Working with Media

Menstuff® has compiled the following information on Ten Steps to Take Working with Media.

Ten Steps

Step One: Create A Media List

If you don't already have a list of reporters, editors, columnists and producers who cover education, children and families, parenting, workplace and feature stories in your media market, this is a good time to create one. Many United Ways have media guides that are available to community agencies for a nominal fee, and the public relations offices at community colleges are often willing to share their media lists with other education agencies.

If no such resource is available, make a list of all the TV and radio stations (including college and university-affiliated stations), daily and weekly newspapers (including ethnic, community and other specialty papers), wire services and magazines. Then call and ask for the name of the editor, reporter or producer who covers education, children and families, parenting, workplace and features. Request phone, fax and e-mail address for each person. Ask also for the names and contact information for producers at broadcast news and talk shows that cover issues like afterschool, and columnists who cover education and family issues at local newspapers of all kinds. Media lists should be updated twice per year, as journalists tend to shift beats and jobs fairly often, and you will use it often, to promote Lights On Afterschool! and other activities.

Step Two: Invite the Public to Your Event

Once you have designed your event, use the media to encourage people to come. Send an announcement to everyone on your media list the last week of September. Be sure to include your name and phone number in case there are any questions. (See Sample Save The Date.)

Step Three: Identify Your Key Messages

Develop key messages for your Lights On Afterschool! rally. These messages will be integrated into all your media materials and will be the focus of remarks by your spokespersons. If possible, narrow your key messages to three, and keep them simple, clear and concise. The following is an example of messages, but be sure to tailor yours to reflect what afterschool programs mean to your community and the challenges facing afterschool programs in your state.

The Bay City Afterschool Program keeps kids safe and healthy, improves academic achievement and helps working families. Children who come to our program every afternoon have a safe place to go, a range of fun and challenging activities, and supervision by adults who help them learn and stay out of trouble.

We're proud to join some 5,000 programs across the country to rally for afterschool as part of Lights On Afterschool! today. The Afterschool Alliance organized this event to underscore how important it is to save kids' afterschool programs, protecting them from budget cuts, thus keeping their lights on and doors open. The long-term goal of the Afterschool Alliance is to see to it that every child who needs an afterschool program, has access to one.. We thank the JCPenney Afterschool Fund for supporting Lights On Afterschool!.

Afterschool programs need more resources and more support. Too many afterschool programs are being forced to cut back or even close because of budget cuts, or because they were unable to secure funding in the first place. We ask lawmakers, business and community leaders, parents and others to do more to make afterschool available to every family that needs them.

Step Four: Structure Your Event with Media in Mind

Plan your event with media in mind. Some things to remember:

The media - particularly television reporters and photographers from newspapers - look for good visuals. Make sure your event has lots of color, action, and signs or banners with your program name and "Lights On Afterschool!" prominently placed.

Journalists need to file their stories during late afternoon hours, so plan the program for your Lights On Afterschool! event as early as possible. If you event goes from 3 PM to 5 PM, for instance, hold the program at 3:15 or 3:30 PM.

Choose two or three spokespersons. They might include your program director, a mayor or other prominent official who supports the afterschool program, and an articulate student who participates in the afterschool program. Make sure the spokespersons know your key messages and are familiar with all aspects of your Lights On Afterschool! event.

Be sure you have parental permission for any students to talk to journalists, on-camera or off-camera.

Sign up reporters and identify them with badges or nametags of a specific color when they enter your event so everyone knows who they are. You might also want to assign volunteers to stay with reporters - to introduce them to people, explain activities and answer questions.

Step Five: Appeal to the Press

On October 2 or 3, mail or fax a media alert about your Lights On Afterschool! event (See Sample Press Advisory.) to everyone on your media list. It serves as an invitation to reporters to cover the event. An alert is very basic and gives journalists info on who, what, where, when and why the event is important to the community. It is not a news release and need not include quotes or give great detail. A media alert should never exceed one page. If you have a wire service in your community (Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters), fax a copy of the advisory to the "Daybook Editor" there. She or he publishes a calendar of newsworthy events for other reporters to check each day.

On October 7 and 8, call everyone on your media list to make sure they received your media alert and to ask if they (or someone from their media outlet) can come. If they are unable to make it, plan to send them a news release on October 9. Many news outlets may be willing to write a story from a press release if they are unable to send a reporter to an event. If you call a talk show producer, ask about booking your afterschool program director as a guest on a future show to discuss the benefits of afterschool as well as the adverse effects of reduced funding and support.

Step Six: Issue a News Release

A few days before your event, write a news release. (See Sample News Release.) A news release is written like a news story, but has the advantage of being written from your point of view. It contains quotes from important people, background on your afterschool program and Lights On Afterschool!, and features your key messages. It should be no longer than two pages. It is essential that it list a contact person and daytime and evening phone numbers. Because the news release will be distributed at your event in the press kits, it should be written in the past tense. You should also fax it to journalists who do not come to your event.

Step Seven: Develop Press Kits

Assemble press kits to distribute at your event - enough for all the journalists you expect will come, and then some. The kits can be assembled in plain folders with a label from your afterschool program on the cover or, if you want to be creative, have students decorate the covers and write "press kit" prominently under the drawing. The kits should contain:

Your news release

They may also contain:

Step Eight: Manage Media at Your Event

On October 9, set up a "media sign-in" table. It should be easily recognizable to reporters and be placed at the entrance to the room or area where your Lights On Afterschool! event will take place. Assign a staff person or volunteer to be at the table throughout the event to assist journalists. Have a sign-in sheet with "name of reporter," "media outlet" and "phone number" written in columns at the top. Each reporter who signs in should be given a press kit and verbal information about your rally. If something special is happening in half an hour, make sure to tell him/her that. Give each reporter a badge or nametag to wear so everyone at the event can easily identify press people. Do not be surprised if reporters "take over the room" briefly by setting up special lights for cameras, clipping their microphones to the podium or putting tape recorders on the podium. Be prepared to help them, as long as their needs do not disrupt your event.

Step Nine: Event Management

Don't let the story end on October 9. Make copies of any articles or broadcast stories about your Lights On Afterschool! event that appear in print and circulate them to your board of directors, funders, parents, volunteers and policy makers at all levels. Assign people to monitor local TV news shows on October 9 and tape any stories that appear about your event. Keep those tapes to show at fundraisers, orientations or meetings you have in the future.

Stay in contact with reporters who attend your event or produce stories. Contact them in May or June to see if they'd be interested in doing an end-of-school-year follow-up on your afterschool program. Or have the students in your program create a thank-you card to send the week after Lights On Afterschool! in appreciation for a good story. You might even contact the reporter to see if he or she would host a group of kids from your program, so they can see what it's like to work at a TV, radio or newspaper office. Maintaining that relationship after the event will help you the next time you are looking for publicity.

Step Ten: Celebrate!

On October 10, be sure to collect clips from local newspapers. Then, relax. You mastered the fine art of media relations, and your afterschool program and the children you serve benefited from your efforts. Congratulate yourself and your team on a job well done.

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