Internal Marketing: Crafting Experiences for Staff & Teachers

Sherese Nix and Nick Gray discuss how kicking off the academic year and how intentionality in the smallest details can influence how teachers and staff think about your schools.

By SchoolCEO Last Updated: October 25, 2022


In this episode, host Tyler Vawser discusses how to craft exceptional events for teachers and staff with Sherese Nix (Executive Director of Communications at Garland ISD) and Nick Gray (founder and former CEO of Museum Hack). Together, they discuss how Garland ISD kicked off the academic year and how intentionality in the smallest details can influence how teachers and staff think about your schools.


Your schools already have great people and stories. But too often those stories don't get shared, and, when they do, we can forget them too easily. An effective school event does far more than share information, it changes how people think and feel.

Sherese Nix, Executive Director of Communications at Garland ISD, shares how her district used an event as a platform to share their best stories and bring teachers and staff together. She goes into detail how she planned Garland’s Convocation, how it was different and unexpected from past years, and how it brought their entire community (even parents and students) closer together.

Nick Gray speaks from his experience leading events in museums and in smaller events like cocktail parties to show how structure and intentionality can transform an average event into something worth remembering and talking about.

After you listen, we invite you to go online to and sign up for our email updates for more resources. When you sign up, you can also ask to receive our quarterly print magazine which includes original research, interviews, and marketing guides. Visit


Intro Quote: Sherese Nix (Guest): This convocation has me ready to come back to the school year. This convocation has me charged and excited. So if I'm a parent and I'm reading all of these messages that teachers are saying about them being ready and charged and fired up, as a parent, I'm like, heck yeah. Because they bring that energy then to my student, to the classroom, to that environment, creating more experiences throughout the district.

And so I thought that was really powerful, that even though they weren't invited, they still felt it through the messages that the teachers and the staff were posting.

Tyler Vawser (Host): Welcome to SchoolCEO Conversations. The goal of the show is to level the playing field for superintendents and other school leaders.

If you're someone that's responsible for leading and taking control of how your community thinks and feels about your schools and your district, this is the show for you. I'm your host, Tyler Vawser, and to that end, I sit down with leaders in education and in business to discuss how to better market your schools.

Today I'm speaking with Sherese Nix, the Executive Director of Communications and Public Relations at Garland ISD in Texas. Originally a principal, she’s made a wildly successful transition into communications and PR. The SchoolCEO team reached out to Sherese after seeing tweet after tweet about a big event the district hosted at the beginning of August to kick off their school year.

The event was for teachers and staff and I don't think I've ever seen quite so much social media buzz around a single event out of school. Also on the podcast is Nick Gray, the founder and former CEO of Museum Hack. Nick is a longtime friend of mine, and I asked him to join the conversation because he successfully created an events business that took a new approach to old spaces and got millennials to engage with museums.

It's a more casual conversation than other episodes. We discuss internal marketing, the power of events for teachers and staff, and how an internal event can still engage your entire school community. My hope is that as you listen to this, it inspires you to share it with others within your school and district to come up with the next level event for your teachers and staff.

Let's join the conversation. Sherese, do you mind starting by talking about Garland ISD and the convocation that you all had last month?

Sherese Nix (Guest): Absolutely. Garland ISD typically annually has what's called a convocation, and that's a large gathering where everybody comes together typically to hear the superintendent's vision and the mission. It's at the charge for the year.

Nick Gray (Guest): I've never heard of that word before. A convocation. I thought it was like a church thing or something.

Tyler Vawser (Host): The idea was COVID sector would come into this and, teach schools a little bit about things, but it's the other way around. So it's good.

Sherese Nix (Guest): Because of Covid and just everything that we were going through.

Garland hadn't had a convocation in four years, and so the sup was like, I want a convocation this year. Let's do it. So the first question that everybody asked me was, who's gonna be the speaker for convocation? You bring in national speakers to come and speak to the staff, which is cool, but y'all, my mind was not even on a speaker, and so I was like, oh lord.

I hope that I don't get fired behind convocation because I wanna take it in a completely different direction. We had been in COVID, the teachers had worked hard. People had lost loved ones. Some people were sad, and so I felt this was gonna be our time as a family to come together for a big family reunion.

And what better way to do it than to kick it off strong, completely different have high energy, high momentum, and really show our staff that, Hey, we are proud of you. We wanna support you, we wanna encourage you. We wanna set the tone for the year to be lit and that's to be excited. And so we did that.

So the theme for the year was the GISD effect, be the light. And when I tell you we came in strong, we came in strong, we wanted every staff member to feel included. Everyone celebrated from the bus driver to the fifth grade teacher. And it was really awesome.

Tyler Vawser (Host): I did see on social media there were just a ton of videos and photos.

In fact, like that's how we found out about it at SchoolCEO. We started seeing people that we follow posting or reposting about it on Twitter, and that's really like why we're talking today is because the photos and the videos just said so much about an experience that normally, right, nobody's tweeting out about a staff meeting or sharing videos about a staff meeting.

And I think one of the things we'll share in the show notes is actually there's marquee lights that spell convocation, the GISD effect, which is a really cool hashtag. And seemed like that really took off. And then that theme, be the light was obviously really clear with like glow sticks that were being waved around.

So we'll share those notes in the podcast notes. But I'm kinda curious, you mentioned it a little bit, but what were some of the obstacles you had to overcome as well?

Sherese Nix (Guest): So some of the obstacles and challenges were the status quo. People are used to what they're used to. And again, typically, the convocation it's very mundane, there's a little bit of excitement.

So the goal for me was to really focus on the staff. I didn't wanna focus on anybody from the outside. I wanted them to have a great experience. I wanted them to feel valued, loved, and appreciated. I wanted them to come in feeling charged and inspired, because that's the ripple effect. If we get our teachers inspired and motivated and charged for the year, then guess what?

That's gonna trickle onto our students. And then our students are gonna have a great experience and the classrooms, and then they're gonna go tell their parents and then their parents are gonna tell their neighbors. And so it's just that's what we call the GISD effect. It's a ripple effect.

Every person that you touch, you have an impact every day. And so we wanted to start that with convocation. And so for example, I mean we brought in a live DJ who was mixing on the stage. We had, we brought in lights, we brought in decor. We brought in all of the glow sticks. And when you walked in the building, you could see the teacher's eyes and mouths drop.

They were not at all expecting, like this big party celebration, having our drum line perform, having the step team perform, having our teachers be the speakers, the students, be the speakers, and so that was really important as a goal. I felt like after four years, no offense to any national speakers 'cause they're great, but who can better tell our story than us?

Who knows better what we've been through than us? And so I wanted to highlight the great things that were happening in our district, from our people, and they absolutely delivered

Tyler Vawser (Host): A quick audio note. Sherese brings up a key point here. Your schools already have great people and stories, but too often those stories don't get shared.

And even when they do, we can forget them too easily. As you think about your events, especially for employees like teachers and staff, how can you use those events as a platform to tell your best stories to each other?

Amazing. When you say deliver from your people, were you thinking about it like internal comms or like internal marketing, or were you thinking about it from a different kind of lens?

Sherese Nix (Guest): Really from both. It was important for me to, again, not focus on who we were gonna bring in from the outside, but focus on those internal stories. We had students who are the GISD effect. We have principals who are the GISD effect. We even had a bus driver. A custodial staff come on and say, Hey, even in this district, I'm not forgotten even in this district, I matter and I'm a leader.

And so you don't typically have custodians on convocation sharing their story and how they've had an impact, how they're the quiet heroes behind the scenes in the hallways. And so we wanted to then push out for our staff to to feel valued and that we valued them and that we have our own stories to tell.

Tyler Vawser (Host): That's amazing. Yeah. Fantastic. I think one of the reasons it works so well is that element of surprise and what's unexpected. Yeah. Right. So I do wanna bring Nick into the conversation. So Nick, you started one of the most unexpected and interesting businesses out there and you really figured out how to craft great experiences.

So can you start talking a little bit about Museum Hack, how you started it and what it ended up becoming?

Nick Gray (Guest): Alright, I'm gonna start talking. Also, hello Sherese. Why does Sherese’s video look better than all of ours? Her video looks so good. This is like a professional. Garland GISD knows what's going on.

They got the hookup over there. This is great. It's nice to meet you guys. Okay. My name is Nick Gray. I started a company called Museum Hack. We did Renegade museum tours. That's non-traditional museum experiences. I would hire people, standup comedians and Broadway actors, to lead the tours, not the like volunteer docents.

And that got to be famous. We worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and then other major museums.

Tyler Vawser: Yeah. Well, one of the reasons I wanted to have you and Sherese on together is you're both talking about creating amazing experiences from very different standpoints, right?

Nick from the private sector, specifically in museums, and then Sherese on the school side, right? But doing something again that's unexpected surprising.

Nick Gray: It sounds like Sherese, what I liked about what Sherese was saying was you were thinking about getting new audiences to the convocation, the bus drivers who were some of the other audiences that were the new audiences that was important for you, Sherese?

Sherese Nix: So like of course transportation, and then like our nurses, our custodial staff, our food nutrition staff, those type of people, typically, our maintenance staff, they don't really have assessment in convocation. The messages are not tailored to them.

And so literally like the lady who comes and cleans my office, she's an elderly Hispanic lady, and she came and she said, oh, mi amor. She hugged me. She said, I had so much fun in convocation. I said, oh, I said, I'm so glad. And she told me that she appreciated being able to see the custodian on stage because they're often forgotten.

And like Nick said, everything's an experience. It's, people won't remember, what is the saying? They don't remember what you teach 'em. They remember how you make them feel.

Nick Gray: Oh, I like that. I was obsessed with attracting new audiences too, at the museum, like millennials or millennial minded people who weren't so invested in the narrative arc of art history and things like that.

We tried to get them engaged in the space. Yeah, we're both attracting new audiences.

Tyler Vawser: On that note, Sherese, I am curious, like this was built for staff and teachers and classified staff as well. So I'm curious, like what was the impact on those that were not invited? Right? So when we're thinking about new audiences, did students and parents find out about this even if they weren't necessarily part of the actual event?

Sherese Nix: Oh, it blew up on social media, so I can't imagine how anyone didn't hear about it because it was just, it was trending. It was powerful and impactful. And so know the students aren't invited and the parents, because this is just, the mission is for just the staff, for the superintendent to give the charge.

But we saw like PTA moms on Facebook saying, wow, this is exciting. But even more what I loved is reading the messages from the teacher saying, this convocation has sparked fire in me for the school year. This convocation has me ready to come back to the school year. This convocation has me charged and excited.

So if I'm a parent and I'm reading all of these messages that teachers are saying about them being ready and charged and fired up as a parent, I'm like, heck yeah, because they bring that energy then to my student, to the classroom, to that environment, creating more experiences throughout the district.

And so I thought that was really powerful, that even though they weren't invited, they still felt it through the messages that the teachers and the staff were posting.

Tyler Vawser: Yeah, I love that. That's so fantastic. So Nick, I'm curious from your perspective, like what do you think most companies or groups or even museum tours, like what do they get wrong about events?

Nick Gray: Events are pretty hard. I have so much respect to people who do events. Oh, I don't know. There's that thing that we used to talk about with museum tours that oftentimes they were in this mindset of sage on the stage. Sage on the stage means you've got this one docent who's just preaching down to people at the museum about stuff, and that's not really engaging.

So I think about getting those conversations, how to get those conversations going in small groups, in breakouts. I love when there's a speaker on stage and he'll ask us to turn to your neighbor and speak about this, or that or the other. I like those moments.

I just love the slang I'm learning, convocation, my sup.

Tyler Vawser: Yeah. That's cool. That's awesome. So earlier before your mic went out, Nick, we were talking about, it's more than just an event, right? It's not the sage on the stage, but I think that's something we talk a lot about here is that a lot of times communication is just about information, right?

Kind of neutral facts or sometimes just negative news, right? We all know that like bad news travels faster or like when you call somebody, it's when there's bad news, right? Nick, you might be the only person in the world that calls people randomly with no agenda and just to catch up with folks.

Nick Gray: I love doing random phone calls. Do you ever do, Sherese? Do you ever do random phone call? Just call your friends?

Sherese Nix: No.

Nick Gray: What the heck? Why am I the only one? Why not?

Tyler Vawser: You're the only one. And we'd all be better off if we were more like that. But yeah, we'll use Nick as an example.

Nick Gray: She doesn’t agree. She's like I'm not doing it. Don't call me.

Tyler Vawser: Yeah, it sounds crazy in 2022 to just call people without a text first.

Nick Gray: How many people do you have in your life right now that if you called them on a video call, how many people do you think would answer if you called them three?

Sherese Nix: Three.

Nick Gray: Three's a good one.

Tyler Vawser: I was gonna say five. And Nick, you're probably one of those because you love these kinds of calls.

Nick Gray: Yes. I love the calls, but it's neat to think about that. That is really indicative of our closest friends, our most trusted connections.

Sherese Nix: Yeah.

Nick Gray: Who would pick up your phone? And I use that sometimes when I talk to people. I think oh, are they a friend?

Because a lot of people say, oh, they're a friend, right? But if they'll take your call, a random phone call, I think that's a real friend.

Tyler Vawser: Yeah. Nick, do you wanna talk about why you do that? Because you, you reach out to people, not randomly I guess, but you do just call sometimes without a reason, just because you are friends and you want to touch base.

Nick Gray: Oh, if I'm thinking about somebody, I called this woman today who I talked to a month ago. 'cause now I just, I'm like a party therapist. I talked to people about their party trauma from hosting parties. Wait, hold on. Now I wanna ask Sherese, have you hosted any house parties, any parties for your friends, neighbors, colleagues, anything like that?

Sherese Nix: So I actually hate doing that. So I think because I go so big at work, like I don't even plan birthday parties like my birthday's next week. And so people are always like, what are you doing for your birthday? And I'm like, nothing. Like I don't plan, I don't have a holiday party, I don't have a birthday party. And I mean, it's a struggle for a kids' party so.

Nick Gray: You put all that energy towards work.

Sherese Nix: Yeah.

Nick Gray: And your home is like your sanctuary. You don't want people coming in that space.

Sherese Nix: Not that I don't want it, I just think that. Like I have time at work to work on that. And when it's a holiday, something that's not time dedicated person right to do that.

Nick Gray: Yeah. One thing I think about birthday parties, 'cause I think a lot about events. I think that everybody, if you host your birthday, say your birthday's on a Tuesday and then somebody tries to host their party like two weeks afterwards. I don't think you're allowed to do that. I think you're only allowed to celebrate your birthday on the actual day.

And here's why. 'cause that is your day and that is the one day that you get to ask your friends. It's like yo, this is my day, this is my birthday. If I wanna have a coffee birthday party, we're gonna do coffee birthday party. If I want to have wine Wednesday, it's my birthday. We're gonna do wine Wednesday.

If I wanna watch Top Gun on VHS, that's what we're gonna do. You just get to do anything you want on your birthday. But if you try to host your birthday like days or weeks later, I don't know. I don't buy it. I don't like it.

Sherese Nix: I think you'll get a lot of pushback from that.

Nick Gray: I know. I know. That's gonna be my next book. Is that your birthday? Honor Your Day.

Tyler Vawser: Nick, do you wanna talk just briefly about your new book?

Nick Gray: Oh yeah. I wrote a book called The Two Hour Cocktail Party that my goal is to help encourage people to bring their friends and neighbors together 'cause nobody teaches adults how to make new friends. Like probably, Sherese, what, like you meet a lot of people through the school district, but that's probably mostly how you meet people. Right?

Parents, other people through that. And so it's hard to meet people outside of work or even inside work. You like see all these people, you're like, oh, we should get coffee someday. And then you just like never end up doing coffee.

So I found that hosting a cocktail party, I can get like so many benefits and build all these relationships with people in a two hour time block. So I wrote this book about how to do that, like sort of counterintuitive, I don't even drink alcohol, right? So it's not about the alcohol. It's called a cocktail party, but there's not a drink recipe in the book.

But that phrase, cocktail party, is a social construct that this is an easy, fun, lightweight event that you can just pop into that's super casual. And so I'm on a mission just to help more adults make new friends, like post pandemic, all these things, people are lonelier than ever. It's wild.

Sherese Nix: Yeah, I love that concept.

Nick Gray: What do you guys do at your school, Sherese? Do you guys do anything to help the parents network and make new friends and things?

Sherese Nix: So we do. We have a department called FACE, which is family and community engagement, and they host a lot of events for the parents. They have opportunities for parents who are struggling with social and emotional needs.

They provide resources for them on that end. Each school typically will have their own PTA group where parents can join that network to get connected. And then on a district level we'll have like yearly, for example, we have a Choose Garland ISD event coming in November. And so that's an opportunity for all the parents to come together to support the district.

So there are different things throughout the year where parents can engage with one another.

Nick Gray: That’s nice.

Tyler Vawser: So I was gonna say, so I've got kids in school. I'm not in the same district as Sherese, obviously I live in Little Rock, but recently went to an event, kick off the school year for two of my daughters’ school and I didn't meet a single adult.

Right? It was, there were tons of adults there, everybody that was there with their kids, but it was actually really hard as a dad to meet other dads because you're chasing your kids going to different activities. But there were no name tags. Didn't know if someone had a kid in the fifth grade or the first grade, and you just didn't.

It wasn't easy to connect that way. Right? There's been other events where it's been a little bit easier. But that's because the parents were standing around more. And so you just were waiting there. And I think that's what's really interesting about kind of the space between a huge convocation like Garland and Nick's cocktail parties, is that there's some structure that needs to happen for people to really have a great event.

And I think, and maybe Nick, you can talk to this from the small event side, but a lot of times people think like a great event is no, there's no rules, there's no structure. You just show up and it's magic. And then on large events, right? If you're just participating, it just happens and you're just showing up.

And so one of the things that I'm hearing from both of you is like this idea of intention, right? There's a lot of intentionality and purpose that goes into things, and maybe not everybody picks up on that. But it does shape and craft the experience of the overall event.

Nick Gray: Heck yes. Yeah. I love adding some guardrails.

A little bit of structure, I think, helps people, I don't know, almost be less awkward. It's like when you don't know the rules, you can't play the game, and when you add a little bit of structure, it helps people. I'm increasingly thinking about how to make like introverts and shy people and those with social anxiety feel welcome at social situations.

And so I find that adding name tags just removes the barrier of them stressing about names or serves as a visual unifier that everybody's on the same team. There's no cliques here. You're not walking into a PTA meeting where like, all these people have been on it and you're new to PTA. It's no, this is, everybody's friendly here.

Sherese Nix: I like that. And I think for us it's important to neutralize the environment. Kind of what Nick is talking about. You wanna neutralize it, you wanna take the cliques out, you wanna take all of that. So for me it's important to be intentional, even thinking through the entire event. Like even when people arrive, what do people see?

What do people hear? What do people feel like? All of that has to be thought through. So when our teachers arrive for convocation, we set the tone from the parking lot. We had a red carpet, we had banners with kids' faces outside, we had balloons with the fancy, like the fancy ones hanging from the trees and we had the letters and we had the cheerleaders welcome.

We had music in the lobby. So automatically bringing people's defenses down, setting that tone in that environment we're like, it's okay to relax. It's okay to have fun. It's okay to get in the mood. And so we started the mood like as soon as they got off the bus. And so the intentionality is true, but it has to be thought through from the beginning.

Tyler Vawser: Yeah, that's a really good point.

Well-planned events obsess over the details, not just of the speeches or the speakers, but the little details that mostly go unnoticed until something goes wrong. For example, instead of worrying about who's going to be delivering the opening remarks, worry about the waiting lines, the food, the entire experience, even the parking lot as Sherese talks about.

That's a really key part to every event, but also the entire experience. At SchoolCEO, we talk a lot about crafting the experience. How do you think about the way someone experiences your school district, the information, the people, and it's not just about what you have or when you do it, but about how that experience is delivered.

Sherese Nix: It's so important. Like Nick talked about those guardrails. So the goal, if it's successful, you don't even know that they're there. And no, it didn't just happen. There was a lot of work behind the scenes creating those guardrails that Nick talked about to make the experience a good one.

Nick Gray: Did you guys do a rehearsal for that or did you do like multiple rehearsals?

Sherese Nix: Oh yeah, absolutely. So we had a full run through the day before.

Tyler Vawser: Sherese, how did you end the convocation? Like what was the big bang, because it sounds like the whole thing was like 11 out of 10, and so I'm curious how did you finish it in a way that honored just how much was going on the whole time?

Sherese Nix: The superintendent gave his, he was at the end, where he gave his charge to the staff. Phenomenal job. Really got them motivated, inspired, and then after he went off, then we brought like the LED robots and we just turned it into a big old party and that's where we had the lights go out like it went completely black.

And all you saw were these glow sticks like in the dark, like waving and the DJs playing, and everybody's out dancing and it was just a big old party. And I got up there on the mic. All right, family, we appreciate you. You go out and be the light. Go out and make this a great year.

Just like. Cemented. And so people like even stay like it's time to go home and the teachers are just like partying in the owls. They're doing line dances. Everybody's waving their glow sticks okay, it's after party. The cover's $20. Right? Because they didn't wanna leave because it was just such a great experience.

Tyler Vawser: That's awesome. That's fantastic. So one of the things I'm curious about, Sherese, if you were at a smaller district a lot of these things wouldn't be possible, right? Because of budget, size, even like venue, right? And what would you do? What would you bring into that experience?

Sherese Nix: So it's the same thing.

I worked in the smaller district, Lancaster ISD. They had not 2000, but there were like 5,000 students there. And we had a phenomenal convocation as well. To me, it's all about an experience and it's not about what you can buy, but how can you make that experience with what you have? And so when I was in Lancaster, our theme was the next level.

And so when I'm like, okay, how do you make, how do you conceptualize next level? And so we took that as like in the sup. The superintendent wanted to focus on STEM. And so we did it like we were going into space, and so we had a our TV team come and do all of these crazy videos. Like we were coming from the control center out of space and they put did it on green screen.

And so you're, we couldn't buy the things, but they put us in a simulation. I was in a green screen, so they, they were able to create those graphics and those motions and those things. So even though it was a smaller district, we still were able to deliver a phenomenal convocation. You just have to be creative and find different ways to do it.

I couldn't buy 8,000 glow sticks in Lancaster, but it's the experience of like the music and the video and how you put your program together, which makes it engaging.

Tyler Vawser: Yeah. I think creativity and originality are actually really hard to get right because you can't go read about something and then pull it off 'cause then it's no longer creative or original, right? Someone else has read about it too. They're expecting it.

I think private sector sometimes understands better than school districts is that like the way you treat employees is gonna have an impact on the way customers experience the business or the brand.

Right? And it sounds like Sherese, your leadership team and your superintendent at Garland have really understood that. The experience of the teachers and the staff is going to impact the experience of the families and the student. Like how did you guys think about that when you were conceiving this idea of convocation and really turning it up to 11?

Sherese Nix: Absolutely. So during COVID, that's when I think we really realized that everybody matters and every interaction matters. We were trying to fill classrooms, we were trying to, teachers were quitting left and right, and we were trying to cover, and everybody had to pick up the slack. And so for us, we realized like the GISD effect is every person, every day has an impact on a child's future.

And so how we treat kids every day matters. How we treat our staff every day matters. We were in the worst situation our country has ever been in, and so we really rallied together as a family. And of course, parents are your biggest brand ambassadors. If your kid has a great experience, oh girl, my school, they're amazing.

The principal, you should come to our school or come to our district, like you take ownership and pride in your school and in your district. So we realize if we create great experiences for our teachers, then it's that ripple effect that's gonna reach communities and people.

Tyler Vawser: Yeah, that's really good.

Jonah Berger is an author and he spoke at SchoolCEO Conference back in May. He's actually gonna be speaking in October as well. And one of the stats from his book is 10% of word of mouth happens online and 90% happens like true word of mouth, right? Non-digital, someone talking to someone else on the phone or in person, that kind of thing.

And I think that always surprises us because we see social media, but we don't see those other conversations that are happening behind closed doors, but those have a huge impact. Any other thoughts? I have one or two personal questions for you both, but Nick, is there anything else you want to add here?

Nick Gray: Is there a conference where people like you go to share cool ideas about the stuff you're doing?

Sherese Nix: Absolutely. So that is called TESPA and it's Texas School Public Relations, and I'm actually the vice president for the state for that organization. And so we have an annual conference every year and we then come together and you share different experiences like about videography or press releases or events or whatever the topics are. And so we vet the presenter, we vet those that wanna present and then we can make the agenda for all the presentations and stuff.

Nick Gray: I love conferences like that. I love stuff where people can share, you learn so many lessons.

Are you gonna make a presentation about your lessons learned and things like that?

Sherese Nix: I think our team should, because I know a lot of people struggle with it. I have one girl who she's like, I hate convocation. She hates it.

Nick Gray: She feels about convocation like you do about birthdays.

Sherese Nix: Right. Just because we're comms we all have different interests. Some are better writers, some are better storytellers, some are better planners. We all have our own strengths and right. Some people's minds aren't as creative, but they might be amazing at writing. So I think it would be advantageous for our team to put something together so that we can help others, and that's what we wanna do.

Nick Gray: That would be cool. I'd go to that presentation, Sherese.

Sherese Nix: Thank you, Nick.

Tyler Vawser: I feel like you, do you wanna keep it a secret, right? I feel like you guys have such a strong thing going on. You almost want to keep it to yourself, you're being very magnanimous and generous.

Sherese Nix: No, it just makes me stay on my toes to be better.

Tyler Vawser: Yeah, that's a good way of looking at it. That's fantastic.

Sherese Nix: I don't look at it that way. I love to help others. And people said to me like, oh my gosh, how are you going to outdo that? Like, how are you going to go bigger? I don't know, but we will. So I love the challenge.

Tyler Vawser: How do you decide when there's an event worth, like really creating an experience for, and then something that's like we just need to exchange some information, like what's the right time to do it, or is it always the right time to try to craft an experience?

And how do you think about that more day-to-day versus an annual event?

Sherese Nix: Yeah, everything to me is an experience, but it doesn't have to be the level of experience. So for example, today we had state of the district for the PTA, so the audience was probably like 75 people. So although it wasn't like the big convocation experience, I didn't have a live DJ, but I had my boombox.

With the playlist. I bought them glow sticks like I did for my other people. I bought our popup banners and our signage, I bought the little signs that says the GISD effect. So even though it wasn't as big, it still matters. And then there are certain events that impact more students or teachers that were gonna go a little bit bigger on.

But for me, everything's an experience.

Tyler Vawser: Glow sticks and guardrails. I think that's the takeaway here. Sherese, my last question for you is, who's someone that bet on you early on in your career and who was it and what's been the impact on you?

Sherese Nix: I was a elementary principal. And marketing and branding, it was a passion for me.

I became a principal and I had one of the worst performing schools in the district. It was tucked off. It was, oh, that school over there. And so when I became the principal, I was like, no, there's great kids here. There are great teachers. And it was my personal mission that I wanted to go out and tell everybody the great things that was happening in the school.

And so I did it with a vengeance. This was like back in the day when Twitter was just starting and so I got a Twitter account and I told the teachers like, Hey, you're expected to tweet at least once a week. Just start there. Like something great that's happening in your classroom. And so again, started creating experiences for the kids.

Like the first day of school, I had red carpet, I had a DJ, so this is nothing new to me. Like I had a limo. A kid went a limo ride to come to school and so just started really investing in the school and creating culture and climate. It was a non-negotiable and so creating these experiences for my kids and my parents, everything we did, we had a theme, we went big.

And so before long, every time the district needed a promo or kid, they are calling me 'cause they knew we would produce. And so the communications girl at the time, she was like, Sherese, you have such a natural innate ability to market and communicate in a brand. You ought to think about getting into school marketing, school PR.

I was like, what? School PR. I was like, girl, I'm a principal. And she was like, yeah, but you'd be great at it. You're so good at making videos and connecting with people. And so her name was Sabrina Smith and she now works in Mesquite ISD. And she was the first person to say, Sherese, you ought to really consider getting into school PR.

And so I appreciate her seeing something in me and having those conversations with me. And so she is the first person that saw something in me years ago and I actually texted her the other day and told her randomly, Nick, I ran, I texted her and I said, Sabrina, I appreciate you for seeing something in me and investing in me and believing in me.

And I will always be grateful for her. And here I am.

Tyler Vawser: That's a great story. Now you just need to video call her and test you know how strong that relationship is.

Sherese Nix: Let me call her real fast.

Nick Gray; Test it, test it.

Tyler Vawser: Alright, Nick, last question for you and then we'll hang up here. I know you guys are busy.

Nick, what do you think most people need to know about building stronger relationships or making those loose connections or friendships stronger?

Nick Gray: Oh my God. I'm so glad you asked. Here's the deal. Sherese knows this too. Tyler knows it. I don't have to tell you guys this. We find out about the best opportunities through jobs, through careers, through relationships, not through our best friends.

But through our weak ties, our acquaintances, our loose connections, we find out about things through them. And having those and developing a strong network of acquaintances is really the key to success. And so I've found, networking events, things like that are really helpful to building those types of events.

Like Sherese was talking about the conference she goes to, maybe she learns about new ideas through work at that thing. It's not through the coworkers she sees every day. But it's these random people. You're like, oh yeah, that's awesome. So that's something I feel real strongly about.

Tyler Vawser: Excellent. Alright, thank you both.

I really appreciate it. It's been a great conversation and see you both. Bye guys.

Nick Gray: Okay. Bye everybody.

Tyler Vawser: SchoolCEO magazine publishes original research interviews and more in our quarterly magazine that's read by more than 15,000 school leaders. If you work in K-12 leadership administration, or in communications, we'd love to start mailing the magazine to you.

Go to, click subscribe now and check the box to receive the print edition of the magazine. SchoolCEO Conversations is produced by SchoolCEO magazine team and is powered by Apptegy. I'd love to get your advice to make sure this is the most actionable and insightful podcast you listen to.

Email me at with thoughts and advice. And can you do me a small favor? Go online and share this episode with one friend or a colleague that you think would enjoy it. Thanks for joining the conversation and take care until the next one.

Follow Nick Gray at @nickgraynews, Sherese Nix at @sherese_nix and Garland ISD @gisdnews on Twitter and search the hashtag #TheGISDEffect. As promised, you can also find a handful of the MANY photos and videos shared about Garland ISD’s convocation event here: Tweet 1, Tweet 2, Tweet 3, Tweet 4, Tweet 5, Tweet 6, Tweet 7

For more K-12 marketing resources visit:

Subscribe to SchoolCEO Newsletter at for more strategies on teacher recruitment, culture and marketing.

Follow SchoolCEO on Twitter: