Engaging the news media to broaden your SRTS reach

With the rise in funding and program movement, news media coverage surrounding Safe Routes to School has seen an increase in the past several years. In an analysis conducted by the National Center for Safe Routes to School, the number of U.S. news stories directly relating to Safe Routes to School jumped from 37 in 2000 to 462 in 2006. With headlines like "Lessons in Leg Power" (Minneapolis Star Tribune) and "Getting the Wheels in Motion" (Albany Times Union), the program has seen growth in both the quantity and quality of media coverage received.

While headway has been made in increasing media attention for SRTS, there is still great opportunity to expand the level of awareness for Safe Routes to School in the news media — and local SRTS programs play a critical role in doing this. Here are a few quick tips on increasing your media savvy at the local level.

  • Make sure you have something newsworthy to say. Your story should "hook" onto a newsworthy element, such as an existing national or state-level event, such as Walk to School Month, or involvement of a local official or celebrity.
  • Think visually. Kid-made posters or school mascots provide great visuals for the media, and they make photos of events more appealing.
  • Prepare for the media interview. Use talking points to ensure a consistent message about your Safe Routes to School program. Think ahead of time about people who might speak to the media for an interview — but make sure you discuss this with them beforehand.
  • Don't be afraid to pick up the phone and talk to a reporter or editor about your program or event — just make sure you target someone who covers a beat related to Safe Routes to School (education, physical activity, local issues, etc.) For television, the best time to call is between 10am-2pm and 7pm-10pm so that you are not calling during peak news broadcast hours.
  • When drafting a news release or media advisory, keep the length down to one or two pages and offer more detailed information on a Web site or through supplemental materials. It is also important to include accurate and complete contact information.
  • Approach your local media to discuss opportunities for teaming up on the promotion of Safe Routes to School. Contact the community affairs department to discuss potential partnerships, such as public service announcements.

For additional tips on working with the media and promoting your SRTS program, please visit us here.