Samantha Fitzgerald - 35 Under 35

35 Under 35 Class of 2018-19
Samantha is one 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.

Samantha Fitzgerald
Park Hill School District
Kansas City, Mo.

 

What does leadership mean to you?
When producing district stories, I often ask this question to students as young as first grade (and they usually give great answers)! To me, leadership means making the district better by inspiring others through positive actions. It’s taking the time to listen and talk to an upset or frustrated community member, or putting in the extra work to make a story intentionally memorable and meaningful to our families and district employees.

What was the most fulfilling professional moment you have experienced? 
Presenting at the state and national level! I presented at the 2018 spring MOSPRA Conference with three other school PR pros (who had decades of experience) and it was intimidating, but it turned out to be such a wonderful learning experience. My communications team presented at the 2018 NSPRA Conference where we talked strategies on passing a bond. I also presented at the NSPRA gold mine session. What a challenge to keep a table of people engaged for 20 minutes, but the positive feedback and constructive criticism was encouraging. 

What is the most challenging and/or rewarding part about working in school PR? 
One of the biggest challenges has been transitioning from a tactical to more strategic mindset. As stakeholders rely on us more and more to get their news, it’s important to think through how we are sharing our district’s mission and brand online. When someone comes to me with a story idea, it’s crucial to think through our objectives and how it relates to our district and communication team goals before committing to the project. On the other hand, I’ve had the chance to be a part of numerous communication plans such as AVID, crisis communications and our district’s long-range facility plan. It’s been very rewarding to actively have a part in the research, planning, implementation and evaluation of a project. 

What’s your favorite work app and personal app?
My favorite work app is Instagram. While my coworker often puts me to shame with his creative photo and video skills, I’ve made a name for myself with Instagram Stories on our district account! Follow us @ParkHillSchools and #ParkHillProud. My favorite personal app is Crosswords with Friends! I guess all those years of watching my grandma fill out the daily newspaper crossword finally got to me. But seriously, I enjoy learning new words and obviously beating my husband’s time!

What book has inspired you professionally?
Made to Stick, by Chip and Dan Heath. We can’t demand attention from our stakeholders, we must find a way to attract it through a central message that ‘sticks!’
 
How has NSPRA and your state chapter guided you along the way?
CONNECTIONS! Need I say more? Members of the MOSPRA chapter have taken me under their wing and helped answer many of my “novice PR” questions with their wealth of knowledge. They encourage me, challenge me and have supported me from the start. NSPRA is the foundation that continues to inspire me to ‘work hard, play hard' and keep working hard! Their content is relatable and tangible, and their conferences are engaging and top-notch.   

What is a recent communications/media campaign you enjoyed – either one of your own or one you saw nationally?
In the face of school competition, this year my team has put a greater emphasis on marketing our district through student and staff stories. I have enjoyed working through the strategies of telling stories about our dedicated staff members and inspiring students.

What emerging trends in school public relations get you excited? 
Online visual storytelling is where it’s at! As school PR pros, we know it’s crucial to build and maintain trustful relationships with our stakeholders, so let’s brag and share our district’s mission and brand on social media. Good stories are motivating and emotional, and I believe this trend will shape our kids’ futures through impactful success stories and help us feel all the feels!