Erin McCann - 35 Under 35

35 Under 35 Class of 2018-19
Erin is one of 35 professionals, age 35 and under, who is part of the Class of 2018-19. These 35 individuals are emerging leaders who are making a difference in school public relations.

Erin McCann
Crandall (Texas) Independent School District

What does leadership mean to you? 
I’ve been very fortunate to have been led by and mentored by some incredible people who have been invested in my success, growth and future.  As a leader, I try to replicate this by having candid, growth-based conversations with people that I lead.  I feel passionately about helping people find their niche, and helping them seek opportunities to grow in the areas that they want to grow in. A leader, to me, is one who is approachable, supportive and assertive in helping their team get the resources and opportunities that they need.

What was the most fulfilling professional moment you have experienced? 
I was asked to be a part of a group of School PR professionals to speak to a group of Superintendents and School Board members at the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) Summer Leadership Institute.  It was a huge honor to be asked to be a part of this team, and humbling to work alongside two other School PR pros with a great deal of experience.  I loved the opportunity to get to know other Superintendents from across the state, and to talk about best practices for district talking points.

What are the most challenging and/or rewarding part about working in school PR? 
It’s no secret that public schools are under attack both nation-wide and in my home state of Texas.  Sometimes it can be a challenge to find new and creative ways to highlight the many incredible things that our public schools are doing in the face of such open criticism.  That same challenge is also one of the most rewarding parts of my job; I have the privilege of sharing my district’s good news and of being an advocate at our state capital for the public school students in the district where I serve.  It’s really a gift to have the opportunity to interact directly with our legislature and keep them informed about the services that public schools provide, and the great accomplishments of Texas students.

What’s your favorite work app and personal app?
It’s so hard to just choose one!  For work, I always have twitter open in order to engage with our audiences and share news on the fly.  On that note, I’ve also really come to appreciate School Messenger’s app because you never know when a crisis is going to hit, and to be able to email/text/robo call all of our parents from my smart phone is an advantage.  I used that app to close school for winter weather one day last year when the website had locked me out!

On a personal note I utilize a lot of apps for my “free time.”  I love to travel, so I use AirBNB quite a bit.  Instagram is always open, since it’s my social media channel of choice, and I get a lot of use from the FireShifts app.  As a wife and a mom who has a firefighter husband, it’s great to be able to check a shift date for any day of the year when planning events and coordinating schedules.  My apple podcast app also gets a lot of overtime because I am constantly streaming something and immersing myself in audio content.

What book has inspired you professionally? 
It’s been around a while, but I’m a fan of Brand, It ain’t the logo, by Ted Matthews.  It’s easy to get hung up on brand attributes and worry about if a campaign is bold enough, or if a graphic is attractive enough.  This book is a friendly reminder that your brand is really about who you are and how you make people feel about your product.  I’ve used this book in several presentations and recommend it regularly.

 How has NSPRA and your state chapter guided you along the way? 
I can honestly say that I would not be where I am in my career without NSPRA and TSPRA.  The relationships that I’ve formed through these organizations have created new opportunities and partnerships that have encouraged my growth as a professional.  As someone who works in a small district, on a small team, being able to rely on the other School PR professionals in my area is critical.  If we were to have a crisis situation, I have 3 representatives from three other districts who are on stand-by to drive to my district and help if need be.  The School PR state and national conferences are the best opportunities that I’ve found for both networking and idea-sharing.  The last time I attended NSPRA I got an idea from someone in another state that I immediately implemented in my district.  Within a year, other surrounding districts were borrowing that idea as well!

What is a recent communications/media campaign you enjoyed – either one of your own or one you saw nationally?
A friend in a neighboring district launched a beautiful multi-media campaign this year that really draws in alumni and highlights who they are as a district.  The clever spin on the unique programming that her district offers made me feel really excited.  I feel strongly about engaging alumni to strengthen the brand of a district.  This is an area I want to continue to explore in my own role in Crandall.  By reengaging alumni who have moved away from the towns that we serve, we can continue to grow our district’s brand and presence, and increase the chances of bringing those alumni back to the area to serve the district, or become leaders in our communities.

What emerging trends in school public relations get you excited? 
I really love podcasting – on both a professional and a personal level, and I’m blown away by how much space there is in the audio world to change how districts communicate.  We know that more and more often, our communities are becoming “bedroom communities,” as our parents travel to their jobs that may be outside the city or school district that we serve.  What better way than to push out our messaging than on an on-demand platform that they can carry with them anywhere they go?