With Lights On Afterschool only two weeks away, many programs and coordinators are busy finalizing the creative and fun celebrations that will take place across the country. But while many afterschool providers are experts at planning engaging activities for large groups, all Lights On Afterschool events can stand to benefit from something that they might be less comfortable with: engaging the media. While the task of contacting media and news outlets sounds daunting, taking the time to publicize your Lights On event can be easy and contribute to an even more successful event.
Why should I reach out to my local media outlets?
One benefit of publicizing your Lights On event is obvious: more people will hear about it! Parents, educators, and relevant community figures that consume local media sources will be made aware of your event, which in turn will help drive buzz and boost attendance.
Furthermore, media coverage bolsters the reputation of your event; creating the precedent of a well-documented promotional push will help with event-planning in years to come as you try to attract more community partners and attention. Lights On Afterschool is a great time to build relationships with influential voices in the community; local media definitely count! The connections you make this season can be pivotal players in future initiatives down the line.
Finally, your locally-elected officials pay attention to the publications and news that their constituents consume—and they’re the ones you ultimately want to convince of the value of afterschool!
Who should I be promoting my event to?
When it comes to promoting your event, you should be looking to target outlets that members of your community typically consume. This includes print mediums, such as your municipality’s newspaper or newsletter. It also includes your surrounding broadcast news outlets, such as nearby high school or college radio stations, and your local network television station. These groups often have a vested interest in running stories about events in the communities where there viewers live. Another potential source to consider is local bloggers who have a wide readership within your communities; often times, if you can be featured on those blogs, readers will take those endorsements more seriously, as they would a personal referral.
If you’re uncertain which outlets are the best to be reaching out to, ask your network what outlets they use for keeping up to date with community news. Parents, educators, and other program providers are likely the audience you’d like to be targeting anyways, so learning where they receive most of their information will help you hone in on the most effective publications and channels to contact.
How do I promote my event to my local media outlet?
There are various ways to get your event publicized in your local media. One of the simplest steps you can take is to send a calendar alert to your local print and broadcast outlets. Another option for spreading the word is submitting a media alert to reporters and editors in your area that cover the education or community news beats. A media alert should give the nuts and bolts of your event, as well as a compelling reason for why it’s worth being covered in the media. Make sure to follow up your media alert with a phone call to the reporters you contact to gauge their interest!
A slightly more time-intensive option for publicizing your event is writing an opinionated column, or op-ed, and submitting it to your local publications. Writing an op-ed gives you the opportunity to more vividly illustrate the landscape of afterschool programs and why it’s vital to your particular community.
I've contact my local outlets—now what?
No matter what you choose to submit to your local outlets, make sure to follow up by phone with the relevant member of the editorial staff. If a reporter or editor chooses not to publish a piece, don’t be discouraged—reporters often get pitched dozens of stories a day, and sometimes there simply isn’t time to cover it all.
One final effort for getting published can be to submit a letter to the editor, as most publications can run many more of these in a given issue than opinionated columns. (But only submit letters to the editor if you know they won’t be running your column!) A letter to the editor will also give you the chance to paint a broader picture of the importance of afterschool programs.
While these are just a suggestions for engaging the media around your Lights On Afterschool event, there are plenty of other way to involve a broader audience through traditional and social media. You work hard to bring a quality afterschool program to your community, and you deserve a wider audience to know about it!
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