The Optimus blog

The blog that inspires leaders in the UK education sector

Lisa Griffin

Extra, extra! Use the media to your advantage

Getting positive coverage in the media can enhance the reputation of your school. So what do you need to do to ensure the publicity you attract is used to your advantage?

There needs to be a relationship between schools and the press. While the press like human interest stories that make their readers feel good, a bad news story with the potential to shock can make a big impact. Schools are often good sources of both.
 
Most local newspapers run school-friendly articles, especially in the summer months when news is light. School inspection outcomes are an obvious source of good or bad news. The well-known saying, ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’, may seem hard to believe sometimes but if you know how to use the attention and publicity to your advantage this can ring true.
 
Our upcoming Managing school publicity – the good and the bad webinar will explore ways to get attractive media coverage and use publicity to enhance the reputation of your school. School marketing expert Paul Sample will provide advice to promote the positive, enhance reputation, and mitigate the negative by appropriately reacting to publicity and following up with next steps.

Turn a negative to a positive

Any negative publicity is usually coloured by press sensationalism, with headlines such as ‘Damning report condemns failing school.’ It is important to use the press, even on the back of a negative story like this, to highlight the good things your school is doing – how are you working to address the issues bought up in the report? Even a school in difficulty has its positive points so ensure you make them known.
 
Fortunately the public often has a short memory so, if you have experienced a less than glowing news story, get a good news story into the press as quickly as you can. Know the key messages you want to put forward and identify who you want your audience to be. This is part of building the reputation of your school and strengthening your position in the local community.

Know your audience

The best ways to communicate messages are those that get direct to the highest proportion of our target audience quickly and with least effort. That means using mechanisms that push messages directly to our audience including letters and newsletters, social media and press releases, to name a few. Remember you can use more than one method: there will be some people who prefer reading hard copies and others who will stay up-to-date with news online instead.

Write a press release

If something has happened and you want to make clear how you are dealing with it, celebrating it, or reacting to it, write a press release. The press release needs to have a punchy heading that grabs the reader’s attention in five or six words. Then, tell the story in 300 - 400 words.
 
Pull out and highlight an interesting and lively quote from the press release. Make the quote capture the key message; for example, ‘Chair of governors, John Smith, said, “We are all delighted with this award, it just shows what our pupils can really do.”’
 
A press release should not be a rambling statement. Aim to create one side of A4 double-spaced; anything more than a page and a half is too long.

Use the media

Keep your school in the local news and write press releases. A school is a major player in a local community and that community wants to feel proud of its school. You need to provide reasons for making your community feel proud – and the reasons need to be backed with results.
 
 

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