School officials who are frustrated with the news media’s obsession with negative stories about their institutions may wish to follow the example of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg (N.C.) Schools.

The district’s public relations staff uses its multimedia capabilities to generate positive information about itself. This information is used by media outlets and presented to citizens in the community through direct channels that bypass traditional newspaper, television, and radio editors. Some examples of how Charlotte-Mecklenburg uses multimedia public-relations tactics include:

  • Because the district has its own cable channel (manned by a professional anchor person who leads a news magazine show), public information officers have the opportunity to develop and produce feature pieces and news items in an attractive, professional style. The district currently is experimenting with slightly longer feature stories about special events or high achievers among students or staff.
  • The public relations staff also produces 60-second videos that can be shown during breaks between educational programs and broadcasts of board meetings on local cable channels. Media staff members also produce short announcements about job fairs, magnet schools, and other programs of interest to parents and members of the community. These segments are shown regularly on the district’s cable channel and occasionally are picked up by other channels, too.
  • The district makes videotapes of all broadcasts available to staff and teachers and encourages them to show these tapes to community groups, neighbors, and others. This type of personal outreach gets the message to people who are not watching the cable channel.
  • If a news item is deemed big enough, the PR department will send an eMail to all district teachers, staff, and news media. This occurs two or three times per year.
  • To emphasize the themes of the programs, the district repeats some of the information on its web site and in informational mailings.
  • The PR team also creates PowerPoint presentations for administrators to present before community and business groups. Even the smallest opportunities are used, such as the public-service announcements that often are included in utility bill mailings–again focusing on the same themes as the videos.