How to Get Publicity
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
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Policy and Advocacy
CTE Support Fund
The Career and Technical Education Support Fund promotes the
advancement of CTE through a broad array of activities, including
developing research-based materials focusing on the value of CTE;
building and sustaining a national coalition of CTE leaders,
administrators, organizations and businesses that support CTE awareness;
and organizing public awareness campaigns to support CTE. These efforts
are critical to supporting and advancing the cause of CTE and donations
to this purpose are tax-deductible. Your contributions to the CTE
Support Fund enable ACTE to carry out vital work on your behalf.
Hosting a Site Visit for Policymakers
You have a superb CTE program. NOW is the time to show it off for your
public officials. Your policymakers’ understanding will go a long way
with an up-close and personal tour of programs. These are the people who
can help you EXPAND and IMPROVE your program by ensuring funding and
effective policies. A successful tour needs meticulous planning.
ACTE has developed 10 STEPS to help you conduct a successful legislative tour of your school:
Before you begin any planning, get permission from school officials. Keep everyone informed.
What type of impression do you want the policymaker to have of your school? What programs do you want to highlight? Brainstorm and select the most important features you want to show off.
DEVELOP A DRAFT AGENDA
Most importantly, make sure school is in session for the tour. Plan a short and concise introductory presentation about the school and programs the policymaker will see. Following the brief presentation, schedule an organized tour.
Now that you have your agenda, the next step is to invite your targeted policymakers. Fax or mail a brief letter to the policymaker at his or her local office at least six weeks before the scheduled date (you can find contact information for your federal Members of Congress by visiting ACTE’s Legislative Action Center). Briefly introduce yourself, your program, and state the purpose of the letter. Explain why you would like the official to visit your program (to see how an example of a CTE program can work in the community, the importance of supporting such initiatives, etc.). Include specific information about the visit (date, time, location, others who may be invited, whether the media will be invited, what activities are planned for the visit). Public officials have very busy schedules, so you’ll need to be as flexible and accommodating as possible.
FOLLOW UP WITH THE SCHEDULER
The policymakers’s scheduler should be contacted seven to 10 days after you have mailed the letter. You should keep in mind that you need to be flexible with the date and tour arrangements. You should take every step to accommodate the policymaker. NOTE: Federal legislators will most likely be in their home districts Mondays, Fridays, and on the weekends.
DETERMINE PRESS ACTIVITIES
Work with the policymaker’s press secretary, if they have one, to determine appropriate press activities. Send a press release to the local media inviting them to attend the tour. In addition to giving the policymaker publicity, it will increase the community’s interest in your program. Be sure to follow up with the media to make sure that they attend since the policymaker will be expecting them! Take plenty of photographs. If you are unable to have the media present during the tour, send the local reporters a follow-up summary and a photograph for their use. (ACTE can help you with your media activities! Please visit the "Targeting the Media" section of ACTE's Action Center.
CONDUCT THE TOUR
The day has finally arrived! When the policymaker and his or her staff arrive, distribute descriptions of your programs, success stories about students and any other relevant information you feel promotes your program. Make sure that your name, address and phone number are on every document so staff can contact you later. Let the policymaker know the scope of the program: how many people you serve and what impacts the program has on families, the community, local businesses and the local economy. Explain why continued funding for CTE is important to students, jobseekers and businesses in the state or district. Encourage interaction between the policymaker and students. It is helpful for policymakers to make connections with those who benefit from the program and see the changes in people’s lives that good CTE programs make.
Have a few supporters present, such as parents, students and business partners, to help you make the case.
MAKE YOUR PITCH
Emphasize how additional resources could benefit students. While you have the policymaker’s undivided attention, make a pitch for support. Ask the lpolicymaker to support your programs through increased funding and effective policies. Remember to be specific if current legislation is pending.
Congratulations! You conducted a successful tour, but you have another important step to take. Before you do anything else, make sure you:
Send thank you letters to the policymaker and any staff who attended, reiterating the need for additional funding and more effective policies for your program.
Include copies of press coverage.
Include a photo of the policymakers with your students and supporters to remind them how important CTE is to your community.
Best Practices and Innovations Conference & Region II Conference
Iowa ACTE Conference 2016
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