Promote Your Program and Event
Marketing and media relations are important ways to raise awareness of programs and events and build support for PTA among families, educators and administrators, elected officials, business and community leaders and the general public.
Use the following suggestions to kick-start your plan to promote your PTA programs and events:
To Students and Families:
Use a variety of channels to reach students and families. Consider creating promotional messages and materials in multiple languages to reach all families in your school community. Some possibilities include the following:
- Nothing beats a personal invitation! Ask volunteers to make individual phone calls to parents of all students or targeted groups.
- Use the school’s automated phone system to call parents, if available. If your school does not have a system in place, consider establishing a “phone tree” among PTA members.
- Host a school-wide assembly to introduce the program. Feature photos from last year’s program, if possible.
- Include messages in students’ morning announcements.
- Hang posters and fliers in visible locations, and send fliers home to parents.
- Post deadlines and reminders on outdoor signs near student drop-off and pickup locations.
- Post announcements and updates on the school and/or PTA website and via social media (e.g., Facebook and Twitter).
- Write an article about the program for a PTA or school newsletter. Showcase the impact of prior years’ events and/or the benefits of family engagement. Ask a student to write a similar article for the school newspaper.
- Engage “student ambassadors” to talk positively about the program among peers.
Among Teachers and Administrators
The more involved faculty and staff are in planning the program, the more likely they will serve as “champions” of the program among other school leaders. Consider the following ideas to engage school staff:
- Request time at an in-service training, staff meeting or school board meeting to present the program to teachers. Highlight the benefits of family engagement and invite their ideas about how they might encourage their classes to participate.
- Provide suggestions for how the program or event might be linked to curriculum. Ask a teacher volunteer to create a sample lesson plan and share it with peers.
In the Community
When reaching out to potential community partners, focus on the impact of your program or event on students, schools and families. Here are some ways you can share information with your community:
- Work with school officials to develop media releases to secure local coverage. Do not forget smaller, local media outlets such as neighborhood association blogs and newsletters.
- Community bulletin boards can be good places to post program fliers. This can help you reach parents who are not often at the school building.
- For more information on engaging community partners, visit the Fundraising Quick Reference Guide.
Sample Letter of Invitation to Families and Sample Media Advisory
Working with the Media
The media play a crucial role in our society by helping shape public opinion. Getting media coverage can be a huge asset to raising awareness and educating members of your community about any news, stories or programs you might be working on.
Media relations includes developing materials to use to share information, reaching out to reporters and outlets to encourage coverage of programs, initiatives and events, responding to inquiries, conducting or coordinating interviews, and building relationships with members of the media. The most important aspects of media relations include knowing what is newsworthy and building relationships within the media. It is critical that PTAs work proactively with the media, and at times, it also is necessary for PTAs to work reactively with the media.
A few things you will want to keep in mind when working with members of the media:
- Always read or watch the news outlets in your market before reaching out to them. It is important to know what type of stories they tend to cover, and it is critical to reach out to the right reporters.
- Reporters are busy, and media resources are dwindling these days. Reporters rely more and more on public relations professionals to give them a complete story with up-to-date facts and statistics that they will not need to double check.
- Email is your best approach unless you have a great working relationship with a particular reporter and feel comfortable picking up the phone to call directly.
- Only pitch stories to them that you know they would have interest in covering. And if they do not cover your story, thank them anyway. Or perhaps point them to another resource where they can get the information they are looking for. They will remember that you helped them, and that will make the difference for next time.
- Building and maintaining good relationships with reporters will be what helps you place your story. As you carry out programs and events, you can develop positive working relationships with print and broadcast professionals and organizations in your community.
Media Relations Tools
Tools you will use to conduct media outreach are a pitch, press release, media advisory, op-ed, letter to the editor and media statement. All are designed to communicate your message, program or event to media outlets.
A media pitch is a great tool to convince a journalist your story is newsworthy and relevant to his or her audience. It can either supplement a press release or serve as a stand-alone tool. A pitch is less formal and more targeted to a specific reporter than a standard press release. Think of it as a short letter to a reporter outlining why your story is of interest to his/her particular beat and audience. Perhaps he/she has covered this issue in the past or could benefit from connecting with you (or another spokesperson) to gain insight, information or news. A pitch is your chance to present yourself as a valuable resource. It should provide a reporter with a quick snapshot of who you are, what your news is and why it is relevant.
A press release is a written, formal statement that announces a range of news items, including awards, new partnerships or programs. A press release is useful when there is a milestone event, program launch or other "big news" coming from your PTA that is intended for a broad media audience. It follows a standard format, contains the appropriate contact information and allows media outlets the chance to follow up with you should they be interested in pursuing a story.
Sample Press Release & Sample Media Advisory
A media advisory or media alert is an abbreviated form of a press release that is used to provide information to the media to persuade them to cover an event, meeting or performance. A media advisory conveys basic facts in the format of what/why, who, when and where.
An op-ed piece is written to grab attention and generate support among various groups, including elected officials, business and community leaders and the general public. This type of piece is designed to express a single, clear point of view that is supported by facts and statistics. An op-ed submission should focus on a subject that is timely and newsworthy and include a clear call to action.
Letter to the Editor (LTE)
A letter to the editor is another way to reach a large audience. A letter can take a position for or against an issue, simply inform or both. Letters to the editor are short and concise and can include emotions and/or facts. Letters are designed to reference or highlight relevant, hot topics; recent events in a community; or a recent news article.
A media statement is written in response to a breaking news story or event. A statement is used when media outlets are already covering a story to provide quotes that could be incorporated or when an association wishes to comment on a story. A statement is short and concise and is used to grab the attention of reporters or media outlets.
Scoring a phone or a face-to-face interview is a great opportunity to relay a story or news to a reporter who will then “package” the story for his/her audience. Here are some helpful interview techniques and tips to be an effective spokesperson for your PTA:
- Prepare talking notes on focus points you want to make. Keep this fairly succinct as there is always a possibility that the reporter will edit down your response. Think of these as “sound bites.” Try to practice these at home before your interview.
- Listen to the interviewer’s questions and answer thoughtfully. If possible, try to bridge this to your talking points.
- If you do not know the answer to a question, that is fine. Tell the reporter and let him/her know that you will follow up with it.
- Be authentic, passionate and truthful. Be yourself! It will help you to relax and will come across as more sincere.