Donovan Group Resources

Media Relations for School and District Leaders: Introduction

One of the most important yet nerve-wracking challenges of the school leader is in working with the media.  Nearly every veteran superintendent or principal can tell a story about being burned by a reporter, dealing with the aftermath of negative media attention or being misquoted.  While working with the media can be difficult, it is critical to your communications efforts and to maintain the reputation of your district.

In this blog series, I want to make you feel comfortable responding to and, hopefully, working with the media.  I will provide you with basic tools you can use in a moment’s notice to respond to media requests with ease and to get your message out through media interviews.

As part of this training, we will walk through some typical media situations.  We will start with what happens in the newsroom and follow through all the way to the response.  Along the way, I will provide some tips you can use to avoid the most common mistakes.

Our first section begins with a brief review of how reporters work and gives you a sense of who they are.  I will also discuss the types of new stories reporters write.  This first section is called In the Newsroom.

The second section is somewhat philosophical in nature and reinforces the need for school leaders to communicate.  Its point is that if you don’t tell your story in the news, someone else will, but wrongly… I call this section What You Don’t Say Can Hurt You.

As we get into the nitty-gritty, I share my five principles for working with the media.  I discuss media relations’ guiding principles and provide you with tips, starting with the most critical “golden rules” of media relations. This section is called the Five Golden Rules.

Most problems with the media begin immediately after receiving that first dreaded call.  We discuss what to do when reporters call in the section entitled Taking Media Calls like a Pro.

Most of the calls from reporters result in your providing them with some sort of information.  I have a different take on how to do so.  I call this section Providing Information to Reporters Without Shooting Yourself in the Foot.

Then we switch gears and cover how to craft a response.  We’ll talk about messaging in this section, called Getting Your Message Across.

After that, we move into a discussion about interviewing. In this section, our most extensive, I explain interviewing rules and provide some tips.  I call this section The Rules of Engagement and Basic Interview Tips.

Every now and then you will run into problems.  I cover this in detail in the section called Tips For Dealing With Difficult Reporters and Sticky Situations.

The last section I describe how a small negative story can turn into a big negative story and what you can do to stop it.  I call this section, Getting in Front of Bad News.

Tune in tomorrow for the next post in this series.

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