Media Tips for a Read Across America Event
Good media coverage should be a priority! Motivating kids to read is the kind of "good news" we need to get out to the public. If you want your community to know about your upcoming reading events, programs, and activities, use local media to help spread the word. Here are some tips:
1. Update your media lists of local newspapers and radio and television stations. (If you don't have a list, check with your State Education Association for help.) Call each news organization on your list to verify the names and contact information (including e-mail) and their deadlines.
2. Get to know your local media. Read your local paper and family publications, watch local news broadcasts, and listen to local radio to learn more about the style and interests of local journalists. Get to know the reporters and editors who cover education, family, and children. Feed them lunch if you can, and then a steady diet of what's happening in your school.
3. Learn about deadlines. For your Read Across America event, you'll want late February and early March coverage. Be sure to find out all media deadlines for submitting materials.
For local television news, story decisions are usually made by managers, producers, and assignment editors during the newsroom morning meeting. Make sure your information gets in their hands well in advance of the day you want them to cover your activities.
Keep in mind that most daily papers are morning editions, and deadlines for print reporters typically start around 2 p.m. the previous day. It's best to reach a newspaper journalist sometime between 10 a.m. to noon. Again, it's advantageous to have had some advance contact rather than calling at the last minute.
4. Follow up. If you have submitted materials on deadline and haven't heard back, follow up! But have a little patience. Just because a reporter doesn't answer your e-mail or call immediately, doesn't mean there isn't any interest. If it's difficult for you to follow up because of your school schedule, see if your principal can help coordinate, or talk with a parent volunteer about taking on media duties for your Read Across America celebration.
5. Use public relations tools effectively. Two weeks before your celebration date, send out a media advisory (see Sample Media Advisory) to people on your news media list. The media advisory should be a single-page document that gives journalists logistical details about your event: what, when, where, who, and how they can cover it. Think of it as an invitation to your Read Across America celebration. Be sure to also tell your "guests" where parking is available and where they should check in at your school or facility.
To convince journalists why they should cover your event, follow up your media advisory with a press release. Rather than logistics, the press release covers the content of your event -- mainly why the event is important or interesting to their audience. Send it with a "pitch letter" -- a short, one-page letter that immediately explains why the media should be interested in your story.
- Include the national angle to your local story: In 2010, nearly 45 million children and adults celebrated NEA's Read Across America. By taking part in the 2011 celebration, your local event will be a part of bringing an entire nation of readers together under one (Cat in the Hat) hat for Read Across America on Dr. Seuss's birthday.
- Focus on the good visual appeal of your activities: your diverse group of readers, interesting settings and backdrops, colorful hats, etc.
6. Get members of the media involved. You don't see the classic snap brim with the "Press" badge too often anymore, but ask members of the media to symbolically exchange their journalist hat for the red and white stovepipe, and read to children at your NEA's Read Across America celebration. You may also want to send a Cat in the Hat hat to broadcast weather people, as appropriate headgear to wear when the March 2nd forecast calls for reading!
7. Don't forget. Always send a personal note to thank the media for their coverage!