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Online Toolkit: Media Tips

A good relationship with your community's media is critical to the success of your American Education Week project. Building relationships means contacting producers, editors, and reporters at your local cable television shows, radio talk shows, newspapers, and magazines.

Your persistent media relations efforts will generate local and regional print and broadcast publicity. You can successfully deliver your local American Education Week message by crafting an effective strategy. Sometimes that means "out-of-the-box" thinking—perhaps something with an unconventional news hook.

Here some guidelines. Tailor these ideas to best fit your American Education Week promotion needs.

Working with the Media

  • Get to know your local education reporter. General news goes to a "city desk" or an assignment editor.
  • Compile a list of newspapers, broadcast stations, and other news outlets in your community. Be sure to include the following:
    • Weeklies
    • Community bulletins
    • Business newspapers
    • College papers
    • Special audience newspapers
    • Religious organization newsletters
    • Magazines
    • Cable and public access stations
    • Community Web sites with bulletin boards or ads
  • Gather details about the media outlets you plan on targeting, including:
    • First and last names of proper contacts (news editors, assignment editors, and community affairs reporters)
    • Mailing addresses (office and email)
    • Phone and fax numbers
    • Deadline information
    • Photography requirements
    • Policies
  • Determine the best way your local reporter likes to receive news releases (snail mail, email, or fax).
  • Update your contact list regularly.
  • Be a media resource. When you hear of a newsworthy story, inform your contacts, even if it is not about American Education Week.
  • Provide information upon request. If you don't know the answer, try to find out and respond to the request as soon as you can. It's okay to say, "I don't know the answer, but I'd be happy to find out and get back to you as soon as possible."
  • Respect and honor reporters' deadlines. Understand it's a 24/7 news world. You are competing for time and attention.
  • Make your "pitch" brief and highlight the most pertinent information about your activity.
  • Do not call reporters inquiring as to whether they received your fax.

Media Outreach Ideas

  • Develop a pitch letter to the media informing them about why they should cover local American Education Week activities/events taking place throughout the week. Be sure to include a media alert and/or press release along with this letter. (View a sample pitch letter)
  • Distribute the American Education Week sample media alert a week in advance of your event. It provides all the information the media needs to know and outlines why it’s important for them to cover your event. (View a sample media alert)
  • On the day of your event, send the American Education Week sample press release to media contacts. The release provides a detailed picture of the event and background information about American Education Week. (View writing a press release) and sample press release)
  • Pitch local education reporters—both print and broadcast—a story on your local American Education Week celebration activities and offer interviews with your spokespeople.
  • Arrange photo opportunities with local dignitaries and/or public figures who participate in your activity. Tailor our sample media alert to provide media with a heads up about the photo opportunity.
  • Submit an article to your community newspapers or organization's newsletter detailing national and local American Education Week activities. (View a sample newsletter article)
  • Work with your local radio stations to run an American Education Week public service announcement (PSA). (View sample radio PSAs)
  • Tailor the sample AEW press release for college audiences and send it to a local college or university's campus newspaper.

Writing a Press Release

A press release communicates the details and important information associated with your event and/or activity. It also informs readers what the event or issue is, why your news is important, who is involved or making a statement, and how readers can get more information.

Because reporters receive hundreds of press releases every day, your release should cut through the clutter. Catch the attention of busy readers. Be simple, concise, and factual. Here are some tips on writing a press release.

  • Print the press release on your local Association's letterhead.
  • Press releases answer the questions of who, what, when, where, why, and how. Present the information in descending order of importance.
  • The last paragraph typically includes a statement about the local Association.
  • Keep it short. In general, a news release should not be longer than two pages.
  • Use wide margins (1 to 1.5 inches on both sides) in order for media readers to edit.
  • Avoid self-serving comments and phrases, unsubstantiated opinions, and superlatives associated with marketing a product.
  • If announcements are being made or opinions are expressed, they should be attributed to the person who is saying them.
  • Ensure the release is grammatically correct. Double-check spelling.
  • After your story appears in your local paper, city magazine, community newspaper, or newsletter, send a copy of the story to your state affiliate communications office.

Distributing Your Press Release

Follow these guidelines to ensure a successful distribution of your press release:

  • Send an accompanying "fact sheet" to provide context for your release. NOTE: If you send attachments, itemize them at the end of the release. (View sample fact sheets)
  • Send a photograph with your release if it's appropriate.
  • Don't send your release to more than one editor per publication. Determine in advance who will receive it.
  • Send the release to several media outlets.
  • Know the deadline and publishing or broadcasting schedules of your local media outlets in order for you to distribute your release or event in a timely manner.
  • In addition to the media, keep other people informed such as legislators, members of boards, business people, civic and religious leaders, and local associations.
  • Do not fax more than two pages unless requested.
  • Don't be disappointed if your press release does not result in coverage. The media did, in fact, receive the information that may influence when and how they cover subsequent stories.

Developing a Press Kit

A press kit provides reporters with comprehensive background information about American Education Week and the activities you may be planning. A press kit is generally comprised of the following elements:

  • A folder to hold all the press materials. Press kit folders usually include the organization's logo on the cover.
  • A news release announcing the newsworthy details of your event or activity. The news release highlights why the reporter should cover your story. 
  • Fact sheets to provide more thorough background information about your celebration and school or organization. Fact sheets help put your releases into context.
  • Biographies of your spokesperson(s) to familiarize reporters with your experts.
  • Brochures or other promotional materials that help provide more details about your event or activity.

Other elements to consider include one-page documents that:

  • Explain the nature and extent of involvement or partnerships with the community (including schools, businesses, foundations, nonprofits, social service agencies, community-based organizations, and civic groups).
  • Highlight your efforts to help students achieve, including approaches, tangible goals, and ways to get involved.
  • Provide a sample of anecdotes (with quotes) from teachers, other school staff (secretaries, bus drivers, cafeteria workers, custodians, principals, and the superintendent), substitute educators, school board members, and parents. These quotes should highlight their participation and involvement in your event/activity.