The media is an important route for school board members to get their message across. The impact of the local media in the district far outweighs the impact of the national media. An editorial in the hometown newspaper carries the most weight. Through the media you can:
- Rally others to join you in support of legislation or local issues of importance to school boards;
- Expand your influence far beyond your board;
- Educate and mobilize the public on key educational issues; and
- Publicize the needs and activities of your school district.
A news release is the basic means of official communication with the media. To be effective, each message should tell the facts-who, what, when, where and how. Each release should also be dated and a contact person listed. Here are some other tips:
Letter to the Editor
- Write an attention-grabbing headline;
- Write the release to read like a news story;
- Present your viewpoint in the most positive way;
- Make your school board or school district the active player in the first sentence and quote a spokesperson;
- Include a release date, contact name and contact phone number;
- Make a mailing list of local media outlets;
- Learn the times for news shows and deadline times for newspapers;
- Keep a clipping file of all education stories so you will get to know which reporters cover which topics; and
- Provide the press release to other local groups and civic organizations who may be supportive of your position.
A letter to the editor is a useful way to speak out on an issue, respond to an article or editorial, or express your position in your own words. Concentrate on writing letters to the editor for your local newspapers since that will have the greatest impact. Even a letter that does not get published is valuable because it may be considered by a newspaper's editorial board reviewing an issue. Follow these guidelines when writing a letter to the editor:
- Be brief and focus on one issue-long letters may be edited;
- Refer to a recent event or an article;
- Close your letter by asking readers to contact their legislators;
- Give your address, school district and phone number so the newspaper can verify authorship (ask that your phone number not be published); and
- If published, clip your letter and mail it to your legislators.
A news conference should be reserved for a time when there is some significant development. Try to pick a date when there is a "news hook," and articles are likely to already be written on your subject.
- Make sure there is not a big competing event;
- Best times to hold a conference are 10:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. or 2:00 p.m.;
- Notify press ahead of time with date, time, location and importance;
- If making a group presentation, identify a spokesperson; and
- Keep comments brief and provide a written copy of speeches.