Americans today want more news coverage of their schools. If I was the principal at Brownsville Elementary School, there are a few steps I would take to improve the media coverage for the school. First, I would identify key media reporters and work at creating a friendly, beneficial relationship with them. I would go and personally introduce myself to each of them to begin a rapport with them if I didn’t already know them. I would also take their calls or office visits whenever possible, or call back as soon as possible.
Being courteous and establishing friendships would help ensure the information and stories to be more accurate. Second, I would be proactive and identify all potential news opportunities regularly and feed these story ideas and information to my media contacts. By giving them an overwhelming amount of good coverage ideas, I will have increased the chances of them broadcasting or printing at least some of them. I would even going as far as sending them sound and pictures if I could, as that would make it a compete news story package.
To be considerate and to ensure the best chances at getting coverage for the school events, I would also offer these as far in advance as possible, and I would offer at least a couple different options in length for each story so they could choose from the one that would fit their time slot the best. Third, I could improve the media coverage for the school by finding ways to link the school’s story or event to a national issue or trend. For example, if the national issue is about school violence, then I could relate this to the school’s safety efforts.
Or, if the national issue is about school bullying, then I could relate this to the school’s character education program and celebrations. Writing news releases and public service announcements for these events would also assist the news reporters. Finally, for those events that the news reporters decide not to report on, I would work the digital media the best I could. I would have gifted and talented students cover the stories and put them in the school or local newspaper. I would also post the positive messages about the school on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
These are just some of the steps I could take to improve the media coverage for the school. If I were the principal of Brownsville Elementary School, I would also include Sandra and the rest of the staff in my plan for increasing the school’s media coverage. I would speak with the entire staff about the need to change any negative attitudes towards the media, and encourage them to begin to look at the media as our allies. I would point out that news reporters will spread good news about our school and education, but that we are going to have to assist them in hearing about it first.
I would give them a mini media training to help them feel more comfortable with the media and to help them understand what the media likes/expects. Then I would begin by having everyone fill out a form at least monthly, if not bi-monthly, listing any events that could even remotely be newsworthy. I would make sure to let staff know that this is not expected from just the teachers, but from everyone, including the custodial, maintenance, and secretarial staff. By having all of us work together, more events could be identified as newsworthy than if it was just left up to me to think of.
Then I could send these lists regularly to the media contacts. The more choices the media staff has to choose from, the more likely they will devote a section of the paper or broadcast for the school. I would include Superintendent Shirley in my plan to improve the school’s media coverage as well. I would ask him to also establish positive relationships with the regular media reporters in the district and to publicize the school in a positive way as often as possible.
I would ask Mr. Shirley to embrace the media and respect them by getting them the information they need when they ask for it, and to seek the media out by sending out press releases or conducting press briefings consistently and regularly. I would ask for his help in working with the media to achieve an equitable balance between what we want publicized and what they will publicize. Plus, the superintendent should make contact with the media when they misinform the community about school-related issues, when they inaccurately assess school issues, or when they are completely out of line so to speak.
Finally, I would encourage him to be the thought leader on education, and be willing to comment on national and state education matters, even if they are not tied to the district or our school, because this would build up his credibility when he is confronted with an issue that is about the district or our school. I could assess my plan to improve media coverage for the school in a couple ways. First, I could look at the media stories or broadcastings and determine whether the issues overall were framed in a way that supported the school’s position and language.
If they did, then the efforts are working and the media coverage is swaying public opinion in favor of our school. If the stories and broadcastings overall do not reflect the school’s view, either neutrally or in opposition, then public opinion in being swayed away from the school and our efforts need to be revised. I would specifically look to see if the headlines reflected the school’s view of the issue, whether people from the school were quoted or interviewed, whether the opposition was quoted without a chance for rebuttal, were there major omissions made, or whether the school’s message was cut short or twisted.
Secondly, I would assess the effectiveness of my plan by examining whether there was an increase in the number of media stories and broadcasts for the school. If there was an increase, then that meant our school was seen more, read about more, understood more, and appreciated more. It would be safe to say our plan and efforts would be working. Finally, I would make sure Superintendent Shirley was informed of the school’s efforts and successful, increased media coverage.
I would save a copy of each written news piece and either mail it to him or scan it into an email and send it to him every time. I would provide a link to the news broadcast if interviews or videos were conducted. I would ask his opinion of the articles or make comments about the activities or issues focused on to make sure he knew about these press coverages. In doing so, I would ensure that the superintendent was aware of the increase in the positive news coverage for the school, as he desired.