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Profile of a School Communicator Report Finds Value of a School Public Relations Professional Embraced More Than Ever

Author: NSPRA Staff/Sunday, September 10, 2023/Categories: News

Profile of a School Communicator Report Finds Value of a School Public Relations Professional Embraced More Than Ever

A new national survey report issued by the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) finds that in the ever-changing world of both education and communications, the roles and responsibilities of school communication professionals are evolving, and that the value of a school communicator is embraced more than ever before.

Based on 562 (499 complete, 63 partially complete) responses representing nearly a quarter of NSPRA members in November 2022, 67% of school communication professionals, who primarily serve as a school district’s communication director or public information officer, reported that they are members of their school districts’ cabinets and/or leadership teams, an increase from both 2020 (59%) and 2018 (58%).

“Over the last four years, more superintendents and district leaders have come to better understand the vital role school communication professionals play in advancing the district’s goals and mission,” said NSPRA Executive Director Barbara M. Hunter, APR. “School communicators have the pulse of their communities, and having a seat at the leadership table not only makes sense, but it is also critical to ensuring authentic engagement with and transparent information to families and stakeholders.”

The survey also found that the size of district communication departments experienced subtle but significant shifts from both 2020 and 2018. The percentage of school communicators who reported being a one-person communication office for a school district remained largely unchanged this year (37%) as compared to 2020 (39%) and 2018 (39%). Notable, however, is that more respondents this year reported a department size of 2-4 (41%) than any other department size. This is the first time a one-person communication office was not the most-reported department size over the last decade, suggesting that districts are increasing their communications staff.

As might be expected, one-person communication offices are most likely to be seen in districts with an enrollment of fewer than 2,000 students. This represents a shift, however, from 2020, when one-person communication offices were most likely to be employed by school systems with an enrollment of 2,000-4,999. Based on the significant increase of NSPRA membership from 2020 to 2022, it could be reasonable to consider one such factor of this shift to be that smaller school districts that did not previously have a communications-specific position added one over the last two years. 

Other notable findings of the Profile of a School Communicator report include:

  • Crisis communications is still important but less so than two years ago. Fifty-eight percent of respondents reported crisis communications as a top job responsibility, down significantly from the 69% who reported the same in 2020. 
  • Community relations/public engagement rises. This area broke into the top five responsibilities of school communicators this year at #4 while it ranked #7 in 2020 and #6 in 2018.
  • Experience is evident. A third of school communication professionals have 5-10 years of school public relations experience, while nearly a quarter have 15+ years or more experience in the field.
  • More new professionals are entering the field. Ten percent of school communication professionals reported having one year or less of experience in the field, the highest reported percentage of this experience level since 2014, and double from the 5% reported in 2020.
  • Men out earn women in school public relations. While survey respondents who identified as a woman represented more than 3.5 times the number of respondents who identified as a man, data indicates that men significantly out earn women in the field. Half of men (50%) reported earning an annual salary of more than $100,000, but only 38% of women reported the same. The 12% gap in pay by gender is slightly larger than the 11% reported in 2020, but smaller than the 18% reported in 2018.

The Profile of a School Communicator report for media can be downloaded at www.nspra.org/profile2022.

NSPRA members can download the full results of the 2022 Membership Profile Survey here.

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