About Brian Nicol

Communications Coordinator - Howard-Suamico School District - Green Bay, Wis.

Look to Our Students for Inspiration


In school PR, it’s our job to view our organization through different lenses. At times, we literally spend our day looking at the world through lenses. Whether we are sharing stories, advising our superintendents and principals from different perspectives, or advocating on behalf of our students and staff, we are adept in finding the proper angle and shedding light on the subject at hand.

I believe it’s also important for us to step out from the background and bask in the great work being done by and for our students. My charge to you today is to make the purpose of your next classroom visit to appreciate and become energized by the students we serve. No photos, no interviews, just take it in. If you’re inspired to tweet out a thank-you to those teachers and students, by all means share the love. Better yet: write a thank-you note.

Today is the last day of the school year in our district. It’s a day of transition and mixed emotions. I readily admit that during my eight-year career teaching sixth grade, on the last day of school, I went from hugs and high-fives with my students and colleagues to slobbery tears alone in my empty classroom. (Side note: I’ve learned you get less of all those things in the district office.)

The pace of play and the nature of our work in school PR provides similar guideposts and transitions. With summer, we shift toward strategic planning, professional learning at the NSPRA seminar, and thoughtful reflection on our plans, successes and challenges of the past year.

As Covey so succinctly stated, it’s our time to sharpen the saw. In my mind this translates as a time to charge up the batteries for the summer work ahead. Today is the last day I’ll have access to schools and rooms brimming with energy, teaching and learning for the next two months. There are a lot of things I have to do today. I think I’ll start by visiting some students for inspiration. And maybe a hug, a high-five and a tear or two.




The Power of “Thanks”

“Always show more kindness than necessary, because the person receiving it needs it more than you will ever know.” – Colin Powell

When contemplating an awards program for our growing use of social media throughout the Howard-Suamico School District (Green Bay, Wis.) one of our teachers suggested a simpler approach: “I don’t want an award; just write me a nice thank-you note.”

Longtime Campbell’s CEO Doug Conant shared more than 30,000 handwritten thank-you notes over the course of his 10 years at the helm. That’s 10-20 a day! He said this of his effort:

I heard over and over from executives the line, ‘Hey, we say thank you with a paycheck.’ Well, guess what? You don’t say thank you with a paycheck. You say I’m paying you with a paycheck. You say thank you with thank you.”

In our school PR roles as public goodwill ambassadors on behalf of our students and teachers, it might be easy to overlook the importance of saying thanks along the way. Research shows the practice pays dividends whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of the gratitude.  Here are some ideas for how to share thanks each day:

  1. When you retweet a link to TV coverage, thank the reporter and camera operator by name. Or better yet, snap a pic while they work and tweet-tease their upcoming coverage.
  2. Social media is inherently social — thank your followers who take the time to append a kind note to a post.
  3. Ask for five minutes at a school staff meeting. Highlight great collective or individual work that has made a difference in your world. Expert level: bait-and-switch with praise for the principal in front of his or her staff.
  4. Sometimes private thanks is better: make a goal of one handwritten note a day and keep track. My personal record streak is six straight months.
  5. My first principal would do this at staff meetings: tuck a $1 scratch-off lottery ticket into a handwritten note when you want to show how lucky you are to work with someone.

Thank you for reading. I’d be grateful to hear your thank-you tips and tricks. – @bsnicol2 or brianico@hssd.k12.wi.us