Gold Standard — Community Marketing: Get the Right People in the Room and Great Things Happen

Katie Carlson
Katie Carlson

One of the most important lessons I have learned in school public relations is the value of both the state and national school PR associations. Without the connections, support and professional development from these groups, my job would be much more challenging.

Another group I feel fortunate to be a part of is my city’s community marketing group. It comprises the school district, Derby Public Schools; the City of Derby; the senior center; the Chamber of Commerce; the public library; the recreation commission; and the community foundation. Each entity has a separate mission, but all have the purpose of service, and all provide top-notch services. We meet to share organization updates, discuss ideas and find new ways to work together.

When you get the right people in the room — those with drive and a desire to serve — great things can happen.

Businesses and Organizations Are ‘Derby Proud’

Derby’s first community marketing group was formed in 2009, and its first campaign was “A Good Place to Grow.” The campaign focus was raising a family or building a business in Derby. The group created a community/visitor guide, promotional video, community portal website and advertising artwork.

Panther LogoFast-forward to 2020 when we decided to head in a new direction with another shared campaign. This time, the focus was more inward. We believe that if we tell our story to outsiders, they will want to be a part of our community. Called “Derby Proud,” the campaign focuses on our member organizations’ achievements and how each group benefits the community.

Derby Public Schools had been using the Derby Proud phrase for a few years on the district website, social media and printed materials. We took advantage of activities such as back-to-school pictures, awards and civic engagement to feature the logo.

When all members of the marketing group joined forces to adopt “Derby Proud,” the community-wide campaign was launched at a Chamber of Commerce event. We invited all chamber members to participate and help us “create a business environment that is welcoming and open to residents and newcomers alike.” Our call to action became, “Use #DerbyProud in social media posts,” and tell your own stories.

A highlight of the campaign is a Derby Proud video produced by the city’s communication team (below). It depicts the mayor, a student, a coach/teacher, city council member, police officer and firefighter sharing why they are Derby Proud.

Collaboration Benefits All

The launch occurred only days before a statewide stay-at-home order due to COVID-19. It was a fitting time to have a campaign about pride in people, organizations and businesses, who were stepping up in new ways to serve the community.

Even with the problems caused by the pandemic, we have seen the following benefits from our collaboration:

  • Synergy among member groups.
  • Multi­lingual Welcome Poster
    Multilingual Welcome Poster
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  • Cost savings by co-marketing events and initiatives.
  • Opportunities to brainstorm ideas and different viewpoints.
  • Eliminating duplication of effort.
  • Building a sense of community.

Key Stakeholders Understand Schools

If this type of partnership doesn’t exist yet in your community, I highly recommend gauging interest. Derby’s partnership not only builds community support, it provides a bigger reach through shared campaigns. Plus, I have expanded my network of colleagues, and we have key stakeholders with a built-in understanding of our school district.

As we all know, those partners can be our best advocates.


Author Katie Carlson is director of communications for Derby (Kan.) Public Schools - Unified School District 260. Contact her at or on Twitter @katie_carlson.