Reach Out to the Media

Lights On Afterschool provides a wonderful opportunity to generate positive news coverage of your afterschool program and to remind the public of the need to provide sufficient funding for afterschool.

Use our sample media alert to tell reporters about your Lights On Afterschool event, and convince them that it's a genuine news story worthy of coverage.

Adapt this sample news release for your own event. Distribute it to media who attend, and then email or fax it that same day to reporters on your press list who missed the event.

Lights On Afterschool is the biggest day of the year for afterschool to make a splash online, get trending, and share with new audiences about the impact of afterschool programs.

Step by Step Outreach Guide

 

 

Here are the most important steps to get the media talking about your Lights On Afterschool event. If you're short on time, or have about one week before your event, these are the most important strategies to pursue.

  1. Contact local news media (reporters, producers, editors, bloggers, etc.) two or more days in advance to let them know about your Lights On Afterschool event — who the speakers will be, what activities will be happening, when and where it will take place, and why afterschool is important to the community. You can reach reporters by emailing a media alert, or if you’re really pressed for time, by simply sending an email in which you share those details.
  2. The day before the event, follow up by calling journalists to make sure they saw your email and know about the event. Don’t be surprised if they missed your message and be prepared to re-send it. Even if they can’t come, the call will help you develop relationships with key journalists.
  3. Prepare a news release to give to reporters who come to the event and to send to those who don’t attend. Also, arrange for someone to take pictures at the event, and after it ends (that afternoon/evening or the next morning), email three or four good photos along with the news release to journalists who did not come. Be sure not to overlook community and specialty newspapers, since they are the outlets most likely to use your photos.
  4. After the event, send a thank-you note to any media who covered it.

After completing the steps above, take advantage of these strategies to expand your media outreach efforts. These steps typically require at least two weeks of lead time before your event.

  1. Pitch your event to local radio talk shows and morning television programs. Send emails (sample here) to producers or “bookers” of local programs telling them about your Lights On Afterschool event, explaining why afterschool matters to the community, and why it needs community support. Ask if they would be interested in doing an interview on the morning of the event.
  2. Develop press kits to distribute to media at your Lights On Afterschool event. Make enough for all the journalists you expect will come, and then a few extra.  The kits can be assembled in plain folders with a label from your afterschool program on the cover or, if you want to be creative, have students decorate the covers and write “press kit” prominently under the drawings.  The kits should contain: Your news release; a one-page background sheet or brochure on your program; a one-page fact sheet on afterschool programs with data on your state or community.  If you can, also include: copies of speaker remarks; notable facts—for example, how has your program grown since inception, how many students are on your waiting list, a list of program partners and volunteers, etc.; and a page describing any upcoming events.
  3. Plan what you want media to see when they come to the event. Have a sheet for media sign-in at the event, and make sure reporters have access to speakers and that they know what activities the students are doing. Think about what activities will create the best visuals and steer journalists to those.
  4. Write an op-ed or guest editorial to submit to a local newspaper a week to ten days before the event. It should discuss the vital role afterschool plays in the community and the challenges of providing afterschool for all, and tell readers about your Lights On Afterschool event. Take a look at the op-ed pages of your newspaper to see what kinds of pieces they publish by community members, then check the newspaper’s submission policies (there’s usually a link on the opinion section of the newspaper’s website or in the “contact us” section). Be sure to observe the paper’s word limits. Here are some tips on writing op-eds. Submit your op-ed about a week before the event, so the paper will have time to review it and, if they choose, publish it a day or two before Lights On Afterschool or the morning of your event.

You can help ensure media buzz around your Lights On Afterschool event by doing these additional things. You'll typically need to start taking these steps around a month before your event.

  1. Send a calendar announcement to the media, as well as to other organizations that might be interested. Newspapers and television and radio stations often run calendars of local events, as do websites and blogs. Some require long lead times, so try to send your calendar announcement a month before the event. It’s okay to send a calendar announcement with the “bare bones” of the event (date, time, place, general activities), even if you don’t have all the speakers confirmed yet.
  2. Send the same announcement or a sample newsletter article to local organizations that might help promote your event — community organizations, houses of worship, PTAs, etc.
  3. Write a short script for a radio public service announcement (PSA) and send it to a local radio station for its on-air hosts to read.
  4. Ask a local city or county council member, or the mayor or county executive, to issue a proclamation marking Lights On Afterschool Day.
  5. Add a few additional items to your press kit, including proclamations and letters from parents and students singing the praises of your program.
Pointers from the pros

Day in the Afterschool Life of a Dallas Child event forges new relationships with media & policy makers

The Dallas AfterSchool Network hosted a bus tour of afterschool programs in north and south Dallas for local dignitaries and community leaders, affording them a realistic look at “a day in the afterschool life of a Dallas child.” As a direct result of the bus tour, the local ABC television affiliate committed to doing a weekly segment on afterschool, and Dallas AfterSchool Network, Executive Director Tanya McDonald was able to establish relationships with federal and state representatives and schedule follow-up meetings.