Media Tools

The media exerts enormous influence over how Americans think about common culture, politics, communities, and the world. Afterschool programs can leverage media influence to make an impact.

General Tips

Learn how the media works and how to work with it. Find out the best time to communicate with the media and how to frame your message best.

Consider these tips before you launch your next media outreach campaign.

How the News Media Works:

  • Generally speaking, most news stories have to do with conflict, events, and issues that affect the readership or broadcast audience. Stories often take local angles on national issues, are appealing human interest stories, or cover celebrity events.
  • Journalists usually work on very tight timelines.
  • Local media generally focus on local news. National news coverage in local newspapers, on local television, and on radio news programs is often provided to the station by national wire services or broadcast news services.
  • Most local markets have at least a handful of radio (and sometimes television) talk shows. Many of these are excellent outlets.

How to Pitch to the Media

Find what you need to gain media attention for your program across multiple platforms. Our resources offer tips for writing to and for newspapers; assembling news releases, pitch letters, and media kits; and planning events.

Media Kits give the media a snapshot of your program and the work you do. You should give a media kit to any reporter you meet or who attends your event. It should be a concise, compelling and attractive set of materials that conveys the importance of your work and the difference it is making. 

Building one is easier than you think: start with a program profile (see tips for creating one) and a news release about your event. Add in fact sheets on afterschool (or afterschool and whatever issue is relevant to your story) from our Facts & Research Center. Visit our Marketing Toolbox for additional creative, simple ideas to showcase your programs and your youth, and take our marketing tutorial. 

Events: Working with media is an important part of any event. In addition to a news release on the day of the event, you will want to develop a media advisory and a calendar announcement. Learn how to create one, when to send it and where. 

And remember, whether you are planning a Lights On Afterschool celebration, site visit or other event, the media materials provided in the media section of our Lights On Afterschool event planning kit can be adapted to suit your needs.

Afterschool Public Service Announcements

Public Service Announcements (PSAs) are non-commercial advertisements focusing on social issues. They are intended to modify public attitudes by raising awareness of a specific issue or concern.

Tips on creating PSAs:

You don't need a production budget. Work in partnership with media to create PSAs promoting afterschool and/or your program. Radio stations are especially receptive to airing PSAs, and are easiest to produce -- all you need is to write a script that the radio DJ can read. Cable operators like Cox, Comcast, Bright House, and your local community cable station are often willing to create a spot for you if they can place their own logo on the PSA, too. Cable stations may even be interested in working with your students to create the PSAs.

Adapt our Lights On Afterschool radio PSA script. Edit the script to promote your local event. Approach radio stations early so that they have time to read the PSA in the weeks leading up to Lights On Afterschool.

Simple messages are the most effective. Years of public opinion research show that the most effective message on afterschool is: Afterschool programs keep kids safe, inspire them to learn, and help working families. You don't have to use these words, but let them inspire what you choose to focus on. Consult our polling data and previous PSAs created with the Ad Council for inspiration.

Think about the call to action or resource in your PSA. Do you have a website or phone number listeners or viewers can call for more information? Can your program handle an increased volume of calls or participants? 

Who to contact at TV, radio, and print outlets. Make sure you're reaching out to the right people.

Key points to make in your meetings with the media about PSAs. Landed a meeting with a media representative? Make the most of it by hitting the right notes.

The Afterschool Alliance was fortunate to run nationwide PSA campaigns on afterschool in partnership with the Ad Council and the Mott Foundation.  These campaigns are no longer active, but we encourage you to take a look at the PSAs to spur your own thinking and plans. See previous Afterschool PSA Campaigns.

Contact the Media

If you don't already have a list of reporters, editors, columnists, photo editors, and producers who cover education, children and families, parenting, workplace, and feature stories in your media market, now is a good time to create one.

Resources to tap for a start:

  • Some United Way locations have media guides that are available to community agencies for a nominal fee
  • Public relations offices at community colleges are often willing to share their media lists with other education agencies

Then, make a list of all local TV and radio stations (including college and university-affiliated stations), daily and weekly newspapers (including ethnic, community, and other specialty papers), wire services and magazines, locally-oriented websites, and newsletters or bulletins from interested community and faith-based organizations.

Call and ask for the name of the editor, reporter, or producer who covers education, children and families, parenting, workplace, and features. Request the phone number and e-mail address of each person. Also, ask for the names of and contact information for producers at broadcast news and talk shows that cover issues like afterschool and columnists who cover education and family issues at local newspapers of all kinds.

Media lists should be updated twice per year, as journalists tend to shift beats and jobs fairly often. You will use it often to promote Lights On Afterschool and other activities.