Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

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Proactive media relationships

Q We have a new head who is considerably more media savvy than Q the previous one. I have been given the task of raising the profile of the school in the media. Our strategy previously has been to keep our head down and try not to attract media attention at all. Do you have any ideas for where to start?

A It is good that you're taking a more proactive approach to managing your reputation in the media. Positive stories of your successes help define the way parents, potential staff and the greater community view the school. And building relationships with journalists can help smooth the way when a negative story threatens.

The 'ten first' principle is a good place to start. This assumes that it takes ten good stories to counteract a negative one (and sooner or later every school faces a negative one), so the focus is on getting your ten positive stories in first.

There are any number of events in the calendar that could make good features: competitions, drama productions, school trips, charity fund raisers. The media also like 'human interest' stories which have people at their heart. Are staff or pupils involved in interesting activities or do they have unique hobbies?

Stories that lend themselves to strong pictures are more attractive. You can invite the newspaper or television station to take pictures/video or, if they can't send someone, take your own and send them in.

When it comes to building relationships with the local newspaper reporter, a quick call to the news editor should establish who your best contact is. Do the same with local radio and television stations and websites where relevant.

Consider inviting your key contacts to the school to meet some of the staff and students, or even have them join you for lunch in the canteen. You could also invite the reporter or editor to give a presentation to students about their newspaper, or journalism as a potential career.

Try to offer stories or send press releases to your media contacts regularly, or at least keep in touch with them to see if they have anything planned to which you could contribute. Often local media like to have a regional perspective on national events. If you are in regular contact they're more likely to come to you first.

Find out when all your contacts' deadlines are and how far in advance they need information. Ask what type of stories they are interested in, so you are clear which potentially newsworthy items have a good chance of achieving coverage.

Reporters often work on very short timescales, as little as a few hours to submit a story, so make sure they have up-to-date contact details for you and vice-versa. Especially if it is a morning newspaper, s/he may be working a story in the late afternoon so if you really want to present your side of the story, give them a mobile or other out-of-office number.

Every school has a reputation with the local community - those schools that work effectively with local media will have a much greater infl uence over how they are portrayed.


Pensions clarification...

The Leader's Surgery in the June Leader entitled 'Exploring retirement options' stated: "For anyone who retires after 6 April 2010, 30 years of contributions will be required for a full pension (down from the current 45 years)." This was intended to refer to the state pension, not the Teachers Pension Scheme. It should have stated: "From 6 April 2010 both men and women will need only 30 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions in order to receive a full state pension (down from the current 44 years for men and 39 years for women)." The article was not written by ASCL Pensions Specialist David Blake.

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