You might be asking yourself, "What does media have to do with my Christian school?" After all, your day-to-day routine of classes, schedules, sporting events, and student/parent conferences are the same every year. Your school basically has everything mapped out, down to the lunch meals served in the cafeteria. Teachers and students come in every morning and leave when the bell rings, so why would the media care about what your Christian school does? The answer is simple: because your school is an intricate part of the local community. You have a voice within your neighborhood to effect change, bring awareness, share triumphs and challenges, and best of all, advertise to others about what your school has to offer students in your area. Local media, like newspapers and regional television, is a tool, an outward pedestal, for launching information. Most of the time, this local press is free. The real question is whether your school is taking advantage of opportunities in the local media

There is an old saying that no press is good press. That's not true anymore. To be recognized as a community leader, you need to be out in front where the public, and indeed, where interested parents and students can see you. Your Christian school needs to develop public relations with the local media to get the word out about your organization. Where do you start? Fear not! Below are helpful ideas on how you can grow your relationships with local media.

1. Get to know your neighborhood newspaper(s). Make contact! Create relationships with reporters, and offer coverage of your school's events. Send papers schedules for special occurrences like sporting events, musicals or drama plays, volunteering at neighborhood locations, graduations, fundraisers, and so forth. Give newspapers times and locations so they can easily find your event. Offer newspapers pictures of the event if they cannot attend, and write a short article describing the event for submission. The more information you give, the more likely it will be included. Parents and students love to see themselves in the news!

2. Use press releases. No, these aren't just for the evening news. Press releases are a great way to spread news to local media about your Christian school, too! Opening a brand new facility? Hiring a new principal or new teachers? Have an exceptional or extraordinary student who deserves a highlight? How about outstanding awards or test results for your school? Write a press release. Don't have time? Ask your English teachers or students if they would volunteer to write a release as part of their class activity. Be sure to contact media for press release requirements as many have a length requirement. Always end a press release with your school's contact information and include your website or phone number. Be sure to add press releases to your own website or newsletter for enrolled families to read!

3. Assign a go-to communications coordinator. Choose someone on staff to field questions from media on school events. This could be an administrator, a principal, or even a teacher. Pick someone with excellent interactive skills who will best represent your Christian school to the public. Ensure this person is easy to get in touch with and is knowledgeable on all circumstances within the school. Add this person's information to submitted news stories or press releases so the media have a central, consistent person for getting questions answered.

4. Have a contingency plan. No one likes to think the worst. Sometimes it happens. Be prepared for situations like accidents, bad weather, firings, illness, false rumors, and other problems with clearly thought out statements for the press. Present the media with accurate, timely information that is relevant and to the point. Discuss among your school board members how to handle crisis events, what could or should be disclosed, and the impact bad press could have on the situation. Facing possibilities like these before they happen will help your school handle these negative situations in a constructive, straightforward manner.

5. Embrace the interview. Interviews make everyone nervous, but your Christian school needs to learn to embrace interviews, no matter how much it makes your hands sweat. After all, interviews allow the public into your school to see what you are really about, what teachers and students are like, and what educational environment you provide. What a great way to make a lasting impression! It's the quickest, most efficient way to display what your Christian school is. Practice common interview tips: have a planned statement, decide if you'll allow questions and how to answer them, choose topics carefully, practice beforehand, and get comfortable around news reporters and cameras.

Perhaps you feel growing your school's relationship with local media is a daunting challenge. Take heart! To succeed and prosper often requires us to get outside our comfort zone. Showing initiative in working with your neighborhood media will not only get the word out about your school, it will also reach potential parents who may not have known about your school as an educational option within the community.

Take advantage of every medium you can to share your Christian school's voice. Interaction and immersion within the area creates a trustworthy, credible image to others. It also shows others how much you care. Even if you are uncertain about the perspective media can portray, remember that Christ's light shines brightly through you. As the Bible tells us, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." Phillipians 4:13

Remember that your mission to spread the Gospel of salvation extends to every child and family. Your school can use tools, like media, which the Lord has given us to share his love to those in need. Pray for His strength and wisdom, and put your best foot forward by growing your Christian school's relations with the media today!