Katie Carlson - 35 Under 35

35 Under 35 Class of 2018-19
Katie 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.

Katie Carlson
Derby Public Schools
Derby, KS

What does leadership mean to you? 
Before you can lead others, know your strengths, know your value and know what you bring to the table. As a leader, it is important to lead with intention, integrity and trust. One of the most important aspects of leadership I have learned is from the Kansas Leadership Center (KLC). KLC explains you can be a leader without being in a position of authority. Leadership is an activity, not a position, and it is about mobilizing others. At its core, being a leader is guiding others to want to accomplish a task, without feeling they have to do something.

What was the most fulfilling professional moment you have experienced? 
Derby Public Schools (Derby, KS) is now in its second year with a Communication Department. It has been exciting to be a part of starting a new department for an organization. It is fulfilling to know you are making an impact while building an important foundation to implement and expand a strategic communication plan for the school district. Also, in this same year of forming a new department, the district successfully passed a $114 million school bond that will provide many important updates to ensure our facilities are safe and can serve student needs well into the future. It was a challenging and memorable year forming a department and developing a bond campaign. However, it presented many opportunities for significant professional growth and development in a short time span.

What is the most challenging and/or rewarding part about working in school PR? 
By far the most rewarding part of my job is being able to serve a community I grew up in and still get to call home. I am so appreciative of the education I received and the opportunities that were available to me. An added bonus is that I am also serving the district my children attend. I have always said if I am going to work somewhere, I want it to be somewhere I believe in and am passionate about. I love being in position to make a difference for an entire community, but especially am proud I can be a part of my children’s educational journey both at home and through my work. On that same note, the most challenging task for me in school PR is work/life balance. The work we do doesn’t always occur from 8-5, Monday-Friday; It’s important to know when you can take the PR hat off.   

What’s your favorite work app and personal app?
I love Google Drive for collaboration and efficiency. Because many people in school PR wear multiple hats, it is nice to have tools that help create visually appealing content in a matter of minutes. Adobe Spark, Canva, Easel.ly and Ripl are some of my favorites for this. When I am in full mom-mode, my favorite app is TimeHop. It is a great reminder each day to stop and reflect on special moments. I also love SnapChat! I have a husband in the military and young children. This app was so fun to use to while my husband was deployed to make video calls, but also to engage our children with silly voices, filters and other ways to keep them entertained and involved in a phone call.

What book has inspired you professionally? 
I have to give this shout-out to the great Kristin Magette. Her book “The Social Media Imperative” is a must-read for anyone in school PR. Her book emphasizes the importance of social media while exploring policies, purposeful communication, strategies, professional development and more. This book inspires you to be an even bigger advocate for the importance and benefit of social media.

How has NSPRA and your state chapter guided you along the way?
One of the best things about KanSPRA is the PR, and that is for personal relationships. Having relationships with people who experience similar work situations, can provide advice or simply lend an ear that understands your job is so valuable. NSPRA has also guided our district in establishing our Communications Department by completing a Communications Audit. This audit provided a benchmark and outside perspective on strategies and best practices we have been able begin implementing to build and enhance our overall communication program.

What is a recent communications/media campaign you enjoyed – either one of your own or one you saw nationally? 
A campaign I have seen within the state of Kansas that I have been so impressed with is Zero Reasons Why, a community project to prevent teen suicide in Johnson County, KS.  This is a community mobilization and story campaign to prevent teen suicide and elevate conversations to affirm there are #ZeroReasonsWhy suicide is an option. Not only is the campaign well done in a visually appealing way, it most importantly is shedding light on such an important topic. Their campaign has proved to be powerful with schools, community and student voices working together to positively impact student mental health. 

What emerging trends in school public relations get you excited? 
The importance and value of communication as an emphasis area in a school district is being recognized more than ever as a resource and need. It is exciting to look towards the growth and evolution school public relations will continue to have.