Media relations is not a term which is used in schools on a regular basis but the importance of it should not be overlooked. A good working relationship with local media should be considered as a key part of any school strategy when building and maintaining, a positive reputation within the community. Local newspapers, community radio stations and websites all influence opinion and are great and free, platforms to ‘sell’ your school. So how do you go about building a professional relationship with the media in your area?
Firstly find out who your education reporters are
Click on your local newspaper’s 'contact us' webpage page or call your community radio station’s switchboard. Most media outlets have a reporter who covers education and if not, there will likely be a community reporter. Without a name, you may find that you are sending news stories to a busy news desk which is monitored by a group of people who receive thousands of emails a day. It’s easy for your email to get ‘lost’ in the crowd.
Secondly, invite journalists to your school
News outlets are, like many other professions, understaffed. However, a good education reporter will find the time to visit your school if they know they are going to get a number of stories from the visit and in the future. This face to face meeting is a great way to start to build up a relationship. Make sure you have plenty of interesting stories for them to cover. If you aren’t sure, chat through the sorts of stories they are looking for with them prior to the visit.
Thirdly, send regular content the right way
Become a school that journalists can rely on for regular content. Find out when their weekly or daily deadlines are. Ask them the best time for them to receive news articles to help with their planning. Don’t underestimate the importance of the little things such as including the full name of anyone quoted and photos attached with a left to right captions. These things will help your story get used as there is no need for back and forth emails checking simple details. And remember, print, online and broadcast all work very differently in terms of deadlines and news turnaround so it isn’t a one size fits all approach.
Finally, look ahead
Look ahead to key events in the year. Make sure your school doesn’t miss out on the chance to be included in any seasonal or regular school-based features. A great example is Christmas. Ask journalists if they have anything planned e.g. ‘a Nativity Special’ and what they need from schools e.g. photograph and caption. Make sure you ask well in advance to avoid being left out. It is likely that there is a limit to how many schools can be included in some features so don’t miss out.