NSPRA Front-Runner: Carrie Hilger, APR

NSPRA Front-Runners are members identified by the NSPRA Executive Board as emerging leaders who are doing outstanding work for their schools, their chapters and for NSPRA. They have demonstrated professional leadership at the state and national level and/or have been recognized for innovation and excellence through NSPRA award programs or presentations.

Carrie Hilger, APR
Carrie Hilger, APR

Current Title: Director of Communications, West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan Area Schools, Mendota Heights, Minn.

Alma Mater: University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn. (B.A. in Business Communication), University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minn. (Master of Business Communication)

My PR Motto: “I am not the target audience.” It’s a reminder that I may not always relate to the opinions and motivations of those with whom I am communicating, but I have to do my best to understand them.

I am inspired by…life. I get inspiration from my co-workers, random pieces of mail I receive, playing with my four-year-old niece — everywhere! There is no one source of inspiration for me. I’m constantly looking to learn new things and make new connections, personally and professionally.

Favorite professional fantasy: I think everyone can relate to needing a few more hours in a day. I’ve definitely had moments when I’ve fantasized about having the ability to suspend time, whether to catch up on things or to prepare a project or report.

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Current communication tool I use the most is email. There are a lot of opinions about the future of email but, when used effectively, it’s still a good individual and mass communication tool.

Communication tool I rarely use anymore is…This is a tough one! We have more communication tools at our fingertips than ever before. It can be exciting to discard the old and focus on new tools, however, schools are communicating with more audiences than ever before —and each has their own communication preferences that range from paper newsletters to smartphone texting. I think this is one of the challenges facing PR professionals today. It’s hard to give things up because there is still a place for some “older” communication tools.

Greatest PR Success: In my last district I was in charge of their alumni initiatives, which were new for them at the time. Working with the alumni association, we were able to successfully connect with graduates and re-engage them with their alma mater. It was exciting to see the ways my work positively impacted not only the alums, but also current students.

Greatest Communication Challenge: Knowing I’ve put together and implemented an effective communications plan, that my message has reached its intended audience and moved them to action, but not getting caught up on the one person who says, “I never heard about that.” There will always be that one person, right?

A strong communication program supports student success by…helping to create a stable school district, free of distractions. When the district is communicating a clear mission and vision that generates support and collaboration from the community, it clears the way for everyone to focus their energies on providing students with a great education.

My favorite part of my job is…meeting and talking with the people who make up our school community. Face to face is still the best form of communication.

I believe school PR/communications is...vital to the success of a school district today.

Joining MinnSPRA helped me…build a professional network of colleagues who I can reach out to for advice, support and a good laugh now and then.

I’m an NSPRA member because…of the national perspective it provides on issues regarding schools and communication.

My epitaph: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.” — Albert Einstein