Nine Steps to Media Coverage
This quick guide, from The Afterschool Alliance, is designed to help organizations land local media coverage for their events, report releases and other newsworthy items. If it helps you, let us know in the Comments section!
Step One: Save the Date
Send out a “Save the Date” emailto all of your local media outlets, announcing events that your organization will pursue in the coming year. Do this at the beginning of the year (or school year) to get your event onto calendars of future events.
If you don’t already have an existing list of reporters, editors and producers who cover education, parenting or families in your area, this is a good time to create one. Make a list of all the TV and radio stations (including college and university-affiliated stations), local newspapers (including weeklies) and magazines and Websites. Then, Google or call to get the name of the editor, reporter or producer who covers your issue, for example, education, parenting or family issues. Also get their telephone, e-mail addresses and social media handles.
Step Two: Invite Them to Come
Once you have designed your event, you may want to use the media to encourage people to come. A sample announcement could be:
Celebrate all that afterschool programs do for our children and for all of us in (name of community). On October 11, from 3:00 – 6:00 p.m., (name of program) invites everyone in the community to Lights On Afterschool! at (location). We’ll (give a 20 word description of event). Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to help our children discover the heroes within themselves. For more information, call (phone number).
Send your announcement to all local community calendar editors of media outlets about two weeks before your event. Use email and social media. Direct Tweets to reporters can be very effective. But be careful you don't overload their social media.
You can send a short email or Tweet asking the editor to run the announcement as often as possible prior to the event. Be sure to include your contact info in case there are any questions.
Step Three: Tell Them Why It’s Important.
Develop key messages about your program. These messages will be integrated into all your press materials and will be the primary things said by all your spokespersons. If possible, you should narrow your key messages to three.
In your messages, you want to convey the contributions your program makes towards improving academic achievement, helping working families, and keeping kids safe and what you want the community to think/feel/do about your program. This last message might involve a call to action for more community support. Here is an example of three messages, but feel free to create some that truly reflect what YOU need to say about your program.
- The Bay City Afterschool Program provides a safe, friendly learning environment for our community’s kids, helps working parents, and boosts academic achievement.
- Our lights are on every weekday, lighting the way for Bay City’s children to learn, imagine and discover the heroes within themselves. And we’re thrilled to be one of thousands of high quality programs across the country celebrating Lights On Afterschool! today.
- Bay City Afterschool Program needs everyone in the community – parents, business leaders, adult volunteers and elected officials – to spend some time here demonstrating that you care about the future of these kids. Whether you can volunteer only once a year or can come every week, please call us and see how you can get involved in keeping the Lights On Afterschool!
Step Four: Appeal to the Press
Plan your event with the press in mind. Some things to remember:
- The media – particularly television reporters – are looking for good visuals. Make sure your event has lots of color and action and signs or banners with your program name prominently placed. Consider taking video and photographs and sharing them directly with news outlets using their social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
- Choose two or three spokespersons. They might include your program director, a parent or volunteer who is involved in some way with your program, a prominent member of the community who is familiar with your program, and an articulate youngster who participates in the program. Make sure the spokespersons have the messages you’ve created and are familiar with all aspects of the event.
- Sign reporters up and identify them with badges or nametags as 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: Send a Press Advisory
A few days before your event, write up a press advisory (see the sample) that will serve as an invitation to reporters. An advisory is very basic – who, what, where and when.
If you have a news service bureau in your community (Associated Press, United Press International, Reuter’s), be sure to email a copy of the advisory to the “Daybook Editor.” This is a person who publishes a calendar of newsworthy events for other reporters to check each day. Email or use social media to get it to everyone else on your press list.
The day before your event, call or direct Tweet all reporters/editors/producers who were sent the advisory to make sure they received it and find out if they (or someone from their media outlet) can make it to the event. If they are unable to make it, ask if you can send a news release on the day of your event. Many local news outlets may be willing to run a press release or video from an event if they are unable to send a reporter to an event.
Step Six: Send a News Release
About a week before your event – or as soon as all the details are nailed down – you should write a news release (see sample.) The 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 program and always contains your top three messages. It should be no longer than two pages double-spaced. It is essential that it list a contact person and daytime and evening numbers as well as email (and social media if you'd like). Because the news release will be distributed at your event in the press kits, it should be written in the past tense.
When you email the release, keep it clear and simple. Avoid fancy images and use CAPITALIZATION to indicate headers.
Step Seven: Develop a Press Kit
As soon as your news release is written, it’s time to put together a press kit for distribution at your event. You won’t need to assemble a lot of press kits – only as many as the number of reporters you think will show up. The kits can be assembled in plain folders with a label from your program on the cover or, if you want to be creative, have some of the kids in your program decorate the covers and write “press kit” prominently under the drawing. The kit should contain:
- The news release
- A one-page background sheet on your program
It may also contain:
- A wish list from your program
- A few letters from parents, volunteers or kids describing why they are so excited by your program
- Notable facts – for example how has your program grown since its inception or how many kids are on your waiting list or how many volunteers does your program have
You do not want the press kit to contain more than ten pages of paper. Make sure there is contact information in case the reporter wants to call someone in the weeks after the event.
Save the kit in PDF format, as well, to email to reporters after the event or to those who cannot make it.
Step Eight: Event Management
On the day of your event, set up a “press sign-in” table. It should be easily recognizable to reporters and should be at the entrance to the room or location where your event will take place. Assign a staff person or volunteer to man the table throughout the event to assist press people. Have a sign-in sheet with “name of reporter,” “media outlet” and “phone number, email, social media" written in columns at the top. Each reporter who signs in should be given a press kit and any verbal instructions. If something special is happening in half an hour, make sure to tell him/her that. Give each reporter a badge or name tag to wear so everyone at the event can easily identify press people.
Step Nine: Follow-up
Don’t let the story end after your event. Copy or save any stories that run, or notable social media messages and circulate them to your Board, funders, parents and volunteers. Assign people to monitor local TV news shows and social media on your event day and note any content about you. Keep video if they have it to show at any fundraisers, orientations or meetings you have in the future.
Stay in contact with reporters who attended your event or produce stories. Contact them later in the year to see if they’d be interested in doing an end-of-school-year follow-up on your program. Or have the kids in your program create a huge thank-you card to send in the week after the event in appreciation for a good story. Consider sharing that card through your (and the reporters') social media outlets.
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 once the event is over will help you the next time you are looking for some publicity.
LIGHTS ON AFTERSCHOOL!
October 11 is a day of national activity to spotlight innovative high quality afterschool programs across the U.S. Here in Bay City, the Lights are On at the Bay City Afterschool Program. We’ll be celebrating by inviting parents, community and business leaders, elected officials and volunteers to rally neighborhood support for afterschool programs. Men and women who have participated in our afterschool program for the past 20 years will share their memories.
So mark your calendars – Thursday, October 11, 3:00 – 6:00 p.m. Details to follow. Contact Jane Doerayme at [phone and email] if you have questions.
Sample Press Advisory
(be sure to email with your signature and logo at the bottom)
|October 8, 20XX||
Contact: Jane DoeRayme
BAY CITY AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAM CELEBRATES
NATIONAL LIGHTS ON AFTERSCHOOL! WITH OCTOBER 11 CELEBRATION
October 11 is a day of national activity to spotlight innovative high quality afterschool programs across the U.S. Here in Bay City, the Lights are On at the Bay City Afterschool Program. We’ll be celebrating by inviting parents, community and business leaders, elected officials and volunteers to join us for an afternoon of games, food and reminiscing. Men and women who have participated in our afterschool program over the past 20 years will share their memories and reflect on the impact afterschool had on their lives. Speakers will include Mayor David Cooper; Evelyn Jamison, president, Busy Hands Toy Store; and Carter Mendelsohn who has volunteered over 600 hours with the Bay City Afterschool Program.
WHAT: Rally Around Bay City Afterschool
WHEN: Thursday, October 12, 3:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Formal program from 4:00 – 4:30 p.m.
WHERE: Bay City Middle School Auditorium
4521 Maple Street
NOTE: If you would like to arrange in advance to interview any of the speakers listed above, please call Martha Willow at 234-555-6789. If you’d like information about the national Lights On Afterschool! Event, Martha can also provide that.
Sample News Release
|October 11, 20XX||
Contact: Jane Doerayme
BAY CITY AFTERSCHOOL PROGRAM CELEBRATES
NATIONAL LIGHTS ON AFTERSCHOOL! WITH OCTOBER 12 CELEBRATION
Bay City…On October 12, Bay City joined with thousands of communities across the country in celebrating the availability of high quality afterschool programs for its young people. At the Bay City Afterschool Program, located at Bay City Middle School, several hundred former and current participants in the program, parents, educators, community and business leaders, and even Mayor David Cooper joined in the lively celebration.
“The Bay City Afterschool Program represents everything that is commendable,” said Mayor Cooper. “Here our community’s children are safe, happy, challenged and improving their academic skills. The lights are on here, and we are all grateful.”
Over a dozen of the children currently enrolled in the program read aloud from essays they had written on Discovering the Hero Within Myself. Eleven year old Leah Brown wrote, “At Bay City Afterschool Program, I can sit quietly and read or I can join in a soccer game. There is always someone here who will listen to me when I am sad and someone who will cheer for me when I have accomplished something.”
During the three-hour celebration called “Lights On Afterschool!” children performed a ballet and demonstrated their soccer skills, volunteers were honored with certificates, and Evelyn Jamison, president of the Busy Hands Toy Store, donated $500 worth of puzzles and board games to the program.
“The Bay City Afterschool Program needs everyone in the community to spend some time here showing our kids that you care about their future. Whether you can volunteer only once a year or can come every week, please call us and see how you can get involved in keeping the lights on afterschool,” said Raina Jones, director of the program.
The Bay City Afterschool Program was founded in 1979 by a group of parents and educators who believed that middle school children deserved a safe and productive place to go when the school day ended. Currently 164 children are enrolled in the program, and another 47 are on a waiting list. The program is open from 7 a.m. until the school day begins and from the end of the school day until 6:30 p.m. Fees are based on ability to pay.
Lights On Afterschool! is a nationwide event to recognize the critical importance of quality afterschool programs in the lives of children, their families and their communities. It is sponsored by JCPenney and the Afterschool Alliance.
This article was originally produced in 2004 by The Afterschool Alliance to raise awareness about its signature initiative, the annual Lights On Afterschool! It is reprinted here with permission and was updated by SparkAction in 2013.
You defintely want to take this advice. You also want to check out Lights on Afterschool and get involved - ever year!