The media offers a powerful, quick and effective way of communicating messages to many different audiences. It helps schools to raise their profiles, manage reputations and to promote partnerships in the community.
Engaging with the media provides enormous opportunities for schools to showcase their outstanding work and talents, and to demonstrate their offering to the wider community. While negative stories will still appear, a friendly and open approach can be beneficial through both the smooth and the rough.
Each school within the ATLP already manages its own PR & marketing activities. The aim of this document is to provide an overarching framework so each school can proactively maximise media opportunities, both individually and as part of the ATLP’s wider PR & marketing initiatives.
The role of the ATLP’s head of PR & Communications is to primarily raise the profile of the Partnership as a whole. While the post does not provide each school with a designated press officer for day-to-day PR activities, the function will support each school in the following ways:
Anna Newson, head of PR & Communications, the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership, on 0121 323 1154/ 07557560274, email firstname.lastname@example.org
A good working relationship between the school and local media is mutually beneficial. Schools can reach core audiences and influence stakeholders, while journalists receive a regular stream of community stories – plus a ready-made audience of family and friends.
The Sutton Coldfield Observer’s online version of Mere Green Primary School’s CBeebies filming received 3-4,000 hits. The story was so popular that the journalist ran a follow-up article.
Some of the benefits:
Ideally, each school should appoint a designated PR & Communications Officer. This could be a new role, an intern or an existing member of staff. This person will act as the main point of contact between the school and the media. The role will include:
Proactive, not reactive. Keeping in regular contacts with journalists (by inviting them to visit the school, meet for lunch or by a regular telephone conversation/email) is a great way of building relationships, promoting your stories and of keeping up-to-date with the media’s needs. Developing and maintaining strong relationships can also help in times of crises.
The ATLP has developed a database of individual regional and national media contacts. Please contact the office for further details.
Schools produce a wealth of news through staff, students and community groups. Stories may come from staff briefings, meetings and events. Our pro forma ‘Have you got a story?’ may also be useful. People, topical, visual, quirky and celebrity stories all make for great copy. These include:
Prepare a short news (please refer to the guide on writing news releases). Email the story out to your contacts (check their deadlines) and follow this up with a phonecall/email if necessary. Never waste an opportunity: if a journalist is seeking out good news stories, then ensure you provide them.
Many schools run similar events: so how can you get your story published?
When Cinderella opened a school fair (a teacher was appearing in panto) a pre-event story appeared in the local paper (to attract visitors) and our own photo made the front page the following week.
A photograph can double the readership of a story. Your story may not be strong on its own, but it can generate coverage alongside a good photograph – especially if the paper needs to fill space.
A photocall invites journalists to come along and take a photograph of your event. Alternatively, supply your own photograph, either ahead of, or after the event.
While it is relatively simple to secure local media and community coverage, national print, digital and broadcast coverage is harder to achieve and will require an exceptional story.
Education media (such as the TES, Education Guardian, and BBC Education) offer wider opportunities, through the following methods:
Broadcast coverage can be achieved, as Arthur Terry School discovered when the regional news came on site to cover results day. Local radio provides great interview opportunities, along with the chance to promote events. But pick your moments carefully. Do not email contacts about every fair or fete – unless, of course, Peter Andre happens to swing by (Arthur Terry School)!
Plan for the unexpected…..when pop star Peter Andre decided to swing by Arthur Terry to surprise a member of staff for a TV series he was recording, word soon spread across school and social network sites. Cue cars of besotted mums and excited youngsters.
‘The media’ is no longer restricted to traditional outlets: online and social media offer a wider reach.
Your website is the external face of the school and the first port of call for visitors (including Ofsted, parents and journalists). An attractive, streamlined and user-friendly website with a strong visual identity and striking images is essential. This should have links to news, blogs, newsletters and a rolling Twitter feed. News releases and written content can be re-purposed for a variety of formats:
The media may be reading…. Hill West’s tweets about a trip to France were picked up by a local news reporter who was keen to run a photo spread about the school visit. Keep tweeting!
Don’t be modest. If you’ve appeared in print or on the TV/radio ensure everybody sees it. Share media coverage with staff, students, parents, community groups and other stakeholders via your newsletters, website, tweets, Facebook, Tumblr accounts and the forthcoming ATLP website! Email URL links or cuttings to staff and managers – perhaps as part of a termly media round-up.
Most of the schools’ media coverage will come from local news sources, so cuttings are easy to compile and circulate. Specialist media monitoring agencies offer a more sophisticated approach to sourcing and analysing cuttings – including Advertising Value Equivalent rates (how much you would have had to pay in advertising fees to gain the same amount of exposure) and opportunities to see/circulation. This is a powerful evaluation tool, as PR is mainly qualitative and therefore hard to measure. The services of a professional agency would benefit each school in a number of ways: daily access to contacts, publications, forward features, bloggers, PDF cuttings, evaluation tools etc.
Despite all your good work, negative publicity could be just around the corner – following a critical incident, complaint, Ofsted report or exclusion. Issues & Crisis management and Ofsted reports are covered in additional documents. In the event of negative story please consider the following: