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NSPRA Conference Highlights Storytelling and Connecting

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Posted by Jay Cooper
Aug 1, 2019 12:36:37 PM

If you missed this summer’s NSPRA national conference in Washington, D.C., you missed out on all the skill sessions, workshops, trade show, networking opportunities, and overpriced Uber rides. But the keynote address, well, we got you covered. At least some highlights.

Setting the tone for this summer’s NSPRA national conference was storytelling expert Kindra Hall, who kicked off the annual gathering with a general session keynote address supporting the conference theme, “Advancing Education One Story at a Time.”

I am taking this space to share with you some kernels from Kindra’s presentation.

Kindra is an award-winning columnist, author and national champion storyteller. (That’s right, there are competitions for storytelling.) Her keynote, Storytelling Sparks Messaging Success, while spawned in the business world, has very real, transferrable application to the school setting. Her ideas are shared at, SUCCESS Magazine,

As a former school district PR manager myself, I firmly believe the more that schools embrace certain business practices – such as Kindra’s tips on storytelling and messaging, or Trinette Marquis’ research-driven school marketing practices – the more success the communications mission will achieve.

Kindra’s keynote excerpts from NSPRA 2019

“Moments like these are happening every day. Maybe the news crew is not there to catch it on film. But these stories are huge...

“Overlooking these stories means missing huge opportunities both internally and externally to communicate on a very intimate level in a very memorable way the essence of who you are at your school...

“You have to seize these powerful story opportunities and not let them go to waste...

“As a leader, the best stories you can tell are personal ones; stories about you, your experience and especially those moments that didn’t quite turn out the way they thought you would.”

Kindra’s tips to start storytelling:

1. Start a process

Develop a system for cultivating these front line stories. Start weekly meetings. Create and email address where staff can send stories. Your goal is to make it convenient for the team to share stories.

2. Share inside and out

Tell these stories on ‘the inside’ as well as the ‘outside.’ It’s tempting to take all of your stories and push them out to the public. However, telling them internally has huge advantages, keeping team members engaged, hiring great talent. These are modern challenges that can be addressed by thought sharing stories of your team with your team.

3. Be patient

Tell your stories without any hope for an immediate return. Tell these stories with the primary goal of authentically sharing and illustrating what matters to your school, and to connect on a human level with staff and community members. Stop and reach out to a staff member and ask them when they saw someone at your school go above and beyond the call of duty. Even in a small way. A small story can mean big things.


Joining Kindra in the keynote duties was journalist Michele Norris, former host of NPR’s All Things Considered and now executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Bridge, a new program on connectivity and inclusion. Michele presented Change Agent: Building Bridges for Connectivity and Inclusion at the general session on day two.

Kindra just announced the release of her new book, Stories that Stick, now available for pre-ordering, for delivery in September.

Isn't it time to start advancing?

How would you say you’re doing when it comes to storytelling at your school? Are you, as this year’s NSPRA theme implores, advancing your school one story at a time? Do you have a process in place? Are you using all the tools at your disposal to tell your stories?

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Author Avatar
Posted by Jay Cooper

Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at

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