Front-Runner: Barb Nicol, 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. See all past Front-Runners.


Barb Nicol, APR
Barb Nicol, APR

My alma mater is... University of Wisconsin-Madison (undergrad) and University of Minnesota (grad)

My personal public relations motto is… what communications strategies will help us achieve the audience behavior we want to change or the action we want our audience to take?

I believe school PR/communications is… one of the most rewarding yet most challenging jobs around. We help people understand difficult concepts, we invite parents to share in their children’s successes, we support hard-working staff so they can return day after day in good times and in bad, we are on the front lines when tragedy strikes, we are at the right hand of the superintendent ready with options and solutions, and we have a pulse on just about everything that takes places in our schools.

A strong school PR/communication program supports student success by… engaging and welcoming parents into our schools, helping to create a culture that supports the hiring and retention of quality staff, making our schools safe and inviting places for students to learn, and opening our doors to our communities so they know their financial support is going to a worthy cause.

My greatest school PR success was… receiving the Dawn K. McDowell award, the highest honor given by MinnSPRA for a school PR professional who advocates for strategic communication, mentors and counsels others, advances the practice of school PR and places a high value on collegial and professional relationships.

My greatest school PR challenge was… getting over lost referendums. I usually work on a few every year, and I take each one far too personally. I invest my heart and soul into the information campaigns, and when voters don’t support the requests, I am truly devastated.

Make Your Messages Connect with Your Community
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I am inspired by… my school PR colleagues. They come up with fascinating ideas, they implement creative campaigns, they deal with the nuts and bolts of schools while providing strategic counsel to their superintendents on a daily basis. They are my heroes!

My favorite part of my job is… working with smart and committed school professionals who care about schools and our work as much as I do.

The communication tool I use the most is… email. It has the broadest reach and range of uses.

The communication tool I rarely use anymore is… a fax machine. It was the first big purchase I made when I started my business in 1990.

My favorite professional fantasy is… hearing from all my clients that I’ve helped them accomplish their goals and they are so glad they hired me … and then retiring to become a part-time bartender.

Membership in my state chapter SPRA helps me… immensely! I love my MinnSPRA colleagues because they are inquisitive, creative, fun and always willing to share. They help keep me from feeling isolated.

Membership in NSPRA helps me... keep apprised of ideas and approaches that are being used outside of Minnesota. And whenever I attend the national seminar, it always energizes me, fills me with ideas and reminds me why I love my job.