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Such a joy to be back IN PERSON for a presentation...

... at the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) annual seminar on July 13, 2021 in New Orleans. It reinforces how important face-to-face communication is in building relationships and cementing our learning.


My colleague Stacey Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA and I presented on the challenges and strategies needed to say “no” when leadership is heading in the wrong direction. Some “takeaways” (both from us and our participants) included:


  • Remember leaders are human too (and that includes our School Board members). They have egos, and they do not want to appear wrong or be depicted as bullies; they want to please others, etc. They also have past experiences that influence their decision-making. The key is to really get to know your leadership, what makes them tick and motivates them.


  • Five strategies for saying “no”

  1. Education-- being the expert before the issue arises, teaching leadership about effective communication practices and behavioral/communication theories, strategies

  2. Having data - doing research on stakeholders to know them well; also having ability to do dipstick research overnight to help inform any decision-making

  3. Offering options rather than solutions (caveat: never offer an option that is not good – it is the one they will pick)

  4. Create scenarios on what is likely to happen with or without action, with options (including their suggestions). Be sure to include pros and cons.

  5. Know who influences leadership, where they stand on most subjects; and how to most effectively use their influence to help guide leadership when needed


  • Critical strategies/theories to utilize, educate leadership about:

    • PR Behavioral Model (Jackson/Grunig)

    • Behavioral Messaging (Grunig)

    • (email either one of us for copies)


  • Regularly conduct issue anticipation brainstorming to identify issues that might break and build strategies. Group into “latent”, “emerging”, “hot” and “fallout” issues to manage discussions. Here are some issues that were identified by session participants:

    • COVID-19 and its continuing impact on school communications

    • Critical race theory conspiracies that appear to be happening independently but are reportedly being fueled by organized conservative groups

    • Violence being directed at Asian-American families and students

    • Organized opposition to school district efforts to make LGBTQ students feel welcome and safe in school

    • Cyber-security in light of recent malware and ransomware attacks on other sectors

    • … and, of course, those that were old which may become new again, e.g. gun safety, sex education, etc.


For more on these subjects and more, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone or email us, we would love to hear from you!

John Lyday, APR, Fellow PRSA



Stacey Smith, APR, Fellow PRSA


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