Media expertise – the perfect bedfellow for independent schools

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I have heard many times that local newspapers dislike independent schools and won’t print their news because they are perceived to be privileged and frankly ‘too posh to publish’. After all, there are enough issues in this world to deal with without having to print stories given on a platter by the posh school down the road whose plethora of rich parents are enough for editors and journalists to turn away from simultaneously.  At one recent Marketing conference for independent schools the speaker proudly told the delegates that journalists ‘don’t like you’. As the only former journalist in the room, I wasn’t too keen on putting my hand up and defending my honour. I felt that my red face and look of indignation directed at the speaker were enough.

It does infuriate me that Marketing Managers at independent schools seem to adopt this manner. Rather than delve into the actual core of the problem, many are more than happy to lay the blame at someone else’s door. I am convinced, however, it is actually the other way round but no-one wants to admit this. I was recruited into the independent sector as a Marketing Manager many years ago to primarily increase the school’s media profile. As the only journalist who had applied for the position I got the job and went on to stay in the sector as well as crossing back into journalism now and again. My unique perspective allows me to see both sides and it is a position that has sustained my career in marketing in schools. Your journalism training and experience never leaves you and you bring your skills with you – skills that are important to any independent school seeking to become a market leader.

The media are extremely influential and with all the avenues of social media that now branch out into everyday life, the media is even more accessible, more opinionated and more targeted. It is easier than ever before to get your own views across and to demonstrate an understanding of how the media world works.

In my opinion, it is the story that counts not where it came from. It is about how it is dressed and promoted that is important. Many independent schools are too quick to condemn their local newspaper and blame shifts the responsibility. Schools need to show an understanding of how to construct a news story – a press release that has legs will run but a press release that has none will falter through no fault but its own.

It is how you write your story, when you release it and how you work with your local media that will guarantee, yes guarantee, its inclusion. There are many ways to build relations with your local media and writing a press release is an art form that many marketing managers in schools still don’t know how to do. Putting pen to paper is a creative process involving many elements and relationships. It is not a one-way street and it is not for the faint-hearted.