No matter how many years you have been out of the classroom, most people’s thoughts turn to school this time of year.
This is a good thing when you have clients in the education sector whose remarkable work deserves to be showcased by the media. However, considering there are close to 2,000 public schools in Massachusetts and hundreds of education nonprofits set up to help students, how do you make your education story idea stand out to education reporters who get hundreds of pitches per day?
Having an inspiring student, an inspiring teacher, or an inspiring nonprofit isn’t enough. Reporters hear those kinds of pitches all the time. Here are some things to think about before you hit send on your email or pick up the phone.
Tie Your Story to a Larger Societal Trend
To break through the competition, position your story as it relates to society overall, rather than just to the students being helped. A good example of this is the skills gap. If students aren’t graduating with the skills employers need, like technical and labor skills, employers won’t be able to fill the jobs and graduating students will find it harder to land jobs, thus affecting the whole economy.
Focus on the Solution, Not the Problem
Talking about a problem in education isn’t sufficient to get a reporter to do a story. You need to present the problem, then offer a solution and provide statistics to show it works.
Challenge Conventional Wisdom
Don’t shy away from unconventional education ideas that may raise eyebrows. A little controversy can be the perfect thing to catch a reporter’s attention. If you’re worried the reporter will ask tough questions, make sure your client goes into the interview armed with the perfect counter-argument to anything they may ask. For example, this year College Bound Dorchester launched their Boston Uncornered initiative with the innovative, but controversial idea of paying a stipend to former gang members to pursue college degrees. CBD officials go into reporter interviews with answers and statistics at the ready.
Think Outside the Classroom Box
According to BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life), students spend 80 percent of their time outside the classroom. Consider pitching programs and opportunities for learning and enrichment that happen during out-of-school-time such as summer, after school or as another one of our clients, Playworks, reminds us, during recess.
Include Non-Officials in Your Pitch
Unless it’s an op-ed, you shouldn’t only offer the head of the organization as an interview source. Be sure to include other people who have benefited from your client in your pitch. When you catch a reporter’s interest isn’t the first time to go looking for third-party interview source. Find, vet and prepare these testimonial sources ahead of time to make sure they are both willing and able to tell your client’s story in a way that can emotionally connect with the audience.
Luck favors the prepared. The more you think like an education reporter and anticipate their needs, the better luck you will have getting your story told.