What Are Public Relations? Why Do We Need Them?
How Do We Use Them?
Public relations (PR) is more than getting an interview in your local newspaper or with your TV, radio, or cable station. PR is about reputation-the result of what you do, what you say, and what others say about you. PR expedites two-way communication between your PTA and its public- it is a means to educate and establish credibility.
PR communication tools might include printing fliers, newsletters, or brochures; hosting PTA speakers; developing traveling exhibits; holding special events designed to build reputation in the community; and developing online activities and resources designed to improve communication among members, journalists, and the general public. Using PR can help attract new members, increase meeting attendance, and garner public attention for your PTA’s programs and activities.
Your PR Toolbox
Take a few moments to develop a file of basic PTA resources. This will help organize the many PR activities you will undertake. And, it can be used as a preliminary evaluation tool of your PR efforts.
Get to Know PTA
Know PTA’s goals, programs, policies, and activities on the local, state, and national levels. Take a few moments to familiarize yourself with PTA national resources, such as Our Children, This Week in Washington, The PTA Parent, and www.pta.org.
Determine Who Your Spokesperson Is
Create a list of PTA leaders who can speak for the organization. Make sure you have the names and telephone numbers of PTA officers. Keep information on your PTA and its activities close at hand.
Develop a Media List
Include reporters and editors names, addresses, telephone and fax numbers, and e-mail addresses. This information can be obtained from media directories at your local library, or by calling local TV and radio stations and newspapers to find out the appropriate staff member to receive PTA information. Learn deadlines for sending information.
Communicate with PTA PR Contacts
Work closely with your state and council PR chairs. Contact them to find out how they can help you, and get on their mailing lists for PR materials, press releases, and other information.
Achieving PR Goals
Here are five easy steps to help you achieve your PR goals:
1. Set Realistic, Measurable Goals-Put these goals in writing. For example, you might want to attract 50 parents to a PTA meeting or increase Reflections Program entries by 10 percent.
2. Determine Your Audience-Who are you addressing? PTA members? Parents of students at the school? Teachers and administrators? Community leaders? How will you reach them? Media, fliers, newsletters, community posters, etc.?
3. Contact the Media-Know media deadlines and reporters who are interested in parent involvement and education news. This is where your carefully crafted media list comes into play.
4. Ask for Assistance-Delegate responsibility by forming a PR committee. Consistently Evaluate Your Progress-Determine in advance how you’re going to measure the success of your PR efforts.
5. Consistently Evaluate Your Progress-Determine in advance how you’re going to measure the success of your PR efforts.
All PTAs should send out press releases. How well a press release is written is almost as important as the information it contains. In general, the most important information comes first, with less important details in later paragraphs.
Tips for an Effective Press Release
Deliver key information quickly: who, what, where, when, why, and how should be found in the release.
Keep it short. Use action words and simple sentences with common language.
Type your release double-spaced, leaving at least a one-inch margin on all sides.
Report the facts, not opinions. Avoid editorializing and using adjectives such as “outstanding” or “interesting” when describing programs, events, etc.
Don’t use titles like Mr., Mrs., Ms., or Miss. Refer to women by their own names. On second mention, refer to both men and women by their last names only.
Verify your facts. Your credibility depends on the accuracy of the information.
Check-and then double check-spelling, grammar, and punctuation.
Additional Public Relations Tools
Media is only one part of a successful PR campaign. There are a variety of communication tools to bring attention to your PTA and
to garner support for your programs and activities.
Special Features/Letters to the Editor
Write about your PTA’s accomplishments, mission, and positions, and submit it as a letter to the editor of your local newspaper, inviting readers to join the PTA. Send a press release to local media, as well as school and community newspapers, announcing the start of your membership drive and community-wide event. In addition to providing details on the event, outline your PTA’s programs, activities, and goals planned for the year.
Public Relations Resources
Local Media Contacts
Introduce yourself to local newspaper editors, reporters, and photographers. Contact radio, TV, and cable station managers for guidance on submitting press releases and PSAs.
State PR Chair
He or she can provide valuable insights on handling issues specific to your area or state. Ask about media training opportunities to be held at the state PTA convention or other state resources.
PTA National Headquarters
Call the public relations department for help in the PR planning process: (800) 307-4PTA (4782).
PTA National Website
You’ll find press releases, articles, information, and news on parenting, education, health, and safety issues at www.pta.org.