35 Under 35 Class of 2020-21:David Nielsen

David NielsenDavid Nielsen

Content Marketing Specialist and Webmaster
Hurst-Euless-Bedford ISD
Bedford, Texas
Twitter: @hebisd


What does leadership mean to you?
To me, leadership is having a vision of how we want the world to be and working toward that vision in ways that invite others to join us.  Sometimes those invitations are very direct: “I think you can believe in this vision, and we need your skills to make it happen.” Other times, leadership can mean visibly working with dedication on something you believe in. When people see what you’re accomplishing, you pull out a chair so they can sit with you and join the cause.

What was the most fulfilling professional moment you have experienced?
A few years ago, I was invited to co-emcee a back-to-school awards show. The other host and I were handed the list of winners and had to create and perform the entire program, tasks that neither of us had any serious experience with. We wrote short song parodies, recruited a group of people to sing them and put together all the logistical pieces to help keep things moving. The applause at the end of our performance was magical. It turned out better than we could have dreamed, but I’ll be happy to take a break from showbiz for a decade or two!

What are the most challenging and/or rewarding parts about working in school PR?
I’m a strategic person who enjoys planning ahead. One of my biggest challenges is that in school PR, we often don’t have the luxury of following our plans. At a moment’s notice, our day or week or year can get turned upside-down and we have to keep moving forward.  Working in school PR keeps us uniquely connected to people throughout the school district. It’s incredibly rewarding to be able to help almost anyone with almost any problem because you know exactly whom they need to talk with.

How have NSPRA and your state chapter guided you along the way?
For me, the NSPRA magic happens in the messages between the lines. The National Seminar presentations share amazing ideas, but sometimes what I really need to hear is the candid aside when the presenter says,“This was difficult, but we toughed it out, and you will too.” NSPRA Connect hosts great discussions, but it also shows that confident leaders are allowed to ask questions and not have all the answers.

What are your favorite work and personal apps?
After seeing a few niche apps I rely on get bought out and shut down or experience a data breach, I’ve grown more cautious. I try not to depend too heavily on any specialized apps for getting work done. At home, “You Need A Budget” is our secret weapon app for stable household finances. If you’ve never tracked every penny you spend in a month, you owe it to yourself to try it at least once, whether you use an app or just a spreadsheet.

What book has inspired you professionally?
I was fortunate to read Inside the Magic Kingdom by Tom Connellan while in college, and many of the ideas in the book became foundational for me. I hope to never be above picking up trash to help our buildings stay beautiful. Our stakeholders unavoidably will compare our work with what they’ve experienced from global leaders of other industries. Everyone in our school district has a responsibility to seize the opportunity when we’re the person in the right place at the right time to solve someone’s problem.

What is a recent communications/media campaign you enjoyed – either one of your own or one you saw nationally?
I’m very proud of my district’s communications throughout spring and summer of 2020. We shared our most important announcements in four languages, calmly defused aggressive questions on social media and managed a hundred other details on top of our normal responsibilities. Especially in the earliest days of the pandemic, our stakeholders needed accurate information and stability, and we set out every day to be an organization our community could depend on.

What emerging trends in school public relations get you excited?
I’m excited that after an extended season of feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, we are not alone in envisioning something better than a constant barrage of negativity. We are having great success by sharing celebrations of our hard-working coworkers. Our community is showing an almost bottomless capacity to interact with this kind of good news. People are ready to amplify messages of positivity and celebrate the real accomplishments of our staff and students.