Many communities are keen to know what is happening in local schools and the profile of your school can be raised and presented in a positive light by successful use of the media. This counters a great deal of the damage done to the public view of education by more generalised central reporting, where sensationalism is the main criterion for publishing/reporting. By Linda Trapnell

Main points for positive results

  • Develop a working relationship with your LEA Press Officer and local reporter.
  • Have a designated, trained member of staff responsible for all dealings with the media. This can help to filter/moderate the statements made to the media!
  • Use press releases where possible.
  • Invest in a good digital camera so you can supply your own photographs of newsworthy events.
  • Be aware of all opportunities to promote your school e.g. supermarkets, waiting rooms in GP surgeries etc.

If you want to publicise an event at your school there are some key issues to consider. Phoning your contact on the local newspaper can be quick but can lead to misunderstandings and inaccurate reporting. The preferable option is to issue a press release, which details all the relevant information and is under your control.

Key points for writing a press release

  • Have a newsworthy item and gather all the basic facts.
  • Choose your opening words to get the attention of the reader.
  • Use short sentences.
  • Give an outline of the whole item.
  • Expand the detail/give quotes in a second paragraph.
  • Add any background information to put the item in perspective in a third paragraph.
  • Add contact details including e-mail address (this will not be published).
  • Get others to read the press release and comment.
  • Is it free of jargon/acronyms?
  • Does it address the audience you want to reach?
  • You can give the press release a headline but the editor will have final control over this.

Giving an interview on radio/television – Key Issues

  • This is not as easy as it sounds, even to seasoned professionals!
  • Make sure you know whether the interview will be relayed live or recorded (especially with radio interviews).
  • Ensure your Head Teacher is aware that you are doing the interview and of its subject.
  • Choose your location carefully for TV interviews – be aware of backdrop and possibility of pupil/staff activity in the background (two pupils pushing each other in the playground does not send the right message when you are talking about good behaviour!).
  • Rehearse what you think you might say in response to any possible questions (get others to role play). Be sure of your message.
  • When you’ve said what you’ve got to say, STOP! Don’t waffle.
  • Be wary of comments made to reporters before/after the interview – you may be quoted.

This article first appeared in Teaching Expertise, December 2004.