Bailey Otto — 35 Under 35

35 Under 35 Class of 2018-19
Bailey is one of 35 professionals, age 35 and under, who make up the Class of 2018-19. These 35 individuals are emerging leaders who are making a difference in school public relations.

Bailey Otto
Ladue School District
St. Louis, Mo.

What does leadership mean to you?

I feel that compelling leadership is best embodied by those who consistently choose to promote a culture of transparency and strive to promise stakeholders a chance to be heard—especially at times when those decisions might not seem to be the easiest or most prudent route through the eyes of others.

What was the most fulfilling professional moment you have experienced?

In the wake of the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, our district made the decision to support our students’ wishes to demonstrate peacefully for greater school safety and to honor the lives lost. Our Ladue Middle School students organized a 17-minute memorial service outside of the building on the morning of March 14. They filed out, held the memorial, and then headed back in to their classes. Not one student broke the silence. It was the most moving display of respect I have witnessed from our students, and it was made possible by the mutual trust between the students and our staff. Our schools are a place where students learn how to be informed, how to use their voice and how to share their views peacefully. The way in which we guide them helps shape the way in which they deal with issues long after they leave our halls.

What are the most challenging and/or rewarding parts about working in school PR?

Of course we always want to be prepared in the event of a crisis situation, but sometimes being quick on the draw is quite the learning curve. When unexpected issues arise and seem to unfold at a daunting pace, we make the best decisions we can with the knowledge on hand, and that can be challenging. And the best part of this profession for me is visceral—it’s the sense of purpose that bubbles up while I’m visiting a school or attending a district event, seeing the togetherness of our community in action.

What’s your favorite work app and personal app?

Both of these apps are simple tools for the job, but I use them both several times a week: Pocket (allows you to save and organize website URLs using your own tags) and DocScan (allows you to scan documents on the go through your mobile device).

What book has inspired you professionally?

Student Voice — The Instrument of Change, by Russell J. Quaglia and Michael J. Corso. When it comes to data-driven work as public relations professionals, we can’t overlook the importance of student feedback and involvement! This book is a great resource in how to engage students.
How has NSPRA and your state chapter guided you along the way?

Two weeks into my first position as a public relations profession, I attended the annual NSPRA Seminar in Nashville and found myself among the most helpful, insightful colleagues. I think most of us practicing in public education understand how quickly this work can make you feel like an integral part of making a true difference in a community. Whether at the national level, or the state chapters, when we’re swapping best practices, offering advice and sharing knowledge, there is a sense of shared purpose. You’re among friends here.

What is a recent communications/media campaign you enjoyed – either one of your own or one you saw nationally? 

The Ladue School District just wrapped up its high school renovation, which was made possible by an $85.1 million bond referendum in April of 2015. However, the communication aspect to this project began more than a year and a half in advance of the vote! The informational campaign spanned a few years, with a multitude of research components and continuous engagement with stakeholders. This was by far the most in-depth, enjoyable communications campaign of which I’ve played a part.

What emerging trends in school public relations get you excited?

Public schools across the country are dealing with repercussions of recent legislation passed regarding topics such as charter schools and voucher systems. Many districts are making the effort to inform their educators, families and residents on these and similar issues at the state level by framing these topics in terms of how they would affect their public schools specifically. This work is imperative to an informed school community.