Donovan Group Insights

Superintendent Media Relations Training Pays for Itself

The media is something most superintendents don’t like to think about. They interact with the media out of necessity, and they keep those interactions to a minimum. Interacting with the media shouldn’t feel like pulling teeth. Thankfully, it’s possible to form a mutually-beneficial relationship that leads to positive experiences on both ends.

Forming those relationships is much easier with a bit of guidance. Superintendents should participate in media relations training as part of their professional development efforts. The cost of training is minuscule compared to the invaluable benefits that come with it.

Ensure the truth is told

You are the spokesperson for your district. When something happens at one of your schools, reporters will turn to you for a statement. They tend to reach out about negative events, whether it’s a crisis or simply an embarrassing mishap. You probably already know this, and if you’re like most superintendents, getting a call from a reporter is enough to make you run in the opposite direction.

Talking to reporters doesn’t have to be an unpleasant experience. When you participate in media relations training, you’ll learn that media calls are actually a great opportunity to positively represent your district in the news. Many superintendents have a natural instinct to ignore negative events in the hopes that they’ll clear up on their own. In fact, negative events are exactly when you should engage local media stations. With the right training, what you say in the media can restore stakeholder trust and confidence in your district, no matter how negative the event might have been.

Media relations training can provide the tools and strategies you need to positively represent your district in the news. There are courses that give tips on how to remain calm and composed while completing a TV or radio interview. Other courses discuss how to guide the direction of media calls so that reporters walk away with information that works to your district’s advantage. In all these courses, you’ll learn how to create talking points and get your key messages across to stakeholders through the media.

Become a trusted source for reporters

Timing is crucial when you’re dealing with the media. Reporters operate under same-day deadlines, which means they have to pitch, research, write and publish a story within a single work day. If you get a missed call from a reporter, you or an assistant should call them back as soon as possible. Wait too long, and the reporter will look elsewhere for information. After all, they have a tight deadline to meet.

Your district should be a reporter’s number one source of information. Avoiding media calls will only push reporters to seek out less reliable sources that might not have your district’s best interests at heart. Ideally, you want reporters to come to you first. If they reach out for information, take it as a sign that they trust your word over all others’.

Building trust with reporters takes time, and a bit of training can help you attain it. To gain a reporter’s trust, you have to understand how they think and how much pressure they’re under to meet same-day deadlines. Some media relations courses explain the life cycle of a news story and provide a window into the mind of a reporter. Through these courses, you’ll learn how to make a reporter’s job easier and establish yourself as their go-to source in the process.

Media relations training can also teach you and your staff how to respond to media calls. Of course, the best thing to do is call back the reporter as soon as possible. But there are other ways you can respond in case you’re too busy to sit down for a phone interview. Training courses are available to help you establish a process for submitting timely written responses to the local media. That way, you can still send reporters the information they need and maintain those all-important relationships.

Shape your district’s story in the news

Even if a reporter comes to you for information, there’s no guarantee that the news story will turn out in your district’s favor. You can probably think of at least one time when you were misquoted or taken out of context. The reporter had an angle in mind, and they found a way to make your words fit that angle. Many times, there’s no malicious intent behind this. Reporters are simply asking for the information they think they need.

Too often, superintendents think reporters are the only people who get to ask questions. Phone interviews don’t have to be one-sided conversations. You have the power to guide the interview, and media relations training can help you do just that. After you complete this training, you’ll have a thorough understanding of how to acknowledge a reporter’s question, suggest a different angle, then provide (and answer) a more appropriate question.

To shape your district’s story, you have to think about which key messages you want stakeholders to hear. Media relations training can offer guidance on how to translate those key messages into talking points. You’ll also learn how to incorporate those talking points throughout the interview. Taking control of the interview can increase the chance of that news story turning out how you envisioned it.

Determine what’s published about your district

You don’t have to wait for reporters to reach out. Great things are happening in your district, and the community should hear about them. Take a more active role in how the media portrays your district by informing local news stations about recent events, programs and initiatives. While you can’t avoid negative stories altogether, promoting positive ones can help change the public’s perception of your district for the better.

Positive stories have a better chance of making it into the news when you establish healthy media relationships. A reporter will be more open to your story ideas when they enjoy working with you. Break the ice by inviting them to sit down for a cup of coffee. Make their job easier by providing insights that help them write a more engaging news story. If you’re easy to work with, they’ll be more inclined to publish positive stories about your district.

Media relations training is the first step toward establishing these healthy relationships. Training courses offer valuable tips on how to interact with reporters and turn them into advocates for your district. You’ll also learn how to pitch your own story ideas to reporters and help the public see your district in a positive light. Through media relations training, you’ll gain some control over what stories appear in the news.

At some point in your career, you’re going to have to interact with the media. In fact, forging strong, long-lasting relationships with the media is crucial to preserving your district’s reputation. Media relations training can help you forge those relationships. While training comes with some initial costs, the benefits you’ll gain in return are priceless. Training fees are a small price to pay for the media’s trust, a solid reputation and control over your district’s story.

Dealing with the media can get tricky. We want to help with that. Check out our media relations training services to start establishing positive relationships with the local media.

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