Those Lazy, Hazy Days

In media relations, you learn quickly that if you are looking to dump a story (meaning you need to distribute it, but either don’t want it prominently covered or don’t want too many folks reading it), you either drop it on a Friday afternoon or distribute it on the week between Christmas and New Years.  Little fuss, little muss, and little will be remembered in the coming days.

In the education world, though, it seems that August is often where good stories go to die.  I’ll admit, now is the time when Eduflack’s top concern is whether the Mets can hold off Philly and Atlanta to win the NL East.  Then when you factor in the Edufamily, education reform comes in a strong third (still better than education’s priority in recent voter polling data, which puts it no higher than fifth).

Looking at this week’s Education Week and www.edweek.org, we see a number of interesting stories.  But as it is mid-August, what impact will they have on those down at the shore or those already preparing for the start of the school year?  Earlier this summer, we asked where all of the good stories had gone?  Now we ask, if those good stories come, but come in mid-August, do ed reformers notice them?

Here’s just a sampling of attention-worthy stories:
* NSBA’s survey on social networking and students
* Annual ACT score release
* Current efforts to turn around the Recovery District in New Orleans
* The future impact of NBPTS, and the impact and quality of future NBCTs

The timing of public announcements is a tricky thing.  For the ACT scores announcement, for instance, this is an annual release, and the education media know to anticipate it.  So there is little risk.  For others, August is a double-edged sword.  While readership may be down from the norm, the chances of coverage are dramatically increased.  If we look to the ed reform calendar for September and October, there are already dozens of report releases, conferences, forums, and events.  And that doesn’t even include the communications push from both sides on NCLB reform.

So what’s an educause supposed to do?

Cast a wide net.  Many believe the game is won with an article in Education Week.  Yes, it is an important win, but it isn’t an all-defining act.  We don’t truly understand and appreciate an issue until we have heard it four or five or seven times.  Repetition is key.  We need to hear the same story from different sources and through different channels.  Supplement the EdWeek piece with some regional daily news coverage, postings on multiple websites, emails to your database, and outreach to the blogsphere.  Do it over the course of  few weeks.  Multiple touches, multiple stories, multiplying success.

We’re already starting to see that with NSBA’s study, and ACT has become a master at segmenting its story for national, regional, and statewide significance.  In a field that is so big on modeling, hopefully others can pick up some pointers from those orgs that successfully release their reports or promote their events.

August doesn’t have to be a graveyard for well-intentioned education stories.  But to avoid the tombstone, one needs to work harder and work smarter.  A good story, a broad net, and an integrated outreach strategy can make the difference between a one-hit-wonder and a Hall of Famer.     

3 thoughts on “Those Lazy, Hazy Days

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