NSPRA Front-Runner: Kim Yielding

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.

Kim Yielding
Kim Yielding

Current Title: Manager, Communications & Public Relations, District School Board of Niagara, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada

Alma Mater: Brock University, Masters Degree

My PR Motto: The more we are able to educate organizations about the work PR professionals do, the more we will be able to influence awareness, attitudes and actions toward effective and strategic communications.

I am inspired by…Marshall McLuhan, Margaret Atwood, Dave Grohl and the students that I encounter through my work.

Favorite professional fantasy: If I ever won the lottery, I would love to open an agency that offers free PR expertise to non-profit groups that support children and youth in need. Given that winning the lottery is a long shot, I would also settle for being able to clone myself so I could get more work done.

Current communication tool I use the most is…research. Research is an essential tool when building strategic communication plans. Research allows PR professionals to create the context, set clear, achievable goals, illuminate pitfalls, identify audiences and so much more. Research helps demonstrate the importance of professional communication practices by ensuring that initiatives are aligned with an organization’s strategic goals and objectives. Research also provides a benchmark to effectively evaluate each initiative by identifying current behaviours and attitudes.

Why Social Media Matters: School Communication in the Digital Age
With close to one billion users on Facebook alone, social media has become an indispensable way of reaching people around the world. In the just-released book, Why Social Media Matters by NSPRA members Kitty Porterfield and Meg Carnes, readers will get a guide chock-full of how-to instructions, best practices, and cautionary tales to help you best integrate this growing platform into your communication plan.
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Communication tool I rarely use anymore is…district newsletters. By the time the stories are written, the photos are shot, and the layout is complete, no one is interested anymore. Our district social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are fun tools that students, parents, staff and community members use to gain essential information while engaging them in important discussions about our district.

Greatest PR Success: Our district never anticipated that an initiative designed to help children become the first in their families to earn a post-secondary diploma or degree would spark such a swift and sustained vicious backlash. In the immediate aftermath, district offices were bombarded with hateful emails and phone calls, accusations of segregation, and a gaggle of international media on our doorstep. Our challenge was to communicate a clear, consistent message that would rise above the media din, inspire confidence in families considering applying to this innovative program and support the Trustees, staff and community partners who brought this vision to life. Though it was difficult to weather the storm, we are proud to say that the DSBN Academy is alive and serving students as they work their way towards a post-secondary education.

Greatest Communication Challenge: Being media spokesperson when my colleague and close friend was killed. While I wanted to be the spokesperson as a way to honour her memory, it was difficult for me personally.

A strong communication program supports student success by…keeping the focus of district communication on the educational needs and outcomes of students. Too often, other issues can masquerade as important; however, by remaining focused on the needs of students, boards are better able to engage parents and community members in the story of student learning. This helps to create a positive community culture that places the greatest priority on ensuring that children have the best opportunities to succeed in school and in life.

My favorite part of my job is…working with my outstanding staff and having the full support of my Director of Education (Superintendent). The best initiatives are the result of collaborations with creative and supportive colleagues who are similarly focused on what matters: student success.

I believe school PR/communications is...an essential tool for any school district.

Joining NSPRA helped me…connect with like-minded colleagues, share ideas, strategies, successes and challenges. The validation and support I have received from my colleagues over the years has been a vital source of inspiration and creativity.

I’m an NSPRA member because…school communications are important. Being connected to a dedicated group of professionals who understand the unique needs and strengths of a school system helps to support the work that we do locally. Additionally, the annual Seminar is an excellent opportunity to network with colleagues and develop new ideas and skills.

Words I Live By: Try to find the silver lining in every situation. Looking for the positives can at times be difficult, but it will lead you to an understanding of new perspectives.