ACTE serves its members by raising awareness among media professionals about the benefits of CTE, along with sharing our relevant policy priorities and other initiatives. ACTE also works to provide tools and support to members to help them in their own efforts to raise awareness of their programs and the latest news and developments in CTE. Whether you are a seasoned professional, or just getting started working with the media, ACTE can serve as a resource to help you tell your CTE story!
Policymakers are particularly tuned in to local media in the area they represent, so sharing information on relevant policy priorities, major news and initiatives, and other current issues that are affecting CTE with media professionals can help get important messages in front of policymakers. A strong media campaign, using a variety of mediums, including print, online, radio and television, can reach large numbers of people to communicate about CTE issues and events. The information below will help you maximize your media outreach!
What is News?
Reporters and editors are concerned with informing the public of events and issues that affect their target audiences. For something to have news value, it must, in the eyes of the news media, be relevant or of interest to a publication’s audience. CTE issues are often of particular interest to local media, given the impact that CTE has on local industries and economies in individual communities. The essential factors to consider when determining news value are its timeliness, local appeal, and the compelling nature of the subject matter.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to get started:
- What is the significance of your school’s programs and events to the general public?
- What about the local community?
- Is the information timely? Why does the story matter now, versus a later date? Is important legislation pending or a key decision imminent?
- When education or local workforce news breaks, is there an angle related to your school, programs, or to the CTE profession in general? Are you an expert in any of those areas?
- How does your expertise, special event, program or service help the community?
There are several kinds of coverage: News – usually noting conflict, change, or a noteworthy event or imminent development; Features – usually stories of human interest or news that is not time- sensitive; 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 individual experts, pundits or opinion makers.
Where to Begin
Get started by reading the publications that you would like to see cover your subject matter, by watching and listening to news broadcasts, and by becoming familiar with the reporters covering education issues in your region, state and local area. After doing this, you will easily be able to develop a list of media targets. Concentrate your efforts on local or regional media outlets, but don’t be afraid to reach out to national education reporters, columnists, national newspapers and national education publications – often, national publications will have “local,” “policy,” and “education” sections. Examples of publications that have published information and comments from ACTE staff can be found on ACTE’s CTE in the News page.
Be the Source
When an education or workforce issue is going to be reported on in the media, CTE educators may be contacted as an authoritative interview source. If a reporter contacts you, do your best to answer their questions in an informative and professional manner. In addition, do not hesitate to contact Jori Houck, ACTE Media Relations and Advocacy Associate, at email@example.com, for assistance in media interactions.
It is often helpful to proactively establish a cooperative relationship with reporters who routinely cover education in the community. Building a relationship with the media is a gradual process. Do not get discouraged if your first few attempts are turned down. Once a relationship is established with a reporter, keep them well-informed through frequent communications. In addition, invite them to witness the various programs at your school – not just special events, such as back-to-school night or CTE Week, but to observe an especially interesting demonstration or sit in on a business advisory group meeting.
How to Develop a Media Distribution 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 or visiting the websites of the newspapers, television and radio stations in the community and inquiring about the reporters who cover the education “beat.” Perform Google searches for keywords, such as your location plus “education reporter.” If you are initiating a regional or national media campaign, you should consult a media directory, which can be found in ACTE’s Action Center.
Periodically, you should check the contacts in your media distribution list. Editors and reporters change ‘beats” frequently, and a news release sent to the wrong reporter usually ends up in the trash. To verify that you have the correct contact, simply call the media outlet and ask who is covering education and workforce development. Many publications will keep a list of their reporters and editors and their beats on their websites. You can also search for the contact’s public social media accounts, which many reporters will keep updated with their current beats and contact information. You may want to create several media distribution lists – one for larger outlets, and one for smaller, local media outlets. For example, a media list that includes the New York Times may not be the most useful when something impacts your local school district. Instead, local issues are more likely to gain traction with a media distribution list of local reporters.
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 and “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 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 “beat” 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.
- Some communities may also have community newspapers, which are newspapers that focus on hyper-local news, and may regularly cover events and issues of interest to the community.
- Digital media formats such as podcasts, online news shows, YouTube channels and subscription-based email newsletters are also good options to reach your target audience.
- Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are social media platforms most conductive to sharing content like press releases.
Media Advisories, Tours and Press Releases
A media advisory is a message sent in advance of an event that provides reporters with the information necessary to attend, as well as ideas about how they might frame their story. Media advisories should be concise, and explicitly answer the relevant five w’s (who, what, why, where and when). It is considered best practice to send two media advisories before an event to local press outlets and targeted reporters that might attend. One should be sent approximately one week prior to the event, and another should be sent the day before the event as an “in case you missed it”. Media advisories should be sent early in the week, if possible, to ensure that the event is included on the reporters’ calendars. Be sure to include the RSVP contact, a calendar invite, an event link if your meeting is virtual, and/or sign-in information.
Here is a Sample Media Advisory on an Upcoming School Visit to help you plan one of your own.
Some media campaigns are organized into a series of promotional events and interviews called a “media tour.” To learn more about planning your own media tour, click here for a guide.
A press release is an official statement released to the media providing information on a topic or event. Press releases may include some variation of answers to the five w’s (who, what, when, where and why) in paragraph form.
Here are some general ideas for when to send out a press release:
- Your school or institution is launching a new course or program of study.
- Your students have made a significant achievement, or have won an award.
- You want to announce your support, or disapproval, for something happening in your community. You, faculty, or other CTE advocates you know have made a significant achievement or contribution or won an award.
- You want to acknowledge the contributions of someone instrumental to your program or school’s success.
- Your school or institution has hired a new faculty member.
- You want to promote an event or visit from a policymaker or other influential guest.
If your news is not pressing or significant enough to warrant a news conference or media briefing, you may want to still send out a press release. You may also want to send out a press release after conducting a news conference or briefing. When sending out press releases, keep in mind that newsrooms are inundated with press releases. The average editor may receive hundreds of press releases in a typical week. Although no precise data has been collected, general opinion and observation indicate that only 10 to 20 percent of press releases submitted to the media are used in some way. As a best practice, send press releases Monday-Friday during normal business hours – typically 9:00AM – 5:00PM. Press releases are more likely to be read toward the beginning of the week and in the morning hours of the workday, rather than at the very end of the week.
Additional press release tips:
- Structure the press release with the most important information in the lead paragraph of your press release, and then move to the body of the release, with the least time-sensitive information and background information at the end of the press release.
- If you have a lot of information to include in the press release, you may use bullets to draw attention to the most important details.
- Include a quote from a leader or multiple supportive leaders at your school, partner organization, or institution to add weight to your press release, and always use direct quotes.
- Be sure to include an attention-grabbing title and subject line for the press release.
- Include external links to any visual media, such as photos. If you are sending press releases via email and include additional documents as attachments, note in your press release that you have attached documents to your email.
- Visit ACTE’s Press Releases page for more examples of press releases and formatting tips.
If the press release is to survive as a conveyer of information, it must be issued with discretion. Only send a press release if the information is truly news, according to the definition of “news” included above and proposed topics for a press release. Request permission to publish the press release on your institution’s website, and use the web link to share the press release on social media. You may also include your or your institution’s social media profile information with your contact information. Be sure to type it on your school’s or organization’s letterhead, and provide your professional contact information. Don’t forget your own school newspaper and other special publications, and be sure to share with faculty at your school to spread the word! Below are two more sample press releases to help you draft your own:
Public Service Announcements (PSAs)
PSAs are brief messages that provide helpful information to the public, solicit support for a particular cause, and/or offer an organization’s free services. Unlike paid advertising, PSAs are carried free of charge by publications, radio and television stations in an effort to educate an audience and to encourage people to do something such as participate, call, write or contribute. Before attempting to place a PSA, determine whom you want to reach with your message. Then identify the publications and stations in your area that service that particular audience. Once you have determined the media outlets you want to target, contact the head of either the community development or public service department to find out the proper procedures for submitting PSAs. Also keep in mind that some schools will play PSAs on morning announcements. This may be helpful if the goal of your PSA is to increase awareness of CTE programs within the student body.
Here are some sample topics to consider for a PSA:
- Promoting the CTE programs and classes your school or institution offers.
- Promoting student work done in CTE courses.
- How CTE helped former students prepare for the workforce.
- Career interests of current CTE students.
Guidelines for Placing Op-Eds and Letters to the Editor
Many newspapers provide a forum for opinions opposite the editorial page (“Op-Ed”) that address issues of concern to your community. 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 CTE), the op-ed page provides you with the chance to get your message in front of the entire community. A letter to the editor can also serve a similar purpose.
The goal of an op-ed or letter to the editor should be to leave your readers feeling like they have a solid understanding of the issue, what the solution to the problem is and how they can get involved to help make that change happen. A strong media campaign can reach large numbers of people to communicate about the importance of making strong federal investments in CTE!
Preparing an Op-Ed:
Here are five general steps to follow when preparing an op-ed:
- Find opportunities – Review publications in your region to determine which ones accept op-eds and which formats are preferred. ACTE’s Action Center features a media directory to help you find a list of your local media outlets.
- Decide on a topic – Relate your topic to a current issue affecting CTE. Perhaps write about the role of CTE educators in the school system, the reasons why CTE is an important part of the education and workforce development agenda, federal funding vehicles and current legislation moving through Congress, or any other CTE topic. In general, try to relate your topic to a current issue.
- Approach editors – If you are planning to send your op-ed to a national paper, consider sending a pitch letter to appropriate editors outlining the proposed topic and author. Note that some publications do not accept pitch letters. If you have established a relationship with a particular editor, make a call instead of writing. If you are sending your op-ed to a local paper, go ahead and prepare a draft to send. 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 or community, or with a recognized expertise or specialty.
- Prepare a draft – Determine what your paper’s guidelines are for submitting an op-ed. Your paper may have a specific format in which you have to send it in order to be considered, (e.g., length, double-spaced, etc.). Op-eds can run between 350-800 words, depending upon the paper. If you are preparing an op-ed for your local paper, be sure to localize your op-ed with statistics and examples of your point within your community and the coverage area of the newspaper. 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. A short paragraph at the end of your op-ed should be used to tell the editor exactly who the author is and why he or she is qualified to write this op-ed. Be sure to include your full name, title, address, e-mail and phone number so that you can be contacted. 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. If the editor ultimately declines the piece, try submitting to another outlet or reworking it and beginning the process again. Persistence is the key!
Keep in mind that virtually all large newspapers ask that an op-ed piece be on an exclusive basis, meaning no other publication can simultaneously print the piece. Be sure to only submit to one publication at a time, and do not submit it to another outlet until your piece has been declined. However, some outlets will not tell you that they are not running your submission. In this case, it is generally safe to submit your piece to another outlet after 10 business days.
If the publication publishes your piece, send a thank-you note to anyone that assisted with publication of the piece, and let ACTE know by emailing Jori Houck at firstname.lastname@example.org! If your piece is not selected for publication, send it to ACTE and we will publicize it on our Medium page and on our Twitter account, @ACTEpolicy.
Here is a sample op-ed to help provide some ideas for how to structure your op-ed – feel free to customize your op-ed, and make sure the media gets the message about CTE through your voice!
Letters to the Editor
A letter to the editor is an excellent way for CTE advocates to express the importance of strong federal investments in CTE to policymakers, as well as to educate people in the community about the importance and value of CTE. You may also use a letter to the editor to correct inaccurate facts about CTE, promote CTE, or to praise or condemn a recent article. Write persuasively; include local statistics and personal stories to make your point. In addition, it is important to remember that a letter to the editor is a vehicle for expressing your own opinion, and that it must take a clear stance on an issue. It is important to find the newspaper’s policy for printing the letters. Most newspapers require that letters be no more than 250 words.
Here is a sample letter to the editor to help you craft your own letter to the editor. You can navigate to ACTE’s Action Center to submit your letter to the editor to your local media outlets! Just navigate to the “media” section of the Action Center to find media in your area and compose your message. If your letter is published in print, let ACTE know by emailing Jori Houck at email@example.com.
Working With Your Newspaper’s Editorial Board
Most daily newspapers have editorial boards that determine which opinions are expressed on their editorial pages. This board meets regularly to consider topics and opinions for editorials. As a member of the community, you may request to meet with the editorial board. Who you will be meeting with depends upon the size of the newspaper. Typically, the editorial board consists of the editorial page editor(s) and editorial page writers. Some large papers may have several editors and numerous reporters in attendance, while smaller local papers may not even have an editorial board. If that is the case, you may request a meeting with the editor, who may bring along a reporter.
To schedule a meeting with the editorial board, call or email the newspaper’s editorial department expressing your interest in scheduling an editorial board meeting and ask them for the appropriate person to contact. Remember, timing is everything. Be sure to call at least a week in advance as the editorial calendar tends to fill up quickly. In addition, remember that it is important that your pitch for an editorial is timely and relates to current events. Once you find the correct person, he or she may ask you to send a letter or email explaining why you would like to schedule a meeting, outlining your issue and how it impacts the community. Just as if you were pitching a story to a reporter, keep your letter concise and to the point. Don’t overwhelm them with information. If they accept your request for a meeting, you will have an opportunity to present additional information during that time.
Once you have confirmed a meeting day and time with the editorial board, you need to be sure you are prepared. In planning for your meeting, you will need to decide who from your organization will attend. You may want to bring someone from within the community who is directly affected by the issue, someone knowledgeable about policy surrounding the issue or a communications professional. Everyone in attendance should be an expert on the issue and prepared to answer questions asked by the editorial board.
During the meeting, you will be asked to present to the editorial board information on your issue and why they should provide it editorial coverage. Prepare about 15-20 minutes on your issue and plan for a question-and-answer session. Be sure to bring along information you can leave behind for each person on the editorial board. Include facts sheets, charts, and/or any articles about your issue that ran in another publication.
After the meeting, be sure to follow up with the editorial board by sending a thank you note.
Paid Media, Earned Media and Digital Advertising
Paid media is media coverage and advertisements that an institution or organization pays to have placed as programming content, or as an advertisement on a television station, search engine, social media platform, newspaper, a website, or on radio. Earned media is media exposure and coverage generated by your institution or organization’s activities. Essentially, you “earned” positive press through positive reviews, strong content, press releases, media advisories, television coverage, word-of-mouth, etc. Both paid media and earned media are effective advocacy tools to get positive messages out about CTE.
Several popular social media platforms offer the ability to place ads and “boost” posts into other users’ feeds so that your content is seen by as many people as possible:
- Facebook: Facebook offers the ability to place ads and boost posts across Facebook and Instagram.
- Twitter: Tweets can be promoted on Twitter, and they will appear in other users’ Twitter feeds.
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn offers strategies for getting your content seen by the largest number of users possible, as well as a variety of paid advertising options.
- Google Ads: Google offers a variety of options to place ads on the Google search homepage, in addition to other Google products.
Advertising outside of social media:
- You can often purchase ads individually to be run in print publications.
- Ads can also be purchased to run on a specific web domain as a sidebar ad, banner ad, etc.
- Performing a Google search will provide a plethora of how-to guides and resources for purchasing online ads.
How to generate earned media:
- Interact with others in a helpful, positive manner! You never know where you could receive a shout-out.
- Promote your expertise as a CTE administrator, educator, etc.
- Distribute your content regularly, and through multiple distribution channels. E.g., (press releases, social media, print mediums).
- Use common keywords to direct search engines to your content. For example, use “career and technical education” often to place your content at the top of the returned results for career and technical education.
For more information on social media platforms and advocacy, visit ACTE’s Social Media Advocacy page.