Who we are
We have assembled a group of communication, marketing, engagement and design experts to tackle your problems and issues in creative and different ways.
We think of it as a three-pronged approach.
We have school communications professionals from across the country with combined experience of more than 125 years. We understand the issues faced by schools and districts, and have experience in solving any issue.
We have a creative team of designers, marketers and strategists who bring agency and consumer experience into addressing issues facing school districts.
We bring our technology expertise to help our clients probe more deeply and focus their strategies to maximize effectiveness.
What we do
The short answer is that we do it all, with clients both small and large.
We develop communication strategy plans. We write, create and tell stories through print, video and photography. We create and manage social media campaigns. We create stunning designs and materials. We redesign and rethink websites. We provide advice and counsel. We facilitate stakeholder engagements to better inform decisions and keep audiences involved. And we provide both virtual and in-person training and workshops on a variety of topics.
Referendum & Strategic Communication Planning
Want more details? You got it!
Click on each service to learn more.
We have an engaging process that brings diverse input into the process to yield a brand architecture that defines language and imagery for your district.
SO WHAT? You will have a brand that goes beyond a logo or a mascot, influencing all that you say and do.
We have a variety of tools to assess the effectiveness of your organization’s communications. We focus on nine key communication areas and we use our own Baseline Communication Tool to guide each assessment.
SO WHAT? You will have a clearer picture of what’s working and what’s not.
We use our expertise to guide district communication staff members who are new to school communication, or leaders of small organizations that need coaching and expertise.
SO WHAT? By learning from our past mistakes (and successes) you will be a rockstar.
We help out districts with temporary staffing gaps by filling in for your communications staff.
SO WHAT? If it’s time to call the bullpen for support or replacement, ring us up.
We use a discovery tool that helps us to understand your situation, issue or problem, and then develop a strategic approach to solve it.
SO WHAT? We dig into what’s going on to provide you with awesome product and strategies to communicate your message.
We express your district’s brand in ways to attract potential employees by describing what it means to be part of your team.
SO WHAT? Employee recruitment goes beyond posting positions and referring people to HR, it’s part of your brand.
We design processes that bring diverse voices into your planning to better inform decisions, and we facilitate your small and large engagement activities to increase involvement and trust in your organization.
SO WHAT? Engagement can be messy, but we know how to bring order and fun to the process to yield deeper insights.
We approach student enrollment with both retention and recruitment strategies, organizing your enrollment marketing into a strategic ongoing process.
SO WHAT? Enrollment marketing is a yearlong strategy that goes beyond an open house in the fall and a kindergarten gathering in the spring.
We use a variety of approaches, including benchmarking tools like the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), to help individuals increase their equity leadership and ensure that all students, staff and families feel valued and heard.
SO WHAT? We believe strongly that equity is a value that must be shared at all levels of the organization, and strong equity leaders can create cultures of change that lead to better outcomes for all.
We help you create a strategy to effectively plan for and communicate big issues, such as referendum/finance elections, change initiatives, crisis/emergency response communications, boundary changes, bell times, leadership transitions, you name it.
SO WHAT? Having a strategic communications plan helps you be more proactive and effective, rather than just reacting to daily issues or maintaining status quo.
We use a dynamic dashboard tool to forecast future events and issues, and then develop strategies and messaging to communicate well in advance and engage your stakeholders to act.
SO WHAT? Our survey strategy measures message effectiveness along the way so that you can respond to the changing needs and whims of your community.
We create powerful messages and share visual narratives that pack a punch in small packages.
SO WHAT? Welcome to the 21st century, where visual storytelling is worth more than just 1,000 words.
How we do it
Problems rarely come in neat, tidy packages that can be easily solved. We get that, and we know how to not just connect the dots, but we can manage those pesky dots too.
We begin every client project with the same first step: we start with listening. We listen more than we talk to understand how we might help. We probe, dig deep, wonder and ponder to learn as much as we can about our clients and their issues. We bring the power of our team together to assess each situation and see the big picture. We then deliver solutions that fit the situation and achieve the desired impact.
We help schools and districts thrive by helping them to remove distractions, solve problems and enhance relationships through strategic communication, engagement and marketing, which then allow school and district leaders to focus on students and their learning.
We believe the best solutions start with solid strategy.
Here's how we approach every project:
Assess & Discover
We ask questions and dig into your issue or situation to learn as much as we can about what's happening.
Strategize & Plan
We develop a strategic approach to address the situation, and plan for the work to be implemented effectively.
Activate & Adjust
We activate the strategy while assessing along the way to make any necessary adjustments.
Meet our team
We have assembled a team of people who are experienced, professional, innovative, thoughtful, strategic, and most importantly, fun.
Our innovative approach to addressing problems is what sets us apart. We are naturally curious as part of who we are and what we do. We have a desire to know more and learn about what our clients are experiencing. We have a boundless interest in learning, and go beyond what we know and ponder “what else can we know?"
Susan Brott, APR
Susan Brott was a lost soul, finding difficulty marrying the push and pull of the left brain/right brain struggle for dominance. After double majoring in mathematics and communications, she went on to attain her graduate degree in political rhetoric and public address, where somehow she was able to blend her passion for analytics and politics, writing such enthralling rhetorical analyses on s as Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem and the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. Being the daughter of public school teachers, Susan found her way back to education securing her first school communications job in suburban St. Paul (Minn.). Over 20 years and four Twin Cities suburban districts later, Susan joined the CESO Communications team in April 2020. She has been an active member of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA), including facilitating annual workshops for new school communications professionals, and the Minnesota School Public Relations Association (MinnSPRA), where she served as treasurer (duh, math major) and president. Susan enjoys all aspects of strategic communications, and especially enjoys facilitating and engaging stakeholders to elevate their voice and help them feel valued and heard. She is outspoken in her passion for diversity, inclusion and equity and enjoys coaching others on their own learning journey. Her biggest pet peeve is when she hears people say that something won’t work because “we’ve tried it before,” which leads to her penchant for always asking questions and seeking deeper meaning, often to the exhaustion of her husband, Bob. She enjoys yoga, TRX, knitting and cooking, and often seeks energy in the stillness.
Samantha Chin is a visual storyteller focused on helping districts get noticed amid all of the online noise. Whether it’s creating and designing websites, videos, print publications, social media campaigns, e-newsletters or any other form of digital or print communications, Sam’s creative talents bring ideas to life. With over seven years of experience working in a small Twin Cities suburban school district, Sam knows how to create an engaged social media following from scratch, use infographics to illustrate complex ideas, and could probably develop a website in her sleep. She has an eye for capturing special moments through photography and elevates our storytelling with her images and videos. When she’s not photographing students and teachers, Sam can be found snapping shots at weightlifting and CrossFit competitions (or participating in them herself), gardening in her backyard, traveling the world or watching sci-fi movies.
Brett Clark, APR
Brett Clark has more than 20 years experience in school communications marketing, strategic planning and community engagement in Missouri and Illinois districts. Along with his work with CESO Communication, Brett is also the director of communications for Maine Township High School District 207 in suburban Chicago. In addition, he is a former school board member in his local community. While he lives and works in the Chicago area, don’t mention the Cubs – he’s a Cardinals fan. You are welcome to bring up the Bears … but only if you want to hear a diatribe on their lowly history outside of the ‘85 team. Brett has worked for school districts, universities and an educational non-profit. He has served as a National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) regional vice president and writes and speaks on a variety of school communication topics. He lives with his wife and two sons in suburban Chicago.
Jim Cummings, APR
Growing up in a house with nine people and one bathroom, Jim Cummings, APR, learned early in life how to handle crisis and hostile environments. As a recovered Philadelphia sports writer, he also is used to being booed. Jim has worked for more than 30 years in developing and executing strategic public relations programs for three Arizona school districts. Jim has been a member and leader in the National School Public Relations Association, where he served as President in 2014-2015, as well as the Arizona School Public Relations Association where he served as president twice. He is the winner of multiple ASPRA and NSPRA awards, including NSPRA’s 2012 Barry Gaskins Mentor Legacy Award. In addition to his body of work for three school districts, he is a frequent and popular speaker and presenter at seminars, and his high-energy, content-rich and “hold on to your hat” style has garnered many invitations to speak at conferences and workshops. A glutton for punishment, he remains loyal to Philadelphia sports teams, especially the Flyers and Phillies. He lives in Arizona with his wife and a cat who he has turned into a Facebook and Instagram star.
After a fulfilling college softball career and traveling around Europe after graduation, Coley’s now mother-in-law decided it was time for her to find a job. The suburban Minneapolis district where her mother-in-law worked as a principal was hiring a communication and graphic design specialist and Coley jumped at the opportunity. Eight years and lots of experience later, Coley joined her friend and mentor, Bob, as a part of the CESO Communication team in November 2019. She has been a member of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) and the Minnesota School Public Relations Association (MinnSPRA), where she is currently serving as secretary. She is a self-proclaimed branding nerd and loves to take a logo and bring it to life in districts. To every project, she brings a unique skill set – marrying a talent for design with mad skills in project management and a solid foundation in communication essentials. When she’s not on a softball field coaching, you can find her doing DIY home projects, traveling, behind a camera, cheering on the Twins and Wild or walking her 100 pound chocolate lab (who should’ve been named Moose, but his real name is Avery). She lives in the Minneapolis suburbs with her husband and moose, I mean, dog.
Luke Frederick has worked with over 300 organizations to align their brand, services, and products. He specializes in helping districts & schools connect to their communities through omni-channel marketing solutions that leverage machine learning and AI.
After graduating with a degree in journalism back in 2007, Jamaal Gilbert walked into a world in flux — the very foundations of marketing and publishing were being rocked to their core as they were faced with navigating a path to digital presence. Through this, one of the early lessons he learned was that adaptability and positivity are two characteristics that allow a person to thrive in any storm. Now, over 12 years into a career in copywriting and content marketing, Jamaal brings those same qualities, plus a passion for empathetic storytelling and dynamic use of language to help people find beauty in unlikely places.
Susan Hardy Brooks, APR
Susan has always had a passion for public education. She has served as a trusted advisor to K-12 school districts, technology centers, colleges, universities, and state and national education associations for more than 40 years. Susan knows what it takes to handle any communications challenge. And when she doesn’t have the answers, she taps her network of associates across North America to figure things out. Along with her consulting role at CESO Communications, Susan is the director of marketing and communication for Great Plains Technology Center in Lawton, Oklahoma. As a past-president of the National School Public Relations Association, she enjoys building collaborative relationships with clients and peers. She thrives in the constantly changing environment of effective communications. Susan is always up for learning something new, and has extensive experience in strategy, research, brand management, leadership, marketing and crisis communications. She is quick to analyze and synthesize information, form a big-picture perspective and determine the steps to arrive at solutions. She is also quick to build strong, effective partnerships with her clients.
Bob Noyed, APR
Bob Noyed left a short career as a starving journalist to pursue a 30 plus year career in school communications. He accepted his first school communications job because, well, he needed a job. This gainful employment quickly turned into a passion for public education, and he has not looked back. He served as director of communications for a handful of districts in suburban Minneapolis (Minn.) before joining CESO Communications in July 2019. He has been a member and leader of the National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) including service as president in 2006-2007, as well as the Minnesota School Public Relations Association (MinnSPRA), where he served as president twice. He writes and speaks about school communications to anyone who will listen. He has a deep dislike for the status quo and is known for more than his fair share of crazy ideas (some of the craziest ones actually worked). He loves wine, food, travel and can easily be talked into skipping work to take in an afternoon baseball game. He lives in the St. Paul suburbs with his wife Susan, and more wine than two people should own.
Julie Rodriguez has long held an interest in the Communications world. Growing up exploring the world of creative writing, Julie developed a voice in storytelling. She soon realized that stories could be told in many different formats in the marketing world. Her passion for telling stories deepened after her work with Minneapolis company My Sister, a social enterprise that partnered with nonprofits fighting to end human trafficking. Her time with My Sister was the catalyst of her search for meaning in all of her work, and ultimately led her to join CESO Communications in September 2019. An advocate for change, Julie seeks the core purpose of every project she takes on, merging creativity with the methods to create change. If there is a purpose, there is an energy that will not be swayed. Whether it’s writing, social media strategy, or website development, she aims to create systems with impacts that last long after a project is complete. Julie enjoys adventuring outdoors, a pastime that became fundamental to her years exploring the Pacific Northwest. She is often chasing waterfalls, creating music, or cuddling someone’s dog.
Chris Tennill, APR
After a near five-year sentence in the woeful world of corporate marketing and public relations, Chris Tennill found his true calling in the world of school communications. He is a nationally-recognized leader who has spent the last 20 years directing the communications efforts for one of the top-ranked school districts in Missouri and the Midwest. Chris is a go-to strategic advisor in the areas of crisis management, media relations and public/community engagement. He believes when the work of a PR professional is done well it often goes unseen. His passion for mentoring drove him to develop programs to support his Missouri colleagues and he currently facilitates programming for the National School Public Relations Association’s (NSPRA) New Professionals program. He has served in state-level leadership roles with the Missouri School Public Relations Association and nationally on NSPRA’s Executive Board. When he’s not explaining to a school administrator why we don’t need to “make the logo bigger,” you’ll find him on the pitch coaching a club soccer team in St. Louis, in his backyard (near one of his two smokers or his grill) doing magical things with some large slab of meat or in the kitchen making some type of hand-crafted, old-world sausage or charcuterie. Chris lives in the St. Louis area with his wife and two daughters.
Kendra Tillberry brings more than five years of experience in school public relations working for two of Minnesota’s top five largest school districts. With an eye for systems, Kendra helps districts communicate about and manage organizational change — whether that’s welcoming a new principal to a school community or unveiling a new district design. Kendra sees the trees and the forest and has a knack for helping school districts master the details and build the overall communications plan. As an expert in marketing and enrollment, Kendra has some secrets up her sleeve to bring students back to their home school and secured millions of dollars in increased revenue for districts. An avid traveler, Kendra has been to more than 40 states and 15 countries around the world and is always happy to share her spreadsheets with fellow travelers looking for ideas. When she’s not dreaming up potential solutions to common problems school districts face, you can find Kendra with her family and Goldendoodle puppy renovating their 1920’s bungalow home. In addition to the writing she works on for clients, Kendra also is a budding creative nonfiction writer working on her master’s degree in creative writing at St. Thomas University dreaming of her first publication. In her free time, Kendra loves reading, writing, hiking and spending time with her beloved pack of humans and animals she calls her “geese.”