Mastering the Art of Media Success for Your School: How to Write a Great Email, Pitch and Press Release

Get ready to enhance your school’s press releases and media alerts! In Part 3 of this series, I’ll explore the keys to writing strong and engaging press releases. Discover the strategies that will help your noteworthy stories grab attention and distinguish themselves from the crowd.

The reporter, editor or news director you’re sending the press release to likely receives dozens (if not hundreds) of emails, pitches and press releases daily. 

A well-written press release and media advisory help journalists understand what is happening and why it’s important. They will likely use some of your release content in whatever story they publish or put on the air.

The Difference Between a Press Release and a Media Advisory

A media advisory invites media to attend or cover an event or activity. It provides the recipient with the essential “who, what, when, where, why (should I care about this) and how” information they need to make a decision about attending or covering it. It should be short, simple and easy to read.

Anything you send to the media should include your full contact information: name, title, school, email, cell, office phone and your school’s website. Reporters need to be able to easily reach you. Without a phone number in your contact info, you might miss out on an opportunity.

A press release is written in narrative form and contains all of the information a journalist needs to write a story. Most journalists will use your press release to glean facts for their story, but very few will print it verbatim. I have had clients ask me, “Can you get The Washington Post to publish my press release?” It doesn’t work that way!

Here are six tips on writing a great press release:

  1. Grab their attention quickly with an opening sentence or two that explains why your school’s story or event is unique and newsworthy. Don’t start with the when and where. 
  2. Write from the perspective of the journalist. Why should they care? What’s interesting about this? Is there anything unique or special about this?”
  3. Most press releases about events or activities have a catchy or clever lede (opening sentence or paragraph) and are not necessarily written in chronological order. Put the most important or newsworthy facts at the top of the press release; you can get into the background later.
  4. Make sure your communication contains no spelling errors, typos or incorrect grammar. Nothing will get your press release relegated to the trash folder faster. Always have a colleague review what you’ve written before you send it.
  5. Avoid jargon and acronyms whenever possible. You may know what a term or phrase means within your discipline, but chances are the journalist won’t. If you use an acronym, spell it out on first usage: “The School for Exceptional Students (SES).” Then use the acronym throughout the rest of the press release.
  6. Include a short quote, if you have one. Reporters will often use quotes from press releases in their story.

The best way to follow up on your press release? Diplomatically! Never contact a reporter or editor after you’ve sent out a media advisory and ask if they are definitely planning to attend. Instead, contact them and ask only if they received it. Try “I just wanted to make sure if it got to you, sometimes my email can be a little temperamental.”

If a reporter or editor is attending your school’s event, send your press release to them beforehand so they understand what’s actually going on. Upon arriving at an event, journalists have said to me, “Do you have a press release on this? I was just told to be here now, but I have no background on what this is about.”

For more information, check out What Journalists Want: How to Write Better Press Releases – PRsay

Don’t Give Up

You’ve written a great press release. You sent it to a reporter with whom you’ve developed a working relationship. The reporter has agreed to cover your story! Then their editor pulls him away for breaking news.

Sometimes bad news trumps good news. It happens all the time. With newsrooms shrinking and fewer reporters on staff, they are getting pulled to cover several “beats.” Try not to get discouraged. Send a thank you anyway and try again.

It comes down to persistence, having a thick skin and realizing that it takes time to build a relationship with a particular journalist or news outlet. A lot of the decisions made in the newsroom are out of your control.

What is in your control is using social media to gain earned media. Consider how your school leverages videos on TikTok or Instagram, which many adults now use to share content and information. Videos are a great tool for conveying your school’s expertise in a particular area visually.

Maybe your lower school head is a great reading specialist who can make a TikTok series on the importance of reading to your child, with tips, etc. Bonus: she’s relatable, funny and likable on video. The reporter watches the links and instantly sees what a great interview she would be. Those videos are great for your current families.

Check out the first two posts in the series:

Contact Kalix Marketing to help your school further its strategy and tools to get press-worthy recognition.  

President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

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