Justin Dearing - 35 Under 35

35 Under 35 Class of 2018-19
Justin 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.

Justin Dearing
Carroll ISD
Southlake, Texas

What does leadership mean to you?
Leadership is simple. Am I motivating others to be their best version of themselves? If not, I am not displaying good leadership. A boss assigns duties, a leader builds confidence in his or her staff to take a wider look at a situation and explore a solution. When they succeed, a leader redirects all praise towards the team so they feel the success. If they fail, a leader uses it as a teachable moment, not a time to punish.

What was the most fulfilling professional moment you have experienced?
I received a text from a former student and communications intern a few years back when the Texas Rangers were in the World Series. It was a picture of him standing by the World Series logo and holding a professional video camera. The text said “You made this happen.” Seeing a quiet shy freshman find his passion and work hard to make it his reality after graduating high school is a great reminder of why we do what we do both as teachers and School PR Professionals.

What is the most challenging and/or rewarding part about working in school PR?
Our end goal in School PR is ultimately graduating successful young adults into the next phase of their lives. I believe seeing students not only walk across the stage, but to walk across a stage with a huge smile on their face and embrace their principal, former teacher, or friends is the most rewarding part of our jobs. They are our stories. They are the reason we get up and check weather reports at 2 am. They are why we are here.

What’s your favorite work app and personal app?
My favorite work app has to be Twitter or Instagram. These are the apps on my phone and my desktop that remains open all day. I spend time everyday researching what other districts are sharing, collaborating with NSPRA members and finding stories to tell in our district. These two apps are my go-to when I need answers or information immediately. The app I use personally the most has to be the app I use to manage my over the top Fantasy Baseball league. It’s a league of friends that care way too much about players we have never personally met, but it is a great way to keep in touch with many lifelong friends.

What book has inspired you professionally?
After his NSPRA 2018 Keynote, I started reading and listening to Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) regularly. His book Unbranding is one of my more recent reads and while there isn’t an overall theme to this book, there are hundreds of mini-lessons on marketing and branding that made me really think about how we go about doing what we do on a daily basis for public schools. This book is full of notes and highlights for things that I need to remember as we launch new initiatives and revamp existing ones.

How has NSPRA and your state chapter guided you along the way?
The networking in both TSPRA and NSPRA have not only guided me through the transition from the classroom to school PR a few years back, but it continues to aid in my growth now. The relationships I built this last year at NSPRA and also through the #K12PRChat have challenged me to become better at my job as a whole. We have a huge network of amazing people just waiting to help each other, all it takes is a phone call or a tweet and you will have more resources than you would think.

What is a recent communications/media campaign you enjoyed – either one of your own or one you saw nationally?
Being a former teacher there are days when I just miss being around students and getting to see them “get it.” The past year Carroll ISD has been communicating our Bond Program through the eyes of our “Bond Builders.” These are students from each campus that are telling how the projects and improvements directly affect them. Not only has the message been received by the community very nicely, it has been a breath of fresh air to be around these students.

What emerging trends in school public relations get you excited?
It may not be the most ground-breaking emerging trend on the radar, but I am excited for the incorporation of more User-Generated Content, and mainly student driven content. Allowing the students to have a voice in their educational story will not only add power to the message of public school, but also open the doors for school PR professionals to tell stories they currently may not have access to currently. Showcasing the work of our students in a professional setting will build trust with our most important story tellers.