Education Leaders: Engaging in Proactive Media Outreach Brings Positive Results

March 28, 2024

Our past education blogs focused on communicating with everyone in your district, building a communications plan and executing a communications plan. This blog addresses the vital role of engaging the media in helping to tell your district’s story and how to do that proactively.

With the advent of digital media, proactive communication is more important than ever. Getting ahead of the story before it spreads inaccurately or incompletely is necessary. Before the press shows up in your district unexpectedly, there are some steps you can take now to build a rapport while sharing the story you want your readers, viewers and listeners to know. Regularly engaging the media by providing them with information about your district and access to key communicators establishes relationships that you can rely on when something unexpected happens and the media is looking for answers. We call this, “paying into the bank of goodwill.”

Schedule In-person Meetings

Simply reaching out to meet with members of the media in person can go a long way in establishing positive, two-way communication and trust. This includes meeting not only with traditional print, television and radio reporters but also with online news outlets, minority-focused media and hosts of podcasts. Use this time to get to know them, their schedules and deadlines, how they prefer to receive information and their key media markets of interest. Share with them three pieces of information that will interest their readers, viewers and listeners. By providing precise and timely information to reporters, schools and districts ensure the public stays informed about significant developments and events within the education system and reporters have accurate information to use.

Send Tip Sheets

Once you have your initial in-person meetings, send weekly tip sheets. Ask your staff to provide you with information on what is happening in classrooms, what their students are doing and what extracurricular activities are taking place. Turn this information into news tips that provide a quick hit of current events happening in your district. The tips should include dates, times, a quick description and how they can learn more. While reporters may not use them every week, these tips remind them you are there and can help them craft an exciting story. By sending these regularly, you start to control the narrative of what is being communicated about your school or district.

Invite Them into Your Building

The best way to talk about something is to know more about it. Invite the reporter into your buildings to show them how learning occurs. For example, if a school hosts an author or guest speaker, invite them to attend as your guest. That’s great publicity for the speaker and your school. If a class is preparing for a competition, invite them to a practice session. Letting reporters see what is actually happening during the school day is a great way to educate them about your schools.

Arrange a Sit-Down with Your Superintendent and Treasurer

Providing access to your top administrators goes a long way in building trust with the media. Prepare your administrators ahead of time, outline an agenda for the meeting and be sure to provide key takeaways and information about future steps. Allowing both sides to get to know each other will go a long way in building a positive relationship.

Invite Reporters to Speak to Journalism and Media Classes

Whether there’s an elementary class crafting a school newsletter or a high school multimedia class putting together a school news program, invite reporters to be guest speakers in the classroom to talk about how they cover news stories. This allows for an exchange of ideas and provides the reporters with the students’ perspectives. Remember, learning goes both ways.

By proactively developing relationships with members of the media, schools and school districts effectively manage their reputation, build trust and enhance transparency. Establishing open, two-way communication channels is a great way to get your message out to stakeholders and allows you to control the narrative.