Media tips for school leaders

23 June 2016

Schools are getting more and more media attention these days with a growing number of controversial issues to deal with. Over the past week we’ve seen school uniform policy complaints, serious bullying, cyber bullying, sexual misconduct and anger at girls being told their skirts are to short.

It’s a tough job being a school principal without the added threat of negative media scrutiny. That scrutiny often carries on for days afterwards on social media.

So what should school leaders do?

The first thing is to understand that a media interview is not a Q and A. You have just as much right to contribute to the conversation as the reporter. The key is knowing what you want to say, how to package it into seven second chunks and use language that will help the reporter bring the story to life. Then you need to learn how to return to those points in different ways, while also answering the reporter’s questions. This is tough and requires training and practice.

When there’s a victim involved, the focus must always be on empathy. This isn’t just the words you use, but it must come across in your body language in TV interviews. Otherwise people won’t believe you.

Your best approach is to work with the reporter. You need to understand what she needs and give it to her, while also getting your points across in interesting ways. Again, this is difficult and takes training and practice.

One great opportunity for schools is to approach local newspapers with interesting stories about positive things happening around the school. Local media are always looking for local content and newspapers need photographs. Very few schools take advantage of this. It’s not only free and helps your reputation, but it puts community goodwill in the bank that’s vital when that negative story comes around. National media are also interested in some of these. Two such stories appeared on TV news this week.

I could go on for hours. But in a nutshell, school leaders need to understand what the media want, leant the art of the media interview and start pushing the positive stories about their school.

For more on my on and offline media training option, or school specific workshops, contact or check out my book on Amazon here.

Filed under Media Training

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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