Read all about it! Read all about it! If you’ve organised a walk-to-school initiative or event and it’s been a big success, it’s great to let others know about it. But how do you get the word out?
What you need to do is plan ahead and send out a press release. Here we look at what this is, how you or your pupils can write an effective one and why getting press coverage isn’t just good for your school but has wider benefits.
What is a Press Release?
- A press release is a clear description of a potential or actual news item such as your event: what has happened or what is going to happen, when, where, why and who is involved.
- Although they are good at finding things out, journalists aren’t telepathic! Many of the news stories you read in the papers, hear on the radio or see on television are broadcast because someone involved has written a press release and sent it to a media outlet. Then a journalist has seen it, been interested and followed it up and published or broadcast an article about the event.
- Nowadays, it’s easy to publicise your activities yourself on social media channels but if you really want more people to know what you’ve been doing and you think others will be interested, writing a press release is essential.
When Should I Send it?
- Ideally send it a few days in advance of your event, the press may send a reporter and/or photographer or may even film the event for TV. This in itself can draw more participants and help make your event more of a success!
- If they don’t send a reporter but they have expressed an interest, it’s good to send them a follow up report to let them know how it went; how many participants, and any quotes from those who took part.
- If you don’t send one in advance, it’s also fine to send a press release immediately afterwards describing the event and offer to send them your own good quality phtotos as they may still cover it.
What Should Be Included in A Press Release?
- Use an informative title that immediately tells the reader what, when and where it is: eg ‘Press Release: Oldtown United Footballer Joins New Road Primary School pupils for Walking Bus launch, Friday 24 March.’ Journalists are good at coming up with catchy titles so you don’t have to, but if you can think of a catchy title, use it but include the key information too.
- Put the most important facts at the start; sum up what it is about, where it’s taking place, when, the reason and who is involved, eg ‘Pupils from New Road Primary School will be joined by local footballer Freddy Ball for the launch of their ‘walking bus’ walk-to-school initiative this Friday.’ Or if you are writing after the event: ‘Over 30 pupils from New Road Primary School were joined by local footballer Freddy Ball for the launch of their ‘walking bus’ walk-to-school initiative on Friday.’.
- Give some background detail about the event such as why it’s important: eg ‘The event will be/was held as part of the school’s campaign to ‘Step into Spring’ which is encouraging children to get fit by walking more’ etc.
- Get some quotes from those organising or taking part in the event: eg ‘Organiser and parent, Mary Smith said: ‘It’s a good way to get children used to walking to school. We hope those who take/took part will join us on a regular basis’. Pupil Lucy Brown, age nine, added; ‘I like walking to school because I can chat to my friends.’. Make sure your quotes are interesting and are telling people something new, eg ‘I like walking to school’ isn’t interesting enough but ‘I like walking to school because I can chat to my friends’ is much better.
- Add some statistics to give background facts to the event. For walk to school schemes, Living Streets and Sustrans charities are good sources for this, eg ‘Fewer than half of primary school children walk to school nowadays’.
- At the end of the actual press release (the story bit) type *END* on the next line.
- Include your full contact information and an invitation to the event, giving full details of venue and start time.
- Add any background details about anyone else involved and any references (eg where you got your statistics from) under a Notes for Editors section.
More Tips for Your Press Release
- Type your press release with plenty of space around; use double-line spacing and wide margins.
- Keep it short and sweet; a maximum length of 300 words.
- Use short paragraphs and bullet points for clarity.
- Avoid excessive, unnecessary punctuation; journalists do not like NORMAL TEXT WRITTEN IN CAPITALS or exclamation marks!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
- Don’t put any unnecessary formating in for the main body of your press release and keep alignment left.
- Prepare your press release first and then paste it into the main body of an email, so journalists don’t have to open any attachments to read it.
- Do not attach any images unless they have previously asked you to; instead put a note in the press release that photos are available on request or provide an optional link to photos they can use.
Where Should I Send My Press Release?
You will know your local press better than we do but here are some links to different media outlets. Each will have contact details where you can send a press release. Find out in advance their deadline for copy (especially printed press such as newspapers).
- Regional TV news stations: www.itv.com/presscentre/content/itv-news-teams
- BBC TV and radio: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10725415
- UK local radio: media.info/uk/radio (search by place)
- UK regional newspapers and magazines: media.info/uk/newspapers (search by place)
- Community press: eg village newsletter, parish newsletter, school newsletter
- Other interested organisations: eg Modeshift (for STARS registered schools), Brake charity (they like to receive photos and clips of activities relating to Road Safety Week, eg Bright Day)… and of course Brightkidz as we love to share your ideas.
What are the Benefits of Getting Press Coverage?
- Potential attention from the press can raise interest and participation in the event within your school community.
- Children usually love getting their pic in the paper!
- Older primary school pupils can practice important literacy skills by writing press releases themselves. Writing a press release is a practical skill worth learning as many people use them in the jobs or to get publicity for campaigns or interest groups they are involved in.
- Those in your community, such as neighbours, will see your positive efforts which is good for the school’s image.
- Parents and teachers from other schools may be inspired by you and follow your example with their own events.
- If your school is taking part in Modeshift STARS, your press release and any coverage you get will count as evidence towards your accreditation.
- Make sure pupils’ media release forms are completed beforehand if photographers or filming are involved.
- If there are any pupils whose parents have not signed the form, this needs to be managed well so they can still be included in the main activity but not in media coverage. For larger events this can be aided be giving them a wristband, sticker, hat or t-shirt in a different colour from the ones other pupils have and making sure anyone taking photos knows this ‘signal’.
- Older pupils can be involved in recording the event too. Your Junior Road Safety Officers could put together a short film of the event for your own use.
We hope you get the press coverage you desire. Don’t forget to use your social media channels too as they are free and easy to do quickly. And of course if your press release is successful and you get good coverage you can put that out on social media too. See the social media information on our Contact Us page for how to get featured on our social media.