While the national media focus on the raw numbers and try to explain how better results mean students aren’t as clever as they used to be, local papers, current and prospective parents and others in the local community are also interested in personal stories of success that show your school in a good light.
However, people aren’t going to see these stories without a bit of help! Follow the steps below to get your messages out there.
You should know the students in your school who are likely to have achieved well or achieved against the odds (ask Heads of Year if you’re stuck). Write short case studies well in advance (include details of the students’ background, current subjects, likely university/college place/job, predicted grades) and ask their parents (or the students themselves if over 18) for permission to use them in marketing activity.
(PS – Early exam success and identical twins are also good at picking up media interest!)
2. Encourage students to come to school on Results Day
With the trend toward texting results or making them available online, students may not come into school and may just drift to college or university. You can make results day more special by offering refreshments to students and parents at a specific time, and by encouraging (popular) teaching staff to attend. You can also attract students by ensuring that you have sufficient teachers and other staff to advise on UCAS/careers decisions. You should invite your ‘case study’ students personally.
3. Research your media in advance
Check how all the media that are important to you are covering Results Day. Alex Scatens from the Sale & Altrincham Advertiser (my favourite local paper) suggests calling local papers’ newsdesks a couple of weeks in advance of results day to check the paper’s plans for coverage and let them know your arrangements. You can also let the paper know of your interesting stories. The national press are starting to formalise the process of finding stories – the Guardian is asking for results and success stories through this page on its website.
4. The day before
The School Exams Officer and senior school management have access to results the day before they are released. Actual results cannot be shared with anyone outside of this group but you can pick out the highlights that reflect your school’s priorities, and write a general news release, as well as inserting the stories that you have prepared. Leave space for comments from students.
If a student you have written a case study of has failed to meet their expectations or UCAS offer, it is best to leave it out of your initial media release – but you can talk to them and make changes on the day. Just in case it needed saying – you are NOT allowed to communicate results to students or the media before 6am on the actual results date.
5. Get in early on Results Day
Exam boards will not issue any overall results to the media until 9.30 am on results day although results can be released to students from 6am – it’s not essential to be up then though! You can then fill in the Guardian’s online survey and email stories to your selected media (even if they’ve promised to turn up, it’s a lot easier to adapt an email that rewrite a paper copy). Once students start to turn up, you can talk to them and add their comments and reactions to your copy (please be sensitive though – even if they’ve achieved their expected grades, they are going to be emotional!)
6. Take photos and video
Alex Scatens points out that a local paper will not be able to send a photographer to every school, but that they will consider using good quality pictures that you email in. They are also vital for you to use elsewhere. Video interviews of students are also very useful and can be quickly edited and posted on YouTube, your website and other places. Try to take photos of genuine celebrations – and again make sure you have permission from those in the picture to use them! If you have a group of students who have done well (e.g. your ‘Oxbridge’ students), prioritise taking a photo with them all together.
7. Remember to use all media channels
You should put the stories and pictures on your website, your social media (Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest*), in your prospectus, in advertisements, on posters at open days and more. These stories have a lifespan of a year so don’t throw them away after Results Day.
8. Review and reflect
Once all the dust has cleared, it’s always worth a few minutes making notes for next year or what worked and what didn’t!
*If you’ve not heard of this phenomenon yet, you probably will soon – check out Brendan Schneider’s article here.