Media 101: Three Tips on How to Tell Your Charter School’s Story

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Media 101 for Charter Schools

When it comes to your public charter school, there are few skills more important than the ability to tell your school’s story!

Each day charter schools have passionate educators and talented students working hard to achieve both academic success and personal growth in the classroom. These schools, teachers, and students are core pillars of their communities, and other community members want to hear their stories. Sharing positive stories about your school with local media helps the community feel connected to your school, provides an opportunity to spotlight hard-working staff and students, and serves as a platform to catch the eye of potential school donors.

Below are three tips on how to engage with local media and tell your charter school story:

1. Identify Local Reporters to Build Relationships with

Follow local media coverage of charter schools and education to identify the local reporters covering education in your area. Next, build a spreadsheet of target local media reporters and contacts for you to reach out to about school announcements and events. Remember to include small media outlets! Community radio stations, local TV programs, weekly newspapers, local podcasts, and community newsletters are all options to consider. If your school serves a community of people who speak languages other than English, be sure to consider local media in those languages. These outlets can be critical sources of information for the community.

Once you have a reporter’s contact information, send them an individual e-mail and invite them to an introductory coffee or lunch to hear more about your school. Be aware that anything you say to a reporter is “on the record” and could be featured on the news unless you make an “off-the-record” agreement in advance of the conversation. Invite the reporter to do a school visit, introduce them to passionate educators at your school, and show them all that your students are accomplishing. When a reporter has a genuine relationship with a school they are more likely to write positive stories about the school.

2. Put Together a Press Kit for Your School

The purpose of a press kit is to provide journalists with key information about your school, the event, and background information they need to effectively write their story. Once you’ve put together the key documents, consider putting the press kit on your website so journalists on deadline can easily find the information they need. Be sure to date the documents so journalists will know that they are current and to update them whenever significant changes occur.

Sample Press Kit Contents:

  •  Media advisory template for your school
  •  One-page fact sheet or a brochure on your school. Be sure to include:
    1. An “About Us” paragraph
    2. Year founded, number of schools run by the organization (if part of a CMO or network), and information about the students served
    3. Highlights of what makes your program unique, honors you’ve received, and/or your academic results
    4. School contact information – Designate a contact for media at your school
    5. Biographies of the school founders, leaders, or board members (as appropriate)

3. Keep Local Media Informed About School Announcements

Local media are often interested in reporting on school events, student achievements, and teachers that are making a unique positive impact in the classroom. For school events that you would like to invite the media to, send a media advisory out to local media. For more formal news announcements, send a press release to local media.

  • Media Advisory: A brief notice to the media about an upcoming event or announcement. The advisory will concisely list the date, time, location, and purpose of the event, participants, and on-site contact information. This should be sent out the day before the event.
  • Press Release: A written communication announcing news that is sent to media. This usually contains a point of contact for further media inquiries or requests, and quotes from those associated with the event. This should be sent out the day of the event.

Remember that no one can tell your charter school’s story better than you can! Charter schools are neighborhood schools led by dedicated community members serving exceptional local public school students. The positive impact that each school is having on their community deserves to be shared.

 

Shaelyn Macedonio is the senior manager of media relations at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. For additional questions about working with the media, feel free to reach out to her directly at shaelyn@publiccharters.org.

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