PR tips from a former Education Reporter
Exam results day were among the most exciting in my diary when I worked as an education reporter, they were frantic and a time when my phone rang and my e-mails pinged faster than I could write. Quite rightly every school and college wants to see the culmination of years’ of hard work, by both students and staff, recognised in the local newspaper, and its website, and on social media, for everyone to see. But sometimes a few lines of statistics in an email to reporters or one-off tweet might not be enough to get you noticed. Here are a few tips to bear in mind next time you want to grab attention of journalists and other social media watchers.
The school exam results are released in the middle of the summer holidays which means it is often a good idea to plan publicity opportunities before your school or college closes its doors in July. A phone call or email to journalists to say that your school will be welcoming reporters, photographers and film crews on results day will be welcomed as it will save them a few phone calls to get a venue organised. Also the first one to offer is likely to get a positive response.
Yes the headline statistics are the most important and the message you want to get across but if you want decent coverage from the local newspaper, radio station or television news the human story behind the results is what is going to sell your schools success, and is a strong angle for a press release which will be get noticed.
A journalist is particularly interested in the headline that is going to drive clicks to their website and the story that is going to make the reader stay there, and people like to read about other people. As well the students who have achieved the highest grades, or have secured places at the best universities, think about those students who have achieved better than expected, or those who has combined a glittering sports or music career with their studies, or the student who has a personal story which could tug on the heart-strings. That last one is the story a journalist always wants, but not the one you might feel comfortable going ahead with, and of course co-operation with the student and their parents is needed throughout. If in doubt consider the help of a media professional.
Effective use of social media, as opposed to traditional media, is another way to grab attention for your college or school’s success. Students, parents, and everyone else, regularly check their social media feeds. It is also worth remembering journalists monitor social media for news gathering. Do you have someone who can tweet the events of results day – from the moment the students enter the doors, to when they get their results, and their reaction before they leave? The school’s Facebook page is a good place to share photographs, video, and short stories from the big day, as well as a statement from the headteacher or principal, and followers can like and share which means more people will see it. Instagram followers will look forward to images of the day’s events.
One of the first places people may look to find your exam results is by visiting the school’s website. As they may do it on the day of the results it is good to have something posted on the day. If you have a prepared statement written to send out to the media than that can also go on the website. If not a short statement with the headline results and quote from the headline will be enough to inform in the first instance – either on the site’s home page, or with a link on the homepage to the news. More details of student success can follow as you update your website. An in-depth piece on the day’s events can be posted in the news section of your school’s website or blog, alongside photographs, and or a video. You can also link to the school’s website through its social media channels which in turn will also increase traffic to the website.
Recognition and publicity for the achievements of students and staff in A-levels and GCSEs are important – students will feel congratulated and staff will appreciate the recognition. But also the points above may also feel like a lot of extra work, at a time when there are also important tasks to be done. This is when drafting in someone, with professional expertise, to help take the ease pressure could come in handy.
Joanna Woodhouse is a Freelance Writer and former Education Reporter with a special interest in the education and training sector, and produces press releases, website content, blog posts, and will take on general writing tasks. Contact me at Joanna@joannawoodhouse.co.uk or telephone 01652 634013/07773301225. Visit JoannaWoodhouse.co.uk Also find me on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.