRA fall conference. For the first time professionally, I was surrounded by individuals who were not looking out for themselves, but rather there to offer genuine support for others. The professional development opportunities from both NSPRA and NCSPRA have been amazing. Going to a national conference and seeing hundreds of people who understand what you do is an experience like none other. When our district experienced a unique and difficult situation, I personally received calls and emails from the NSPRA staff and NCSPRA board to offer assistance. I can say that I have met colleagues who have now turned into lifelong friends whom I can call for advice or support at any time of the day.

What are your favorite work and personal apps?
I could not function through my day without Google Drive. It allows me to stay organized and have my files literally right at my fingertips. Although I prefer to use the Adobe Suite, as we continue to need quick graphics for the website or for social media posts, I find myself using Canva more each day. The Canva for Education account is a free tool that gives educators access to their whole platform. This has been a game changer for our school webmasters and social media managers. Personally, I find myself spending time on Instagram to stay connected to my family and friends.

What book has inspired you professionally?
I have to mention two. Eat That Frog, by Brian Tracy, has probably changed my everyday workflow the most. Tracy looks at strategies to tackle the tasks that you tend to put off by “eating those frogs” first. It has enhanced my productivity.  Starts With Why, by Simon Sinek, has made the biggest impact in my professional career. This book taught me that keeping the “why” in focus really allows you to stay authentic and true to your mission and values.

What is a recent communications/media campaign you enjoyed, either one of your own or one you saw nationally?
For the first time, our district segmented our calendar into three sessions, similar to that of a college schedule. The new Summer 2020 Session created in this calendar included annual events such as summer camps, jumpstart programs and our virtual courses. This shift in our communication and culture created an opportunity to launch a communications campaign called The Best Kept Secret, which highlighted our summer course offerings. I created an interactive course guide highlighting each offering that would be held at the school and district level. It was insightful to be able to see a comprehensive catalog of how much we were offering our families during the summer. While the amount of students involved in the summer session was affected by the pandemic, our website analytics and communication with our school campuses provided confirmation of success.

What emerging trends in school public relations get you excited?

  • Virtual Events—Whether you are live-streaming a meeting or creating a virtual conference experience for your stakeholders, I’m finding that you can create a more engaging and personalized experience virtually. This also allows for more measurable data and the ability to receive an instant analysis.  
  • Short Videos—Many of us are spending way too much time viewing videos on TikTok. Why? Because the videos are short and engaging. We are starting to see this trend come around in the school PR world. While our district is not ready to jump into TikTok, we can use the parameters to shift our content into videos that are easier to absorb.