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ASSOCIATION FOR CAREER & TECHNICAL EDUCATION®

Policy and Advocacy

How to Get Publicity

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What Is News?
Reporters and editors are concerned with informing their publics of events and issues that affect their media outlet’s target audiences. For something to have news value, it must, in the eyes of the news media, have impact on the general community. If it is important to the public, it is important to the media. The essential elements of news value are timeliness, local appeal, and interesting subject matter. Ask yourself these questions about your subject matter:

  • What is the significance of your school’s services or special events to the general public?
  • When education news breaks, is there an angle related to your school or to the profession in general? Are you an expert in that area?
  • How does your expertise, special event, or unique service help the community?
  • Are trends in society reflected in your school?

There are several kinds of coverage: News—usually noting conflict or change; Features—usually stories of human interest or news that is not time limited; Editorials—usually coverage by the media that takes a stand on an issue of relevance to the general public or to a particular constituency; and Op-Eds—also opinion oriented, but generated by people not associated with the media.

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Where Do I Begin?
Get started by reading publications that cover issues in which you are interested, by watching and listening to news broadcasts, and by becoming familiar with the reporters covering education issues. After doing this, you will easily be able to develop a list of media targets.

Cut the job down to your size. If you have only one day a month to work on your public relations program, you need to set your sights for a small-scale result. If your stories are local, concentrate only on local media. If your story warrants regional or national coverage, be prepared to give your campaign quite a bit more time.

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How Do I Develop a Media List?
If you are concentrating your public relations program in a small local area, you should be able to develop a media list by calling the newspapers, television, and radio stations in the community and inquiring about the reporters who cover the education “beat.” If you are initiating a regional or national media campaign, you should consult a media directory. One easy way to decide which directory is right for you is to look at the ones available in your local library. Sometimes local organizations, the chamber of commerce, or the convention bureau have developed a media directory. You can find out if your area has one by calling a local public relations firm and asking them to recommend one.

Whether you use a national directory or a local one, you will have to check all contact names before sending information or making a call to pitch a story. Editors and reporters change frequently, and a news release sent to the wrong reporter usually ends up in the trash. Simply call the media outlet and ask who is covering your issue area. For schools, the typical issue area is education, but your issue could apply to the metro or business sections. Remember that there are many more news outlets at your disposal than you might think. Do not overlook these important sources:

  • Television stations have local news programs, editorial opinions, “talk back” opportunities, public affairs programs, one-on-one interview shows, and public affairs specials.
  • Community cable stations can offer local news programming, community access channels, and public affairs programming.
  • Public television stations provide local news programming as well as a diverse mix of locally produced public affairs programming.
  • Radio formats include all-news stations, radio talk shows, public affairs programming, and editorial comment.
  • Newspapers have numerous reporters covering specialized issues for the main news section, editorial page editors, op-ed opinion pieces, letters to the editor, the business section, consumer reporters, and “style” sections offering soft news.

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Basic Media Tools
News Releases
A news release is an up-to-the-minute summary of the importance of your news. Include who, what, when, and details of why and how. Retype on school letterhead and substitute your own information and names. If possible, include photos of students preparing for a special event that you have planned. Be sure to attach a separate sheet for each photo, identifying the students and explaining what they are doing. Mail or hand deliver about February 1. Don’t forget your own school newspaper and other special publications.

Often when your news is not pressing or significant enough to warrant a news conference or media briefing, you should still send out a news release. Keep in mind, however, that newsrooms are inundated with news releases. The average editor may receive several hundred news releases a week. Although no precise data have been collected, general opinion and observation indicate that only 10 to 20 percent of news releases submitted to the media are used in some way. If the news release is to survive as a conveyer of information, it must be issued with discretion—only if the information is really news. Your news release must be written as skillfully as possible and directed to the appropriate person.

Download Sample News Release (MS Word)

Guidelines for Placing Op-Eds
Many newspapers provide a forum for opinions opposite the editorial page (“Op-Ed”) that addresses issues of concern to your community. Pitch letters can be effective tools to propose an op-ed column to a publication. When your local education association or school is involved with and has a point to make on a major, newsworthy issue (such as trends in career and technical education), the op-ed page provides you with the chance to illustrate the value of the profession. Papers will occasionally publish a philosophical piece that may comment on a continuing problem, such as funding of education or an observation on society.

Send your pitch letter first to a handful of editors with the op-ed outline and then follow-up with a call. In a pitch letter, you should indicate the subject matter and proposed author. Although you could simply send out the op-ed piece to all the editors on your media list with a pitch letter, it is better to approach them first so you can tailor the piece to a specific publication’s needs.

Here are five general steps to follow when preparing an op-ed:

  1. Find opportunities. Review all publications in your region to determine which accept op-eds and which formats are preferred. Are they generally about current social issues? Are they in a pro/con format?
  2. Decide on a topic. In general, try to relate your topic to a current issue. Samples include the role of the educator in the school system and the reasons why career and technical education have to be an important part of the education agenda.
  3. Approach editors. Send a pitch letter to appropriate editors outlining the proposed topic and author. If you have established a relationship with a particular editor, make a call instead of writing. Keep in mind that the person whose name appears on the op-ed need not be the person who wrote it. The byline should be that of a person prominent in your organization, community, or with a recognized expertise or specialty.
  4. Prepare a draft. Op-eds require a good deal of work to make a comment or to state a view on a current issue convincingly and should not be undertaken unless there is some indication that there is interest. With a positive or encouraging reply, it then can be worthwhile to undertake and submit a draft op-ed. The average op-ed should run about 750 words (approximately three double-spaced, typed pages), and the byline should include the author’s current professional position. In addition, be certain to identify the author as an educator, if appropriate.
  5. Submit a draft. Adhere to deadlines. If you promise an editor you will have a draft by a certain date, do so. Remember, an interest in reviewing an op-ed does not necessarily mean the publication will use the piece, even if it is particularly well written. You may have to adapt the op-ed to the editor’s wishes or to provide back up for points you make in the piece. If the editor ultimately declines the piece, try reworking it and begin the entire process again. Persistence is the key.
    Keep in mind that some large newspapers may ask that an op-ed piece be on an exclusive basis, meaning no other publication can simultaneously print the piece. Smaller papers generally accept multiple submissions, as long as competing papers in the same city do not run the same pieces. Check each publication’s particular policy.

Media Kits
Media kits are important tools when dealing with the media. If compiled correctly, they can be used to package an issue—complete with accompanying graphics, sidebars, and other background materials. They are essential at a news conference or special event. Media kits are also easy and inexpensive to prepare. Include items in the kit that reinforce your story, such as other news clips about the project, photos, pertinent news releases, fact sheets (with career and technical education documented statistics, for example) and brochures. Place these items in a folder with pockets. These folders should identify your local organization or school. You can choose to have folders printed or to use stickers with your name and logo. Include your business card.

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Policy and Advocacy

Advocacy Toolkit

One of ACTE's most effective advocacy tools is you! Becoming an advocate is one of the most important actions you can take to secure the future of CTE. ACTE has developed a wide variety of tools to assist you in your advocacy activities, keep you informed and promote ongoing support for CTE. The tools here provide step-by-step directions and examples that will help you reach out to policymakers at the local, state and federal levels, as well as your community and the media. From your Members of Congress to your local mayor, these individuals all make decisions that directly or indirectly impact CTE. With your help, we can ensure the strength and future of CTE! 

Visiting Policymakers

Techniques Advert Events Partners Countdown Personal visits with influential policymakers are an effective method of grassroots advocacy. These visits often lay the groundwork for future communication with the official and his/her staff. If you are meeting with a federal Member of Congress, a face-to-face meeting can be held in Washington, D.C. or in your Member’s district office. This short how-to video walks you step-by-step through a meeting at your legislator's office. Take a look, then keep reading below for more specifics and links to further information: Whether you are meeting with a federal, state or local official, here are some tools to make your meeting more effective: Make your appointment in advance. Call your public official’s office and request a meeting (at least a few weeks in advance, if possible). Identify who you are, who you represent and who will attend; state the time required (15 - 30 minutes is typical) and the subject you want to discuss. The day before the appointment, call to confirm. To find the contact information for Members of Congress, please visit ACTE’s Legislative Action Center. To find contact information on a state or local level, contact your ACTE state association.   Do your homework. Be prepared to answer questions or provide information about your program and know what points you want to make before the meeting. Also, learn about the policymaker and his/her priority issues. Try to have statistics and facts about your local program, and know how the official's support has helped in the past or could help in the future. A lot of information can be found using the Internet. If you need assistance, contact the ACTE Public Policy staff at 1410 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22314, 800-826-9972, or e-mail us at publicpolicy@acteonline.org.   Be on time, flexible and brief. When it is time to meet with a public official, be punctual and patient. It is not uncommon for an official to be late or to have a meeting interrupted due to their crowded schedule. If interruptions do occur, be flexible. If the opportunity presents itself, continue your meeting with staff. Bring concise written information (the shorter the better—e.g., a fact sheet) regarding your program and its importance.   Select a spokesperson. If there are two or more people going to the appointment, identify a spokesperson to lead the discussion and ask other members of the group to speak as the discussion moves along.   Make local connections. After introductions and handshakes, start the meeting with a comment about mutual interests (friends, activity in the state, a recent vote) to tie you or your program to the policymaker.   State the purpose of your visit. Tell the official who you represent, what you want to talk about and why you are talking with him or her. If you are advocating for a specific bill, be sure to refer to it by number, explain its status and indicate what action you would like the official to take. Be direct, but polite.   Use your expertise and share success stories. You are there to share your expertise on the issue you’re discussing. Be prepared to share brief anecdotes and success stories to make your point. Be sure to identify how your community and the policymaker’s constituents will be affected.   Discuss how your program serves the community. Discuss your program or organization and its importance to the community. Discuss the importance of CTE programs to the people in your community, local businesses and the economy. Cite specific examples of your program’s success in meeting the particular needs of your area and emphasize why maintaining an investment in CTE is so important. It is a good idea to have with you 1-2 pages of information to leave behind as a future reference.   Listen carefully and answer questions truthfully. Allow the official to share his or her insights or positions with you. Though you may not agree, this gives you the chance to respond based on your knowledge and experience. Don’t argue, but listen carefully and identify issues of concern or differences of opinion. Answer all questions to the best of your ability. If you do not know the answer to a question, say you don’t know and promise to find the answer and get back to them.   Summarize major points. Wrap up the meeting by summarizing the major points of discussion and leave behind a fact sheet with your name, address and phone number.   Leave promptly. At the end of your allotted time, thank the policymaker and the staff for their time and leave promptly.   Follow up. Send a brief thank you letter and any follow up information you may have promised to the policymaker and the staff who were instrumental in assisting you, and keep up the relationship with the office over time. Periodically send information that may be of interest to the office. Invite them to visit your program. Thank the officials who honor commitments or who vote in support of your position. Also remember that developing and maintaining good relationships with staff may be the most effective means to making your concerns heard.   Fill Out a Congressional Visit Report Form Let ACTE know the results from your visits and other contacts with federal policymakers. If you visit, receive return correspondence or communicate with your Members of Congress in other ways, please complete a report form and return it to ACTE via e-mail to jbaxter@acteonline.org or by mail to 1410 King St., Alexandria, VA 22314. This gives ACTE staff in Washington additional insight into the positions of Members of Congress and helps us identify strong supporters and those that need additional attention or information.

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ACTE Calendar

Monday, March 13, 2017

National Policy Seminar 2017

Thursday, April 06, 2017

ACTE Region V Conference

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