With the possible exception of back-to-school time, there’s no better season to pitch positive school stories to reporters than the end of the school year. The months of May and June in particular create ideal opportunities to highlight student success stories and the educators behind them.
When is the best time to start preparing for those pitches? Now! With the school year well into the home stretch, it’s not too early to start gathering a variety of story ideas that will resonate with reporters and editors.
What are your “bootstraps” stories?
You will, of course, notify the press about the expected news items – graduation ceremonies, awards nights, Teachers of the Year, and other annual favorites. This year, challenge yourself to identify and pitch unexpected news. Reporters and readers alike love stories about people overcoming adversity to achieve success – individuals who “picked themselves up by the bootstraps.”
- Find the high school senior who’s earning a diploma after having dropped out and returned to school.
- Profile the graduate who overcame a medical or personal obstacle to don cap and gown.
- Feature the recent immigrant who arrived in America speaking almost no English but is now becoming the first in her family to go to college.
Above all, underscore that these young men and women are graduating because talented educators cared enough to support and encourage the students through difficult times.
Schedule your pitches around timely media hooks.
Compelling story ideas are both timely and relevant. Reporters and editors are looking for stories that reflect what’s going on in the community and in the world. Be sure to look for opportunities to tie your media outreach to milestones on the calendar, and write catchy headlines and email subject lines that make the connection.
For example, the end of the school year is filled with testing, which can create stress and anxiety for students, parents, and teachers. Put a more positive spin on an otherwise daunting topic. How are your schools helping kids ease the jitters and develop the confidence to excel? Are the schools holding any high-energy pep rallies before the year-end state exams? (These make for great TV news stories.) Notify the press about test schedules, such as the College Board’s Advanced Placement exams, to highlight your school’s efforts to prepare students for rigorous, college-level work.
This is also a great time of year to celebrate and congratulate outstanding teachers who make student success possible, particularly when the teaching profession is under fire in media and political circles. Find innovative ways to thank and applaud your educators during Teacher Appreciation Week. Invite the press to any school-based teacher tributes, and remember that surprise celebrations that catch the honorees off guard make for great television.
Don’t forget about social media.
In addition to traditional press, all of these strategies and ideas apply to social media as well. Be sure to end the school year on a high note with frequent postings on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other popular sites, featuring links to stories, videos and images of celebrations and achievements.
When you’ve exhausted all of your good news year-end stories, you’re ready to start planning your pitches about summer learning and back-to-school preparations!