Whether you’re hoping to raise awareness for your school in general or hoping to get the word out about a particular program or event, media coverage is one of the best ways to get your school noticed. But learning to interact with the press can be challenging; too often, schools find themselves reacting to news coverage instead of helping to shape it.
There’s a lot of incredible things that go on in independent schools most people never hear about. Schools need to learn how to work better with the media, pitch their own stories to news outlets and find the perfect hook.
Of course, you could pay for advertisements in your local newspaper, radio or television. But unpaid editorial coverage has more credibility and far greater impact with potential families.
Unfortunately though, obtaining press coverage isn’t a simple matter of firing off a press release and hoping for the best. Successful media publicity is the result of hard work and careful planning.
In order to stand out in today’s information-saturated world, you’re going to need a plan – one that will help you land the coverage you need. Here are 8 tips to help you develop a strategy to help get your school in the news.
Do your research
Take the time to get to know your local media, including newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations. Find out who they reach, what type of content they cover and what their deadlines are. Make a list of the names of writers, editors and broadcasters who produce content that appeals to your target families.
Network in your community
Building community relationships and partnerships will increase your standing and build awareness for your school and what you offer. Often, news stories happen quickly and journalists reach out for people they know and trust. Building a strong community network will help build trust and influence within your community, making you the first person a journalist thinks of when there’s breaking news related to education in your area.
Build rapport with local journalists before you need them
Take the time to introduce yourself to local business reporters if you see them at an event. Offer to introduce them to key people or provide background information for a story. Be friendly, but don’t be pushy. And be sure to follow them on social media!
Develop your school’s story
Your school’s story is your chance to present in a way that’s irresistible to the press. Be compelling; show the world why your school needs to exist. Talk about how your school is changing the world. Spend time on this and make sure your school’s story is a good one.
Read more: Storytelling is Key to Forming Strong Connections with Parents
Write newsworthy press releases
Journalists respond to well-written and informative press releases. Consider investing in a media relations tool like Prowly, which easily creates visual press releases and publishes them in a dedicated newsroom. By the way, Prowly is a great PR tool; in addition to managing press releases, you can find relevant media contacts and send email pitches to start getting media attention.
Leverage natural PR opportunities
Local media love success stories! Success stories are attractive to readers and listeners – they would rather hear these than an enrollment pitch. One way to attract local media attention is to tell stories about how your school has been instrumental in helping students, administrators, teachers, parents and alumni overcome barriers. Other parents will identify with these stories and want to learn more about how your school can help their children as well.
Share information about upcoming events
The local community wants to know about upcoming events they can participate in, especially athletic, arts and fundraising events. Be sure to send out a compelling press release with photos and be sure to be available for interviews.
Track your efforts
Periodically review which activities have generated worthwhile publicity and continue to create more opportunities in that channel. Public relations isn’t a one-size fits all – you have to figure out what works best for your school. And you won’t necessarily get full-page coverage every time you submit a story, but you will increase your connections and raise awareness for your school. And that’s definitely good for increasing inquiries and enrollment.
Successful media coverage isn’t about being featured one time and then everyone knows about you; it’s about finding a way to facilitate ongoing coverage for your school. This is where the relationships you’ve been cultivating with the press will build momentum and sustain your school. Be sure to maintain your relationships with journalists who have featured your school. Follow them on social media, comment on their articles and introduce them to people they might find interesting. Work hard to maintain the relationships you’ve established.
What public relations strategies have worked well for your independent school? Please share in the comments below.