Sample Media Materials:
Lights On Afterschool provides a wonderful opportunity to generate positive news coverage of your afterschool program and to remind policy makers and community members of the need to provide sufficient funding to meet the growing demand for the afterschool programs that serve children and families. Reporters seek out stories that affect their community, and they will want to tell readers, viewers and listeners about threats to afterschool programs. So plan your Lights On Afterschool activities with the media in mind. Our tools and tips are designed to help make your event more newsworthy and help you reach more community members with your messages through the media.
For a detailed list of when and how to reach out to the media, see the Planning Timeline in our Event Planning Kit.
Musts for media at your event:
Create a list of reporters, editors, columnists, photo editors and producers who cover education, children and families, parenting, workplace and feature stories in your media market. Some United Ways have media guides that are available to community agencies for a nominal fee, and the public relations offices at community colleges are often willing to share their media lists with other education agencies. You can also use our Action Center to find media contacts in your community by simply entering your zip code.
Then, make a list of all local TV and radio stations (including college and university-affiliated stations), daily and weekly newspapers (including ethnic, community and other specialty papers), wire services and magazines, locally-oriented websites, and newsletters or bulletins from interested community- and faith-based organizations. Call and ask for the name of the editor, reporter or producer who covers education, children and families, parenting, workplace and features. Request the phone, fax and email address for each. Also ask for the names and contact information for producers at broadcast news and talk shows that cover community and education issues like afterschool, and columnists who cover education and family issues at local newspapers of all kinds. Media lists should be updated twice per year, as journalists tend to shift beats and jobs fairly often. You will use it often to promote Lights On Afterschool and other activities.
Develop key messages for your Lights On Afterschool rally. These messages should be integrated into all your media materials and will be the focus of remarks by your spokespeople. If possible, narrow your key messages to three points, and keep them simple, clear and concise. The following is an example of a message, but be sure to tailor yours to reflect what afterschool programs mean to your community and the challenges facing afterschool programs in your state.
[Name of program] keeps kids safe and healthy, inspires students to learn and helps working families. Children who come to our program every afternoon have a safe place to go, a range of fun and challenging activities, and supervision by adults who help them learn and stay out of trouble. Afterschool is key to kids' success.
Afterschool programs need more resources and more support. Funding shortages are denying too many kids the opportunities that afterschool programs offer. Too many afterschool programs are being forced to cut back or even close because of budget cuts, or because they were unable to secure enough funding in the first place. We ask law makers, business and community leaders, parents and other community members to do more to make afterschool available to every family that needs it. (Consider using state data on afterschool demand, supply and parent satisfaction from the 2011 State-by-State Afterschool Progress Reports and Consumer Guides to bolster your case.)
We're proud to join students, parents, educators and community leaders at 7,500 rallies across the country in celebration Lights On Afterschool and calling for 'afterschool for all'! The Afterschool Alliance organized this event to underscore how important it is to keep the lights on and the door open for kids at afterschool programs. We support the Afterschool Alliance's mission to give every child access to an afterschool program.
The media—particularly television reporters and newspaper photographers—look for good visuals. Make sure your event has lots of color, action, and signs or banners with your program name and Lights On Afterschool prominently placed.
Journalists often need to file their stories during late afternoon hours, so plan the program portion of your Lights On Afterschool event as early as possible. If your event goes from 3 to 5 p.m., for instance, hold the program at 3:15 or 3:30 p.m.
Two weeks before the event, email, mail or fax a media alert about your Lights On Afterschool event to everyone on your media list to serve as an invitation to reporters to cover the event. An alert is very basic and gives journalists information on who, what, where, when and why the event is important to the community. It is not a news release and need not include quotes or give great detail. A media alert should never exceed one page. If you have a wire service in your community (Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters or a local City News Service), fax a copy of the alert to the Daybook Editor there. She or he publishes a calendar of newsworthy events for reporters to check each day.
One week before the event, update the media alert you sent the previous week by adding new speakers or more information about student activities, and email or fax it again first thing in the morning. Make phone calls to everyone on your media list over the next couple days to make sure they received your media alert and to ask if they (or someone from their media outlet) can come. If they are unable to make it, plan to email or fax them a news release immediately following or during the event. Many news outlets may be willing to write a story from a press release if they are unable to send a reporter to an event. If you call a talk show producer, ask about booking your afterschool program director as a guest on a future show to discuss the benefits of afterschool and the harm that would come from budget cutbacks.
A few days before your event, write a news release. A news release is written like a news story, but has the advantage of being written from your point of view. It contains quotes from important people, background on your afterschool program and Lights On Afterschool, and features your key messages. It should not exceed two pages. It is essential that it list a contact person, with daytime and evening (or cell) phone numbers. Because the news release will be distributed at your event in the press kits, it should be written in the past tense. You should also fax it to journalists who do not come to your event.
Assemble media kits to distribute at your event—enough for all the members of the media 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 drawing. The kits should contain:
Set up a media sign-in table that is easily recognizable to reporters at the entrance to the room or area where your Lights On Afterschool event will take place. Assign a staff person or volunteer to be at the table throughout the event to welcome and assist journalists. Have a sign-in sheet with "name of reporter," "media outlet," "phone number" and "email" written in columns at the top. Each reporter who signs in should be given a press kit and verbal information about your rally when they arrive. If something special is happening in half an hour, make sure to tell him/her that. Give each reporter a badge or nametag to wear so everyone at the event can easily identify members of the media. Do not be surprised if journalists (photographers and camera crews in particular) "take over the room" briefly by setting up special lights for cameras, clipping their microphones to the podium or putting tape recorders on the podium. Be prepared to help them, as long as their needs do not disrupt your event. Think about assigning someone to stay with reporters, introduce them to people, explain activities and answer questions
Make copies of any articles or broadcast stories about your Lights On Afterschool event and circulate them to your board of directors, funders, parents, volunteers and policy makers at all levels. Assign people to monitor local TV news shows on the day before, day of and day after the event. Tape any stories about your event to show at future fundraisers, orientations or meetings.
Stay in contact with reporters who attend your event or produce stories. Have the students in your program create a thank-you card to send the week after Lights On Afterschool in appreciation for a good story. You might even contact the reporter to see if he or she would host a group of kids from your program so they can see what it's like to work at a TV, radio or newspaper office. Maintaining that relationship after the event will help you the next time you are looking for publicity. Contact them again in May or June to see if they'd be interested in doing an end-of-school-year follow-up on your afterschool program.
Ready to take your media outreach to the next level? Check out our advanced media outreach ideas and activities.