It’s common for school leaders to underestimate the newsworthy aspects of their school’s yearbook. They may think, “Our school is too small, so why would anyone outside of our students’ immediate families care about what’s going on with our yearbook?” Throughout a school year, consider all of the work that’s put toward building the book, the stories gathered, the candid photos captured, the skills gained, etc. Local media care about what’s going on in the community, and if they never know about it, there’s no opportunity for them to share with their greater audience. It’s time to consider getting local media completely stoked about your yearbook program!
1. Identify newsworthy aspects of your program
Oftentimes, yearbook-focused stories are going to resonate the most with smaller, hyperlocal outlets within a school’s community. This could include newspapers (print and online), TV, radio and even community newsletters. What you may think is a “meaningless story” could in fact impact readers in your hometown.
The following are high-level ideas to consider when thinking about working with local media:
- Position your yearbook adviser, or even the entire yearbook staff, as your school’s “hometown hero.” How are they positively impacting the school? What unique stories have they been able to capture for the yearbook that will pull at the heartstrings of the community?
- Reporters don’t want to talk to companies, they want to talk to people. Is the yearbook editor, parent coordinator, or even principal, media-prepped and comfortable speaking with reporters about the program?
- Local media tend to love stories with a multi-generational angle. How long has your yearbook program been in place? What unique, new aspects of the program can be shared? Do you have anyone on your yearbook team whose mother, grandmother, etc., was also involved in yearbook at the school years prior?
- Yearbook cover contests are a great opportunity to share a photo of the winning cover with media. Is this a contest that’s been occurring for years? Is it new? Are local artists involved? Reporters appreciate being given stats (i.e., years doing XYZ) as it helps strengthen a story.
- Share your successes. Has your yearbook earned recognition from your publisher?
2. Contact the right people
Depending on the size of the media outlet, some stations or publications have reporters that cover specific beats, while others that have a smaller staff have reporters that cover a wide variety of stories. If the outlet has a reporter that covers education, or more specifically K-12 education, this is someone to consider when your yearbook program has a story to share. Otherwise, reaching out to a general contact at an outlet, even if it’s for a general introduction if you’ve never worked with them before, is a great place to start.
It’s important to be professional, thorough, and to the point when reaching out to reporters and news outlets. Think about how yearbooks themselves convey stories through carefully selected phrases and high-res photos. Reporters are looking for the same: meaningful stories with images to support them.
3. Write a press release
Writing press releases is a common practice for businesses that want to announce a new product or feature, an award win, contest results, a new hire, etc. As it relates to a yearbook program, a press release would be most appropriate when announcing a yearbook contest award win, for example. Or if your school has never had a yearbook program and they have plans to launch one in the new year, this would be an opportunity to share a press release with local media.
- Strong headline and subhead
- 3-5 body paragraphs (try to ensure that the press release is no longer than a page)
- A quote or two from leaders or subject matter experts to support the announcement
- Boilerplate at the bottom
- Contact person and their information (i.e. phone number, email address etc.)
Promote your yearbook program
In order for your yearbook program to flourish by increasing yearbook sales and growing your yearbook team, people need to know:
- What the yearbook program is all about and the importance of having a yearbook for students.
- How to get involved, and the specific steps to do so. Share the “how, what, why, and when” details if you really want your outreach efforts to make an impact. Consider creating a Facebook group for parents if you’re needing to recruit staff.
TreeRing’s In the News page has plenty of examples of newsworthy yearbook programs.