NSPRA Front-Runner: Bridget McGuiggan, 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.

Bridgett McGuiggan, APR
Bridget McGuiggan, APR

Current title & district: Community Relations Coordinator, Orland School District 135, Orland Park, Ill.

Alma Mater: Saint Joseph’s College, Rensselaer, Ind.

My PR motto: “One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.” — Lewis Carol. It is a PR motto for me, in that it reminds me that the work of public relations is all about fostering relationships and making connections for the benefit of many. This is especially true in school PR — our work is about the kids, the staff, the community — and there is no greater joy than feeling you’ve made a positive difference, especially while doing work that you love.

I am inspired by… my colleagues in the Illinois Chapter of NSPRA and throughout the country, by teachers who go above and beyond, by students’ honesty and open-mindedness, and by my family.

Favorite professional fantasy: Having the time to do it all. There are never enough hours in the day, enough days in the year, to make every idea and vision a reality. Making the tough decisions to prioritize the work to be done is a vital skill and a character builder, but it would be nice to cross off every item on the to-do list every time.

Current communication tool I use the most is… the District 135 website! The site’s redesign was a major undertaking I managed several years ago, and it has been truly rewarding to see our community making it a destination.

Flag of Learning and Liberty
Flag of Learning and Liberty
Searching for a way to dramatize the links connecting education with your community's ideals? Well, look no further than NSPRA's Flag of Learning and Liberty. On July 4, 1985, the Flag of Learning and Liberty was raised over the capitals of all 50 states and in the District of Columbia. Raise the flag over your schools and explain to students, parents, and members of the community why education plays an integral part in maintaining a free and open society.
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Communication tool I rarely use anymore is… mailed press releases. It seems like a lifetime ago that, in my previous position, I would print hard copies of press releases and mail them with a photograph. I also didn’t have a digital camera, so I would hope that out of 24 exposures, I’d end up with at least one useable picture. I am eternally grateful for e-mail and for digital cameras!

Greatest PR success: Creating the Creature Features program. I work with a group of about 30 students who write content for our website in the “Just for Students” section. Students in 5th — 8th grade apply to join, and then from October thru May they submit stories (Creature Features) ranging from advice columns to fashion reports, from book and restaurant reviews to staff spotlight interviews and event reminders. They do the writing; I edit the stories and post them on the website on a rotating schedule. Their talent is outstanding! Reading their work is a true delight!

Greatest communication challenge: Communicating with residents who do not have children in our schools. I am always looking for opportunities to help bridge the district with our community. Engagement is something I continually strive to improve and enhance; it is a mission without end because it can always be better.

A strong communication program supports student success by… fostering communication that leads to stronger support for students. Whether assisting staff members in creating webpages for better home-school communication, leading a referendum campaign, or recruiting volunteers to read to first graders, students only serve to benefit from these efforts.

My favorite part of my job is…covering hundreds of school events each year with a camera in one hand and a notepad in the other. I have the unique opportunity to see nearly all assemblies, sit in on big classroom projects, and talk to students and staff who have successes to celebrate. Our schools give so much in service and have so many exciting initiatives each year, there is never a dull moment and my job is never the same day to day. I am grateful to have so much interaction and involvement with our students and staff.

I believe school PR/communications is... an absolutely essential component of a school district’s success. A smart school district has a dedicated PR position and an understanding that relationship-building is at the core of a community-based and community-funded entity.

Joining INSPRA helped me…realize that what I do, I never have to do alone. Someone has not only been there and done that before, but that person will also share best practices and help me get through it successfully. We share and network and mentor with the common understanding that we’re all in this together.

I’m an NSPRA member because… I believe in the power of collaboration and partnership, and NSPRA makes that happen at a national level. The challenges facing Illinois schools are similar to those all around the country, and a collective body of knowledge and expertise will serve to make our districts stronger, make us as individuals stronger, and in turn, will strengthen student achievement.

My epitaph: “I hope that my achievements in life shall be these — that I will have fought for what was right and fair, that I will have risked for that which mattered, and that I will have given help to those who were in need, that I will have left the earth a better place for what I’ve done and who I’ve been.” — C. Hoppe. (Yes, I need a big tombstone!).