Friday, September 23, 2016

Nitty-Gritty: How to Write Press Release

In a recent post here on the Artful Advocate, we discussed contacting local media.  Today's blog post takes that one step further, by getting down to the nitty-gritty of writing a press release.  

You have a great art show planned for Open House/Fall Concert, or whatever event you are promoting.  PTO is helping with the refreshments, you have the location reserved, posters and flyers up, and student work  matted and ready to hang.

But do you notify the community and district at large?  How do you get the  message out beyond your students?

The answer: write a press release!  But...I have never done this!  I am not a public relations expert!  How do I start?  What should I include?  To whom should I send this? 

Relax!  First of all - check your district protocols on contacting the media.  Do you simply get the article approved by your principal or superintendent?  Or, if you are lucky, you have a PR officer who handles media contacts.  Get that out of the way before you start.

Writing a release is done in a standard AP style known as the "inverted pyramid".  Simply stated, you start with the most important information first and then work you way to supporting details. 
  1. To jump start your work, use this organizational template to get your facts ready before writing.  
  2. Start off with the Who, What, Where, Why, and When!
  3. Write in an active voice.  Would you want to read this article?
  4. Use short quotes if warranted.
  5. Be precise and accurate.  Double check to prevent typos.
  6. Editors cut from the bottom top-load it with the most important information.   

Don't forget to include your contact information for follow-ups or questions from the reporter. 

Once approved formally by your administration, send to your local newspaper.  Small town papers often give the best coverage, especially if you hand them an article all ready to go.  Larger papers may have a community calendar section that would work well for you.  Don't be afraid to follow-up with a call to confirm the arrival of the release and to book a photographer for your event.  And don't forget to keep a copy for your APPR files as well!!

Once you cultivate a positive relationship with a reporter or editor, the process gets easier!  Relax and breathe... as a 'cub reporter' you will do just fine!

Don't forget to include your contact information for follow-ups or questions from the reporter.

Once you cultivate a positive relationship with a reporter or editor, the process gets easier!  Relax and breathe... as a 'cub reporter' you will do just fine! 

The article in today's post is again contributed by our advocacy dynamo Donnalyn Shuster.  You can red more about Donnalyn in a prior post, HERE

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Pinwheels for Peace, and Advocacy

We all know that some people think that art education is frivolous.  A great way to counteract that attitude is to show them that your art program is more than a silly extra.  I think that Pinwheels for Peace is a perfect way to do that. Use art to show your and your students' social awareness!  
Never heard of  Pinwheels for Peace?  Let me tell you about it - Pinwheels for Peace is an annual art installation project that also incorporates literacy, developed by two art educators more than a decade ago.  The installations of individually created and decorated pinwheels take place on September 21st, in honor and celebration of the International Day of Peace.  The concept is non-political, but promotes the concept of peace.  On the  Pinwheels for Peace website, it says "It is our hope that through the Pinwheels for Peace project, we can make a public visual statement about our feelings about war/ peace/ tolerance/ cooperation/ harmony/ unity and, in some way, maybe, awaken the public and let them know what we are thinking."  I think this is an admirable goal. 

Since the International Day of Peace is just a few days away, it is probably too late for you to participate this year unless you've already started creating your pinwheels, but I hope you'll consider marking your  mark your calendar so that next year you can be prepared to join in.  The Pinwheels for Peace website has everything you need to get started - there's templates and instructions for building pinwheels, there's a press releases that you can use, and there's even lesson plans!  By the way, Pinwheels for Peace is on Facebook, too! 

Pinwheels can be easily created on paper, and assembled using sharpened pencils and straight pins, though there's lots of other ways to make them.  The pinwheel installation pictures in this post show pinwheels made with the pencil construction, and are from a school where I used to teach, and where I organized my students' participation in Pinwheels for Peace.  I wish I had saved some better pics to show you!
It was so easy and fulfilling to do.  I spent just one or two class periods with each class to design the pinwheels, and then organized an after-school afternoon with a group of volunteer moms (and one grandma) where we assembled the pinwheels in sort of an assembly line, with a lot of laughter.  Many classroom teachers helped out on installation day, by taking their students outside to "plant" their pinwheels on the sloping school lawn next to the well-traveled road, and discuss the meaning of the word 'peace'.  One year, the head custodian and I went outside early in the morning and spray-painted the word PEACE in giant letters on the grass (using the paint that was also used to mark the sports fields), and then classes installed their pinwheels along the paint lines.  The small local free newspaper (this is a rural community) came with a HUGE stepladder and did some overhead photos of the installation.  The school board and administration were pleased, the community was happy, and the kids had a positive experience.  All-in-all, a great experience, a wonderful event, and some terrific advocacy, too!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Local Communication with the Media

Previous Artful Advocate guest contributor, Heather McCutcheon, has returned, this time offering some helpful tips on communicating with local media. The following article is terrific advice to those of us who are not particularly savvy at contacting the press, in her words:

Any chance I get I contact the local newspaper.  I am now on first name basis with the reporter.
To me, this is the most beneficial advocacy piece you can do!  Your local community is the community that votes on your school budget.  Lets face it, when the budget is bad the arts are in trouble.

* Remember: To advocate for your program is to keep it alive!
In the past five years, it seems like I am sending an email to the newspaper every month.  I also contact the TV stations when something special or flashy is happening.

Contacting your local media should not be a scary thing.  It is actually quite easy.  At first I spent some time doing a little research.  I found any email address that I could for local newspapers & TV stations.  I complied a list of these emails and now use this list to send out mass emails, hoping that one person will find my information meaningful.  This step is done usually about a week or two before a special event, like a guest artist or an art show.  If I do not hear anything, a few days before the event I send another email and also call the newspapers and TV.   

Here are a few more tips that I have found useful when sending my emails and making the call:

  • Don't sound pushy. 
  • Give specific information.  Give details about where, when and what is going on. 
  • If the media can not make the event, offer to send pictures with a little write-up (a press release).
Thanks again, Heather, for your contribution to this  post.  To read more about Heather, use this link to her previous post.