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How to build a proactive PR strategy

A proactive PR strategy can help set a school up for success. Getting good news out there helps catch the eye of prospective parents, attract talented teachers and staff, and build pride throughout the school community.

Most importantly perhaps, it also helps build what we call ‘empathy capital’. This means that if something goes wrong – as happens from time to time in all schools – your stakeholders are more likely to be sympathetic, and you can calm the situation more quickly.

Here are Alder’s top five tips for building a positive profile.

  1. Capture your stories

Capture stories from across the school, paying particular attention to those things which are genuinely unique and impressive about your school. You probably already do this for use in assemblies and newsletters. However, don’t be limited to those internal audiences: put them on your website and on social media. Include quotes from staff, pupils or parents. Take pictures or videos if possible, making sure you have the necessary parental consent. Consider involving pupils: maybe you have budding journalists, photographers, videographers or designers in your midst.

  1. Work on your media relationships

You should send these stories to relevant people at the BSA, HMC, ISC and other online education platforms. To save time, maintain a list of contacts you can use each time you send out a press release. Make a phone call if you can, to get to know the person receiving your copy. As long as you have told your story in a clear, punchy way you should soon find yourself on news feeds. Don’t underestimate the importance of your local media and education magazines, which are always looking for ideas for their next edition. Nurture these relationships and remember you might not get instant results. It’s best to start with smaller outlets rather than go to The Times or the BBC straight away. Keeping up a steady stream of stories, rather than it only being an occasional thing, means you’ll build a reputation, and it gets more likely that you will come to the attention of a national media outlet.

  1. Repetition, repetition, repetition

What are the key messages you want to communicate about your school and its specialisms? Are there any awards you’ve won recently, or recognition that demonstrates the high-quality education you provide? What really makes you different? Don’t be shy about repeating some of your unique selling points and endorsements across multiple press releases and stories, either in the main story or in the boilerplate text beneath the release. The more you repeat these, the more other people will remember them.

  1. Keep an eye on the news

Keeping abreast of the news – both in the education sector and more widely – will help inspire you to tell stories that sometimes fit with current affairs and trends. There’s also an important reputational point here. Look at the way in which the media scrutinise other schools, and organisations in other sectors. How would you cope if you faced the same questions? On which note, are you keeping an eye on social media and the places your school is being discussed online? Using a media monitoring service is a relatively inexpensive way to help you keep on top of this, providing an early warning system for any negativity and critics who might pose reputational risks. Click here to find out more about our media monitoring services. 

  1. … and an ear out for the phone

Especially as you start pushing out press releases, you could start getting proactive inbound inquiries. Think about the best phone number and email address to provide on press releases, and whether the person answering the phone knows what action to take with a media enquiry. What structure or process is in place to ensure a member of senior leadership can respond promptly? What would happen if a journalist needed to call you out of hours, or during school holidays?

Don’t be afraid of journalists. See an inquiry as an opportunity to build a relationship.

Treat journalists with respect and be prepared to work with them. When you’ve got good news to tell and a proactive approach, you can’t go too far wrong.

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