An important part of every principal's job is telling the school's story to the community. Working constructively with the media is a vitally important way to do that. So it follows that developing solid relationships with the media should be a strategy that is part of every school principal's overall communication plan.
REPORTERS - YOUR ALLIES
Members of the news media are professionals who, like hard-working principals, understand that life is one deadline after another. You are both interested in getting out fair and unbiased information about what's going on in schools in your community. Recognizing that common ground is a first giant step toward developing a strong relationship with the media.
Many principals, this one included, work hard to get to know on a first-name basis the reporters who cover our schools. That's not always easy. I recall, for example, one reporter who had just been assigned the education beat on a local newspaper. He had not even been in a school since he graduated from high school quite a few years before. So I invited him to visit my school, to take a morning tour of the campus, to enjoy lunch with third-grade students, and to chat with teachers, support staff, and parent volunteers. In each of the experiences he had that day, that reporter saw story ideas. For instance, he wrote about
Each of those news articles was well received by the school's parents and support community. As the principal, I made certain that I followed up with a thank-you telephone call and a thank-you card. I thanked the reporter for sharing news about the school programs that are important to us and for presenting the stories in fair and interesting ways.
The reason for telling that story is quite simple: Invite your local reporters into your schools. It gives you a tremendous opportunity to show off the things you think are important. Often, you don't need to do more than that. Just leave it to the reporter, who is an experienced professional -- whose job is to "look for the stories" that are worth telling.
MAINTAINING GOOD RELATIONSHIPS WITH THE MEDIA
[content block] Maintaining a healthy relationship with reporters is essential. All good school-reporter relationships can be traced to "the proper care and feeding of news to reporters." Following are just a few guidelines I often share to help principals establish solid relationships with members of the media:
In all of my personal experiences with the news media, which have been reinforced by other principal colleagues, I found that being proactive -- sharing potential news stories that cast my school in a positive light -- almost always led to good coverage. I've also found, and others have confirmed, that we get great coverage when we are polite, cooperative, and factual in our dealings with reporters. That goes for electronic media as well as print.
A FEW MORE TIPS
Following are a few more suggestions that might help you as you work to establish and maintain relations with the media:
If you do two things as a principal -- if you work hard to provide quality learning opportunities for all of your students and if you are proactive, open, honest, and accessible to reporters -- you will get in return the positive media coverage your school deserves.
Article by George Pawlas
Copyright Education World 2005