The main forms of media which are commonly used by the wider community:
- Print Media
Here are a few guiding principles when using these forms of information sharing:
What makes news?
It is important to be clearly aware of what is newsworthy. Sometimes the most obvious story is overlooked. Review your activities and find an “element” that is newsworthy.
Look for effect
Take note of what is being covered by the media. Look at the information you wish to convey from a news angle perspective.
When preparing an article, take account of what appeals to an audience and convey your information to fit the policy of a particular medium. For example, what is the policy at your local radio station, paper, T.V. network, facebook.
Note: If you haven’t got a story, create one. Look at what is coming up on your calendar. Create a story around that theme.
If you have a newsworthy story, contact the media. They may organise for a reporter to interview you if the story is interesting enough. Your group can help the process by writing a press release or a letter to the Editor.
Letters to the Editor
Sometimes an effective publicity tactic is a well-timed letter to the editor. It may be possible to link your case with letters about other issues as a way in:
- Be clear and pointed.
- Type your letter if you can, check your spelling, and always add a telephone number at the bottom as they will probably ring to check the authenticity of the letter before printing it. Hopefully, you may start a debate through the letter columns.
- A useful tactic is to get someone else to respond to your letter enabling you to write another one, restating your case.
- Always reply to any critical letters, correct errors of fact and rebut any false allegations
A media release is a way of making an announcement and informing the media about something of general interest to the public. Local newspapers often print press releases just as they are and this is one of their big advantages. For that reason they have to be written like a short newspaper article. With big newspapers, radio and T.V. stations, press releases motivate the paper or station to send a reporter out to do a story about your school or the incident that you are trying to publicise.
Local papers are often interested in local stories, especially something new or unusual. Local journalists are often under pressure – if you deliver them a ready-made story they will be grateful! A photo opportunity with children often helps.
How to write a media release
- Put the date and a brief heading on top to explain what the press release is about, e.g. “No more chocolates: School fundraisers go healthy“
- Go straight to the heart of the story in the first sentence – give the background story later, if at all (see next point)
- One page only. The idea is to get the journalist’s attention. They can always ask you if they want more detail.
- Should be on letterhead if possible – if not type name and address of the organisation at the top
- Use simple language, short sentences and short paragraphs
- Avoid jargon and acronyms
- Make sure to answer the “Five W” questions: What? Who? Where? When? Why?
- Give the full name of your organisation early in the story (if it is relevant) with the initials in brackets – e.g. Parents Victoria (PV). From then on you can use just the initials
- Include quotes that the journalist can insert directly in their story, e.g., “The President of the Parents and Citizens’ Association, Alice Bluegown said…”
- Don’t use facts or opinions that have come to you second hand unless you can check their accuracy.
- For newspapers, offer a photo opportunity if possible. You might need to line up people and props, e.g. children and a basket of fruit for the “healthy fundraiser” story.
- Conclude with contact details for at least one person: someone who can comment and will be available in the 24 hours after the release goes out
Send your press release to the news editor or an individual reporter who you think will be sympathetic. Email addresses are usually available for journalists.
Some times are better than others for getting press coverage. Get to know the weekly deadline for your local paper and special sections of the dailies (e.g. Education Age)..
When using email, request a ‘read receipt’ so that you know that your email has been opened.
Here is an example of a media release. This release was written back in the 1970s but the principles haven’t changed!
Pictures speak louder than words, so if you have something to catch people’s eye, use it to your best advantage. For print media, see if the newspaper will send a photographer out. Otherwise arrange to send a photo of your own:
- Use photos with good contrast and interesting composition
- Think about the message the photo conveys to the public. Is this about fun? Or a serious issue?
- Provide a caption that names the people in the photo and explains it if necessary.
- Indicate the source of the photo.
- Make sure you have the permission of anyone whose image appears on the photo.
Radio, TV & online
Radio, T.V. and online are very effective avenues for sharing information
Contact your local radio or T.V. station to comment on issues that are either already being debated or to raise issues you feel need publicity and action. Some areas have a community radio station run by volunteers. This is an ideal avenue for clubs to promote activities or raise issues of concern.
When considering an interview for radio or T.V. there are important points to remember:
Be well prepared
Do your homework – research the issue so that what you say is fact. Always check Parents Victoria policy so that you are familiar with the organisation’s view of the issue. Contact the Parents Victoria office if needed.
Keep to the point
Don’t be intimidated or led into other issues with which you are unfamiliar. Only say what you want to say – don’t be coerced into making statements that you don’t wish to make. If unsure of an answer, say that you are unable to make comment or you are unsure, rather than stating something that may be incorrect.
Only comment on what is relevant to the Parent Club
Issues affecting the school should be raised, as that is one of the roles of the club, but be careful not to make statements on behalf of the school, only on behalf of the Parent Club.
Don’t be afraid to use these forms of media. Much impact can be achieved from these very effective channels of communication. The Parent Club can raise its profile considerably by considering these promotion strategies.