Raising Your PTA Profile

By Anna Newson, head of PR & Communications, the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership

The local media often happy to print positive news stories from PTA groups. Not only can they cover community news, but the families and friends of students and fundraisers provide a ready-made audience for the publications.

PTA news normally centres on fundraising events and activities, including fairs, community events, performances and other community initiatives. Building good relationships with journalists and making sure you tell them about your activities should result in some successful media coverage.

PTA news stories

Events

Local journalists are happy to promote events, both prior to the event (to gain attendance) and post event (to gain media coverage/success update).  In some cases you may get two bites of the cherry! Even if the story doesn’t make the printed version, newspapers and digital sites now updates stories daily on their online versions, and the ATLP has had some success here.

Pre-event: give journalists plenty of notice – ideally, at least a week. Email them a short news release giving details of the event: what is it? When and where is it taking place and why (to raise funds etc.)?  Admission cost? What will be there for people to see/do? If relevant, insert a quote from the chair of the PTA. Put your contact details at the bottom of the story incase the journalist needs to give you a call.

But with various schools competing for newspaper space and all offering the same event, how can you make yours stand out from the crowd?

Can you organise for a local celebrity/sporting figure/well known former student to open the event or attend?

For example, when my children’s school had a Christmas fair we arranged for Cinderella (one of the teachers was appearing in local pantomime) to open the event. We sent out a news release to say she was opening the event (with a fairytale theme) and the newspaper printed this ahead of the event.

At the event we took some nice photographs of the costumed ‘star’ with a few of the children and this made the front page of the newspaper the following week!

Photography

Pictures double the readership of a story, so if you can, always take some nice photographs either ahead of or post event. Even if there isn’t that much to say, the photo could generate some coverage. Photos should be of a high quality and emailed to journalists in JPEG format.

Fundraising

Make sure your fundraising efforts are noticed! Again, photos and cheque presentations work well, along with quotes from charities. Example: Students at Stockland Green School presented food hampers to Erdington Food Bank. The story was updated this with a quote from the food bank’s owner. It appeared on the front page of the Sutton Coldfield Observer (online) and in the newspaper, too. 

Now that you have sourced your stories, written your news releases and taken photographs, it’s time to promote your stories.

Twitter/Facebook:  post your stories and pics on your sites and encourage others to re-tweet/follow/post

NB: It’s notoriously hard to get TV crews out, so only contact local TV in the event of a remarkable story – do not call them for every fair, fete or cake bake!

Community

Community based websites, like Mums in the Know are primarily aimed at parents of younger children. However, they often run related features and it may be worth contacting them to discuss opportunities: for example, a day in the life of a PTA member, event information, fundraising ideas etc.

 

Communicating with parents & attracting new members

Media coverage may encourage new PTA members and show the benefits of joining the group. There are other ways of communicating with audiences and potentially attracting members.

Newsletters: Update parents on your fundraising news (ongoing totals) forthcoming events and PTA vacancies via a paper and/or digital newsletter. Just a page will do, as often as is relevant (maybe half-termly, more frequently if you can facilitate this). This will generate exposure for your event and may highlight vacant positions etc.

Events: School fashion shows, comedy evenings, shows and fairs are all great ways of recruiting new members. Make sure you have newsletters available at the event and that members are on hand to talk to prospective members. There’s nothing quite like a successful event to generate interest. Attending other community events is also a good way of meeting prospective members.

Networking: Coffee mornings/drop-in sessions – invite parents and potential members to take a look and come and meet the team. Meet somewhere inviting.

Work in the community: produce an annual review. A round-up of achievements and photographs, media coverage and success stories. How does your work impact on the community? This can be in paper or digital form.

Website/social media:  ensure that your website and/or social media sites are updated regularly with news, interactive forums and activities. Generate followers by being active in the social media environment (re-tweeting, joining in conversations).  Encourage local businesses and organisations to champion your cause.

Advertising/promotion

Posters and flyers can be created to promote events/activities and displayed in local shops, businesses and in schools, community halls etc. Why not advertise digitally? Contact local businesses to see if they would be prepared to place a link or ad to your school/PTA on their website.

Encourage local businesses to donate goods and team up with them for further coverage.

Ask neighbouring schools to promote your activities and vice versa – after all, we all have the same goal: to help our schools give children and their families the best opportunities possible!

Finally, please feel free to contact me regarding events, opportunities or general media advice. Anna Newson, head of PR & Communications Officer, the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership, tel: 0121 323 1154/ 07757 560 274 email anna.newson@atlp.org.uk